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Victor Niederhoffer Collection: Where content is king

Victor Niederhoffer is more than a well-known hedge fund manager, champion squash player, bestselling author and statistician. He is also a world-class collector. In June 2018, RR Auction is pleased to present more than 100 rare and significant letters from his vast collection. Niederhoffer only selects content-rich and historically vivid correspondences, and these offerings are the best examples of the diverse writers featured, from the arenas of politics, science, sports, literature and more. From Werner Heisenberg to Thomas Jefferson to Charles Darwin, each intimate letter sheds a rare light on their personal day-to-day lives.

In Victor’s own words:

 

A family tradition of the written word

“Books and letters have always been an important part of my family life. My father was a policeman in the book publishing area of east New York. In those days, they didn’t sell their overstock – they dumped them in the East River. They hired policemen to do the unloading. My father was paid 50 cents an hour to dump them in the river; instead, he saved them. Our house of about 750 feet, plus wife and two children, had his book collection. The whole house and basement were lined with books.”

“Letters were always a traditional highlight of our family. The parents, the adults have always written letters supporting their children. My grandfather sent one to the coach of the Brooklyn College team when his son was taken out of the football game; I wrote my first letter when my daughter was taken out of a third grade talent contest.” [You can read about both of these, and the uproar they caused, in the Niederhoffer memoir, “The Education of a Speculator,” pg. 115-116.]

 

The collection begins

“When I learned that books and letters were available, I started collecting at 25. Very eclectic interests. The publishers and sellers have told me that often people collect one or two fields; what’s unique about me is that I collect in every field. Each week, the sellers would come to my office. If I’d had a good week in the market, I’d use my entire winnings. I bought them from key sellers in the area, and from auctions.”

“I collected for about 20 years, buying most in the 1970s. I kept them in archival volumes and often looked at them with great longing and nostalgia. I gained a lot of happiness looking through them and sharing with my family.”

 

Content is king

“I tried to garner the best writing and significance the author could have, [that best displayed] the writer’s contributing to western civilization. I love my letters.”

“The letters form a real tapestry of history. Nothing was bought just to fill a hole. They all show a tremendous vitality and the key events of their time. Eventually the sellers were aware that I only wanted the most vivid and influential letters, and would bring me those. I didn’t mind paying a premium price for a significant contribution, rather than buying a commercial or mediocre example of a person’s humdrum thinking. That’s important. I evolved so that my collection became very heroic and poignant.”

“What’s amazing is that all the writers were very salient; e.g., presidents Grant or Monroe or Jackson, you never think of them as great intellectuals. Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt… they always wrote great, poignant letters. I prefer letters to historic documents, because by the time they come to the president, they’re antiseptic and for posterity. Letters explain how people were really feeling. It gives you a feeling of what the normal day-to-day life was.”

“I particularly enjoyed the letters from wives about husbands. I know almost every great man had a great woman, caring for the reputation and impact of their spouses on the current generation. Since I have seven children, I was particularly interested in letters that described the family life, triumphs and tragedies, and hopes of great men and women. For instance, the letter when Ronald Reagan wrote to his daughter [Patti Davis] asking her where it went wrong… It’s so emotional. Every family has had some uncertainty.”

Sharing the Niederhoffer Collection

“My collection became so voluminous, that a letter that was the piece de resistance connected with that writer was lost in the myriad. For that reason, I wanted to share the triumphal [examples] of those contributions to western civilization with those [collectors like me] that had a special interest in the area.”

“I was pleased RR went through them; I gave them full access of the collection and they chose the ones they thought would be most salient and heroic of western civilization. I think the letters are unique in that they span every field: it’s a good sample of heroic life from the 17th c. to the present.”

“When you have many thousands of letters, [you want] them to come to life. I’m happy to sell my best letters because they’ll be the ones more interesting and valuable to those who can appreciate their significance. I never bought a letter just because of a signature, a name or to complete a set. It will be nice to find surrogates who will enjoy them now.”

Victor Niederhoffer RR Auction letter collection
Cover of the RR Auction catalog for The Significant Letter Collection of Victor Niederhoffer (June 21-28, 2018).

Endless inspiration

“The letters are very inspirational. I think about them when I’m trying to do great things. They provide a beautiful background, very resonant. They also come to life often – for example, I just read today a big article about the significance of Superman. I have the first draft of the original Superman. When you collect the great contributions, you see things come back around.”

 

Curating historic letters into the future

“I’m pleased that these letters are going to contribute to awareness of the greatness and impact of these people. I hope the recipients enjoy them and will share them with their colleagues and families, the same way I have.”

The Significant Letter Collection of
Victor Niederhoffer:
Bidding is June 22-28
View Auction Now

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