NOTED COLLECTOR WITH SOPHISTICATED, ASTUTE EYE OFFERING COVETED ITEMS
By Pamela Wiggins Siegel
As a leading Americana dealer for decades, Eric Caren curates an archive that brings history to life. With items dating from Christopher Columbus through the computer age, he strives to have at least one example from each significant American historical event among the multitude of diverse objects he collects.
Caren got his start as a kid when friends found a stack of old newspapers in an abandoned home. “It was this creepy house right out of Psycho,” he recalls. Those yellowed papers he carted home in a little red wagon held little value. They did, however, get him hooked on history. In the beginning, he spent very little to fuel his adrenaline and passion for collecting, but his budget grew along with his procuring expertise.
To augment his remarkable group of historical artifacts, Caren has attended every type of related event imaginable, from general antique fairs and auctions to shows specializing in photography, comics, antiquarian books, and a host of other genres. His knack for selecting the best of the best has been finely honed. “It’s when you know intuitively, ‘That’s great, that’s rare, that’s special,’” he says.
Tom Slater, director of Americana at Heritage Auctions, says building such an archive requires a sophisticated and astute eye. “How these things were carefully selected should be interesting to other collectors.”
Caren has also sold to a fascinating array of buyers, including presidential gifts to the State Department. A large segment of his original archive is now part of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. As items ebb and flow through his capable hands, exceptionally noteworthy pieces always stand out. A number of these are featured in several upcoming Heritage auctions.
One of the most important items being offered – both in terms of value and historical significance – is a letter written by Albert Einstein sharing his views on God. Caren notes the letter is written in English and is only one page, making it perfect for archival framing and display. “This is an item that has the potential to really take off,” Caren says.
For the sports memorabilia enthusiast, one of Caren’s favorite baseball items will be on the block as well. This photo postcard depicts the entire New York Giants team and is autographed by player-manager John McGraw – both valuable traits. What really makes it a standout collectible, however, are the handwritten congratulatory statements proudly mentioning the team’s World Series win in 1905. Specific references to “Matty” and “Mugsy” – nicknames for legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson and McGraw himself – add to the interest.
“A team postcard like this one is a rarity,” Slater says. “That, combined with a scarce McGraw autograph and the marvelous sentiments written about the 1905 World Series, makes it very special.”
Having lived in the area for many years, memorabilia from the 1969 Woodstock music festival in New York also remains a staple in the Caren archives. This includes a rare original cloth banner from the event. One of the founders of Woodstock, Michael Lang, photographed this banner for his records a number of years ago, having never viewed one like it in a private collection. As fans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival this summer, the offering of this amazing banner presents a don’t-miss opportunity to own a significant piece of music history.
A number of other “cherry-picked and coveted” items from Caren’s vast archive are being auctioned, and they are all lots that a well-rounded collector should appreciate. “Great collectors share a passion for their work,” Caren shares regarding Americana. “A great collector likes it all. It all tells the narrative of this country.”
So, if you’ve always wanted to own a collectible with an impeccable pedigree, like a steamer trunk from the RMS Lusitania, Geronimo’s walking stick or Kit Carson’s metal-studded show saddle – stay tuned. These items and an ample list of others that are just as impressive will be auctioned in fall 2019 and early 2020.
This article appears in the Fall 2019 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.