Auction of vial said to contain Reagan’s blood canceled
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – A vial purportedly containing dried blood from former President Ronald Reagan after a 1981 assassination attempt will not be auctioned online, but donated to Reagan’s presidential foundation, officials said Thursday.
The online sale by PFC Auctions, based on the island of Guernsey, a British dependency, drew national headlines — and a threat of legal action from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The foundation’s executive director, John Heubusch, called it “a craven act.”
“We are very pleased with this outcome and wish to thank the consignor and PFC auctions for their assistance in this matter,” Heubusch said in a statement Thursday.
And the seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, said in a statement released by the auction house they “would personally be delighted to see this important artifact put on public display by the foundation.”
Bidding for the vial had topped $30,000 as of Thursday, PFC Auctions said.
On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley fired six shots at Reagan as the president left the Washington Hilton after delivering a speech. Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital for emergency surgery.
“Dried blood residue from President Reagan … can be seen clearly in the vial with a quarter-inch ring of blood residue at the end of the inserted rubber stopper,” the listing says.
In a letter of provenance included in the sale, the writer said it had been in their family’s possession since the day of the assassination attempt, according to the auction listing.
“Back in the ’70s and ’80s, my mother worked for Bio Science Laboratories in Columbia, Maryland,” the letter says. The lab was contracted with George Washington University Hospital to handle blood testing, and did Reagan’s blood work and testing.
“The test tube and the lab slip that I have are for his blood work to be tested for lead on 03/30/1981,” according to the letter. “The testing was completed and the test tube was sitting on my mother’s desk.”
The letter writer said their mother asked the lab director if she could keep the paperwork and test tube, and was allowed to do so. The person said their mother and father have both since died.
But “what has not been widely reported is that the auction consignor purchased the item at a public auction in the USA in February 2012 for $3,550,” PFC Auctions said Thursday.
The seller said the letter of provenance was included when they bought the item.
“I am a serious collector of presidential memorabilia, and have donated to museums before, and thought from the provenance supplied at the auction where I purchased that the Reagan Foundation had no interest in the item,” the person — who PFC Auctions said wishes to remain anonymous — said in the statement.
The letter of provenance, according to the auction listing, said the writer had contacted the Reagan National Library and spoke to its director, asking if the library would like to purchase the vial. The director said the library would accept the vial as a donation, the seller said, but the director also wanted to check with legal counsel, the National Archives and the FBI, among others.
“He called back in 25 minutes and said that everything was OK,” the letter said. “The National Archives was not interested in what I had, nor was the Secret Service, the FBI and other agencies. Since 30 years had passed by, he thought that it was simply something that was of no importance at this time and that I was free to do … whatever I wanted with it.”
The writer said he did not want to return the vial to Reagan’s family, “since I had served under Pres. Reagan when he was my Commander in Chief when I was in the Army from ’87-’91 and that I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that Pres. Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it.”
The publicity generated by the sale on PFC Auctions “has clearly highlighted the importance of this historical artifact and I would personally be delighted to see this important artifact put on public display by the foundation,” the recent seller said.
PFC Auctions noted the donation was “a considerable financial gesture from the consignor.”
The presidential foundation, in a Tuesday statement, had said it would “use every legal means” to stop the sale or purchase of the vial.
“While we contend that the removal of the vial from the hospital laboratory and the U.S. auction sale in February were not legal acts in our opinion, we are grateful to the current custodian of the vial for this generous donation to the foundation ensuring President Reagan’s blood remains out of public hands,” Heubusch, the foundation’s executive director, said Thursday.