The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s private library is up for auction for $2.3 million

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The personal library of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was auctioned, raising final bids totaling $2.3 million, far exceeding expectations.

The auction incl more than 1,000 items from Ginsburg’s personal library, from books to photographs and reprints of Ginsberg’s own articles. Many of the items contain personal inscriptions addressed to Ginsberg by her Supreme Court peers such as Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and even the late Antonin Scalia.

The auction was conducted by Bonhams auction house and started on January 19th and ended on January 27th.

Catherine Williamson, Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams, said CNBC that she had expected the auction to bring in between $300,000 and $500,000. However, the sum of all final bids totaled $2.3 million.


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Williamson told CNBC that the auction’s bids “exceeded our wildest dreams.”

Bidding on almost all lots exceeded Bonhams’ estimates for Ginsberg’s items, and many were deliberately listed conservatively, as some of their items had previously been auctioned. However, Williamson told CNBC that in her later years, Ginsberg’s unexpected popularity drew a much higher level of attention and interest from potential buyers who were much younger than Bonhams’ usual crowd of book collectors.

A documentary about Ginsberg’s comeuppance was released in 2018, titled “RBG”, details her personal and professional journey to the Supreme Court.

She was Ginsberg’s best-selling book Annotated Edition of the Harvard Law Review 1975-58, which sold for $100,312. Bonhams had listed it at an estimated value of up to $3,500.

Ginsberg’s personal copy of her collected writings “My Own Words”, sold for $81,562 after listing at an estimated price of up to $2,000. The book includes Ginsburg’s writings and speeches, from her elementary school days to her reflections on the Supreme Court. The book also includes her landmark words on gender equality.

Overall, each of the available lots, 166 in all, were sold in the auction known as the “White Glove” sale, Williamson told CNBC.

“It doesn’t happen often!” said Williamson.

Ginsberg died on September 18, 2020 at the age of 87 from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was originally appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, becoming the second woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.


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