Above: Signature detail on a correspondence written by George Washington to Brigadier General James Clinton on May 22, 1779.
Part of the Victor Niederhoffer Collection, offered by RR Auction.
5 intriguing insights into Victor Niederhoffer and his enviable letter collection
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. June 22-28, RR Auction will present more than 100 rare and incredible correspondences from his vast collection, as The Significant Letter Collection of Victor Niederhoffer.
Here are five fast facts about a fascinating man and his fascinating collection.
1: He literally wrote the book on being a Wall St. speculator.
Victor Niederhoffer is best known as a bold and tumultuously successful hedge fund manager. His book “The Education of a Speculator” is an amusing but clear-eyed memoir of his life to date, with “offbeat reminiscences and observations” and interesting analogies that relate to his Wall Street experiences.
2: He squashed the competition in sports, too.
Niederhoffer was a winning hardball squash player and is a member of the squash hall of fame. At 6’2” and sturdily built, Niederhoffer doesn’t look like a traditional athlete of the sport, and had never played squash when he entered Harvard University in 1960 (though handball was part of his Brighton Beach youth). After asserting it would be so, a year later he won the national junior title. By the time he graduated, Niederhoffer was the National Intercollegiate squash champion. He won the U.S. Nationals five times and three national doubles titles. In 1975, he defeated one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Sharif Khan, in the final of the North American Open (the only time that Khan failed to win the title in the 13-year period between 1969 and 1981).
3: Books dumped in the East River factored highly in his life.
“Books and letters have always been an important part of my family life,” Niederhoffer said. “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.”
4: Bears and bulls dictated the growth of his collection.
As his career on Wall Street rocketed skyward, so did a desire to purchase items in which his interest was sparked in that book-crowded house of his childhood. “When I learned that books and letters were available, I started collecting at 25,” Niederhoffer said, noting he had “very eclectic interests.”
Soon enough, sellers knew he was interested in only the most significant works, and would bring him suggested purchases. “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,” Niederhoffer said.
“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,” Niederhoffer said.
5: Only the best will do for Victor Niederhoffer.
In his personal and professional life, Niederhoffer knows what he wants, and how he wants it. His personal motto of “Create Value” influences him to curate a collection that is unrivaled in quality. He only selects content-rich and historically vivid correspondences from the arenas of politics, science, sports, literature and more. “I tried to garner the best writing and significance the author could have, [that best displayed] the writer’s contributing to western civilization,” Niederhoffer said.
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.”
The Significant Letter Collection of Victor Niederhoffer is now live for bidding, through June 28.