It has been 53 years since one of the most stunning, tragic days in Dallas history, when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed near Dealey Plaza.
Mementos from that deadly day in 1963 remain — and some are now on the auction block from various sellers.
But they won’t come cheap.
Items up for sale include the gun used when assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, handcuffs used on Oswald during that arrest, even a metal post from the fence on the grassy knoll, near where the president was shot.
“The Kennedy assassination is one of those iconic events in American history,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “Interest in it just keeps growing and growing and growing.
“It has really captured the imagination of the American public the way other events don’t, at least not in our lifetimes.”
Some of the items up for sale:
▪ The .38-caliber pistol used by Dallas Police Sgt. Gerald Hill when he arrested Oswald in the Texas Theater hours after Kennedy’s assassination. Hill was involved in the initial investigation at the Texas Schoolbook Depository before responding to the theater after hearing a report of a suspicious character seen entering there. After a short struggle, Oswald was arrested. The Colt Police Positive double-action revolver has a 2 1/8 -inch barrel with a fixed front sight. The online opening bid for the gun is $4,000, through Heritage Auctions. Proxy bidding ends Dec. 3.
▪ There’s also a metal post from the fence on the Grassy Knoll, with a starting bid of $23,500. The description of the item, up for sale on eBay, says that this fence post “is the very same one that was standing at almost the exact position from where the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations concluded it to be probable that someone fired a rifle from behind the Fence on the Grassy Knoll at President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas some 53 years ago.” This post — part of the stockade style picket fence built on the Grassy Knoll in the 1950s — was about seven feet, 10 inches west of the corner of the fence that day. The starting bid for the fence post is listed at $23,500. Bidding ends Sunday.
▪ And there are the handcuffs used in Oswald’s arrest. A group of police officers, including Hill, entered the theater after hearing the report that a suspicious character was present. They covered all the exits and turned on the house lights, before finding the person they believed to have shot a fellow officer. When Oswald drew a gun, an officer quickly put a pair of Smith & Wesson handcuffs on him. He was taken downtown and booked and the handcuffs, with the serial number 38468, were returned to the officer. The online opening bid for the handcuffs was $50,000, through Goldin Auctions. The bid recently went up to at least $65,000 and the auction house suggests that the handcuffs may be worth around $250,000. Bidding ends around Dec. 3.
“You are paying for the thrill of owning something that has historical worth,” Riddlesperger said. “For some people, there’s a value to the memory.”
Countless other JFK related items can be found at any given time in auctions around the country.
While the prices on these items may seem high, there is a distinct market for these presidential assassination artifacts, potentially among North Texans who were the last to see the country’s 35th president alive.
On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy woke up at the old Hotel Texas in Fort Worth and spoke to a cheering crowd and civic leaders before boarding Air Force One for the short flight to Dallas. He and his wife, Jacqueline, rode in a presidential motorcade that was expected to take them to the Dallas Trade Mart for a luncheon with Dallas business and civic leaders.
Instead, around 12:30 p.m., as the motorcade passed the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza on the west end of downtown Dallas, shots rang out, hitting and killing Kennedy.
“It is a fact that North Texans have never really come to grips with the ‘Why us?’ ‘Why here?’ set of questions,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “The date of the Kennedy assassination passes in much of the country without a great deal of notice, mostly with a momentary pause. But there’s deep introspection in North Texas.”
And there may well be people here ready to buy the remaining JFK-related memorabilia.
“It certainly isn’t the norm for the vast run of people,” Jillson said. “But for the small group of people focused on the Kennedy assassination, they may be willing to pay that.”
As some items are being auctioned off, Cumulus Media-Dallas News/Talk station WBAP 820 AM donated 21 original recordings that led up to and included the assassination to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.