H.K. Keller Auctions Rare Autograph Collection

Elderly sister’s attic discovery uncovers a world of autograph treasures.

Lancaster, PA. – When it was finally time to move out of their life-long family home and into a retirement facility, sisters Gloria and Nancy Stillwell of Ephrata, PA knew they couldn’t take it all with them. With the assistance of a local real estate agent, they contacted an auctioneer to help them with the transition. 

While there were some things in the home with little value, a trunk in the attic caught the auctioneer’s eye. The ladies were aware of their father’s hobby, but they weren’t sure people actually would want the autographs that he had collected. Inside the trunk were hundreds and hundreds of autographs from the 1940s and 50’s. These autographs included famous athletes, military heroes, cultural icons, heads of state and world leaders. 

Mr. Theodore Stillwell was born in 1907 and lived his whole life in the Ephrata, PA area. He was a career postal worker. Although he never traveled, he enjoyed living a “world-wide” life vicariously through writing hundreds of letters throughout the 1940s. His letters afforded him the opportunity to collect an array of autographs, photos, flags, military patches and correspondence.

Highlights include Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. This 1947 letter personalized to Stillwell refers to Robinson being too new to the Brooklyn Dodgers team to request a baseball, a Honus Wagner signed photo, Mrs. Eleanor Gehrig (Lou Gehrig) letter, Amos Alonzo Stagg, American athlete who played for Yale in 1885-1889, Springfield YMCA and college coach, autographed football, American manufacturer, aviator, and movie producer, Howard Hughes, signed items from Gen. George S. Patton, and more. One of Stillwell’s letters to Patton dated March 20, 1943 is in the Library of Congress and noted in the dissertation “In need of a hero? The Creation and Use of the Legend of General George S. Patton, Jr” by Nathan C. Jones. Curator, historian, author, and museologist at The General George Patton Museum.

“We are honored to have discovered this treasure chest, not only for the sisters, but also for the fact that these autographs, letters and flags will be treasured by others for years to come. We are happy to bring this collection out of a foot locker to be enjoyed by the world.”

Tim Keller, Lead Auctioneer

This collection was discovered in December of 2021 in a trunk in the attic of the family home. This collection was reviewed by JSA, James Spence Authentication. Notable autographs received a Letter of Authenticity (LOA) or a Basic Certificate (COA). This exciting auction is an opportunity for the public to secure many unique and one-of-a-kind autographs. 

While online bidding is open now, the auctioneer will be selling the items on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022 at 11:00am Eastern Time through an internet-only simulcast auction. For auction information, contact H.K. Keller at 717-879-0110 or visit hkkeller.com.

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