A lock of hair from the USA’s sixteenth president was sold at an auction for just $25,000, which does not seem like a lot for part of a very important historical figure. My essay discusses this event and why the lock of hair didn’t fetch more money.
How was the hair purchased?
A sale of Lincoln memorabilia resulted in sales that totaled over $800,000. Within the sale there were letters and photographs that were linked to Abraham Lincoln in one way or another. The lock of hair was one of the highest selling items, and it was only beaten by a few articles. The one of most note was an eye-witness account of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, which sold for $27,500.
Some items were not sold, including a letter by Abraham Lincoln saying that the war is not going very well. Still, the question begs as to why Abraham Lincoln’s lock of hair sold for so little.
There is no way of confirming the hair
This is a big problem for people that want a true piece of the president. For hundreds of years people have sold pieces of the true cross and even body parts of Jesus Christ. People are used to the idea of cons involving great people, so it is easy to understand why people may be skeptical of the lock of hair and its authenticity.
There is no current way of confirming if the hair is genuine or not. Examining the paper and hair itself can give a rough estimate of when it was created and stored. Such examinations can only estimate time periods that the hair wasn’t created, which means confirming its age is a process of elimination.
Still, even if it were possible to find the day the hair was clipped and stored, there is still no way of proving it belonged to Abraham Lincoln. The hair has no skin tags or roots, which means DNA analysis is out of the question. Mitochondrial DNA can only prove that the hair came from a certain group of people, but that group has millions (if not billions) of members.
Even if we could take DNA from the hair, we have nothing to compare it to in order to find a match, and we are years away from being able to use DNA to construct an image of the person it would create. Frankly there is no way we will know for sure that the hair was from Abraham Lincoln (at least not in our lifetime).
People must have thought it was fake. The biggest reason it sold for seemingly so little is because people undoubtedly thought it was fake. This is the only real explanation. The auction was highly publicized, so people with millions and billions of dollars were able to bid, and there is a keen interest in Abraham Lincoln around the world, but few people are going to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for something that may be fake. One day we may discover if it is real, at which point I believe it will sell for a lot more money.