A possible auction of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia displayed at Illinois’ presidential museum in Springfield is being put off due to an apparent uptick in fundraising, according to the private foundation that owns the artifacts.
Last year’s threatened fire sale by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation shocked the history world. Facing an October deadline, the group was about to sell off some coveted historical artifacts because it was having trouble paying off a $9.7 million loan balance left from the original purchase of the items.
A spokesman for the foundation, which purchases Lincoln artifacts for the presidential museum, attributed the change of heart to a less dour financial picture than what the group foresaw last year.
“I am pleased that our fundraising is going very well,” Nick Kalm, a vice chairman of the foundation’s board, told WBEZ in a statement.
Kalm characterized the group’s recent annual fundraising dinner as the “most successful” in its history and said it had “secured a variety of other commitments,” without offering specifics. He declined to answer additional questions from WBEZ.
“As a result of this and other factors, we have shelved consideration of an auction for the foreseeable future,” Kalm said. “With regard to the debt, we are actively paying it down and are hoping to have other news to share soon.”
Last spring, the foundation had approached the state about acquiring taxpayer help in paying off the loan, but Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker put the kibosh on that idea.
A Pritzker spokeswoman said Friday neither the governor nor Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker are considering a philanthropic donation to the group, either personally or through their own foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation. That entity reported a $150.2 million balance in its most recent tax filing last November and is a major charitable donor.
The Lincoln foundation also hoped to raise money through a gofundme.com page it established in May 2018. But as of Friday, it had only gotten commitments of about $35,000 toward its $9.7 million goal.
Among the “Lincolniana” owned by the Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation that faced an uncertain future were the blood-stained gloves Lincoln had with him the night he was assassinated, a quill pen left on his desk and a presidential seal he used.
Also in the mix is a stovepipe hat that purportedly belonged to Lincoln. It once was appraised at more than $6.5 million before experts — including the FBI and historians at the Smithsonian and Chicago History museums — questioned its authenticity.
The artifacts were all part of a trove of Lincoln artifacts the foundation bought in 2007 from collector Louise Taper, who at the time also sat on the foundation’s board.
Dave McKinney covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.