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Rare and Remarkable: The evolution of RR Auction

How did RR become the leader in historic manuscripts and autographs?

Recently, Tom Hoepf of New England Antiques Journal sat down with RR Auction EVP Bobby Livingston, to discuss the evolution of the auction house. Here’s what he had to say.

From a small mail-order catalog business started in Boston in 1976 to a multimillion-dollar international online auction house, RR Auction has grown to dominate categories of collectible memorabilia across many genres. Livingston explained the rather amusing “first come, first served” method of acquiring our offered historic manuscripts and autographs, wherein the catalog recipients would call in to purchase the items. He talked about how annoying it was for the West Coast buyers because the New Englanders received the catalogs a couple days earlier and would be able to purchase items before them.

Land grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln 1863 RR Auction
Land grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Sold by RR Auction for $15,496.
John F. Kennedy diary JFK RR Auction
John F. Kennedy diary from his reporter days, sold by RR Auction for $718,750.

Once RR moved from catalog sales to auctions, the 1980s were still pre-internet, so all bidding was done by phone-in buyers, who would often “filibuster” to stay on the phone until the midnight bidding deadline. Thankfully the advent of the digital age in the 1990s allowed bidders and RR employees alike the ability to get more sleep, as auctions went online. The company also began hosting live auctions for special items and collections, like JFK or Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia.

Livingston explained to NEAJ readers how RR grew from being the known source for historic manuscripts and autographs into other categories like Space exploration collectibles and Olympics memorabilia, sheerly due to our current collectors offering their own items in those genres. It grew organically from the needs of our clients, into extremely successful categories.

Moonwalker Dave Scott Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Chronograph watch RR Auction
Moonwalker Dave Scott's Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Chronograph. Sold by RR Auction for $1.625 million.

RR thanks NEAJ for the profile piece on our company. Read Hoepf’s entire article here.