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President Reagan’s world: 10 lots offering unique insights

From his beloved jelly beans to gifts from visiting heads of state, a selection of lots that reflect President Reagan’s time in office

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  • A gift to commemorate Ronald Reagan’s election as the 40th President of the United States

An American silver musical humidor, mark of Tiffany & Co., New York, circa 1981. The hinged top engraved with the Presidential Seal of The United States, ‘RONALD WILSON REAGAN, FORTIETH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WITH PRIDE AND BEST WISHES ALWAYS, BOB GRAY’. Mahogany-lined, playing ‘All Hail the Chief’, marked to the underside. 3 ½ in (8.3 cm)

An American silver musical humidor, mark of Tiffany & Co., New York, circa 1981. The hinged top engraved with the Presidential Seal of The United States, ‘RONALD WILSON REAGAN, FORTIETH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WITH PRIDE AND BEST WISHES ALWAYS, BOB GRAY’. Mahogany-lined, playing ‘All Hail the Chief’, marked to the underside. 3 ½ in (8.3 cm) high, 10 in (25.5 cm) wide, 8 in (20.3 cm) deep. Estimate: $5,000-10,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

This gift from Bob Gray (1923-2014) to President Ronald Reagan was formerly in The Family Residence at the White House. Bob Gray was a Republican activist, public relations expert and Washington lobbyist who was a former aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He worked on President Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign and co-chaired his inaugural committee. 

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  • Accessories from the President’s desk

A group of desk accessories from the President’s desk, 20th century. Comprising a bronze plaque with the Reagan quotation,‘THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT A MAN CAN DO OR WHERE HE CAN GO IF HE DOESN’T MIND WHO GETS THE CREDIT’; an Hermès silver blotter with horse head, marked to reverse; a glass jar with horse-head lid enclosing jelly beans; an English red leather and

A group of desk accessories from the President’s desk, 20th century. Comprising: a bronze plaque with the Reagan quotation,‘THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT A MAN CAN DO OR WHERE HE CAN GO IF HE DOESN’T MIND WHO GETS THE CREDIT’; an Hermès silver blotter with horse head, marked to reverse; a glass jar with horse-head lid enclosing jelly beans; an English red leather and repoussé silver box; a tiger’s eye paperweight surmounted by two silver birds, with green inventory label; and a wooden parquetry box, with green inventory label. 9 ¾ in (23.5 cm) long, the blotter. Estimate: $1,000-2,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

According to the Reagan Library archives, when Ronald Reagan ran for Governor of California in 1966, he began eating ‘Goelitz Mini Jelly Beans’ as part of his successful attempt to give up pipe-smoking. Herman Goelitz Candy Company, the Oakland-based producer of the jelly beans, sent a monthly shipment to the Governor’s Office throughout Reagan’s two terms in Sacramento. The company also made a custom-designed jelly bean jar for Reagan.

After Reagan left the governorship, he continued to receive shipments of Goelitz Mini Gourmet Jelly Beans directly from the company. When Herman Goelitz introduced its Jelly Belly brand of jelly beans in 1976, it began including the new brand in Reagan’s regular shipment. Within two years, the shipment consisted entirely of the Jelly Belly brand.

Three and a half tons of red, white and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans were shipped to Washington, D.C., for the 1981 Inaugural festivities. Herman Goelitz Candy Company provided the Reagan White House with Jelly Belly jelly beans for all eight years of Reagan’s presidency. In February 1981 Herman G. Rowland, the president of Herman Goelitz and a fourth-generation descendant of the company’s founders, received official Government authorisation to develop a Jelly Belly jelly bean jar with the Presidential Seal on it. These presidential jars of Jelly Belly beans, each in its own blue gift box, were given by Reagan to heads of state, diplomats and other White House guests. President Reagan’s favourite Jelly Belly flavour was licorice.

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  • A gift to Mrs. Reagan from Zhao Ziyang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

A Chinese embroidered silk screen mounted in a carved wood stand, circa 1984. The embroidery depicting a white cat playing with mantis. 26 ¼ (66.6 cm) high, 14 ⅝ in (37.1 cm) wide. Estimate $3,000-5,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

A Chinese embroidered silk screen mounted in a carved wood stand, circa 1984. The embroidery depicting a white cat playing with mantis. 26 ¼ (66.6 cm) high, 14 ⅝ in (37.1 cm) wide. Estimate: $3,000-5,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

A gift to Mrs. Reagan from His Excellency Zhao Ziyang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, who was hosted at the White House by the President and his First Lady on 10 January 1984. Zhao Ziyang was the first Chinese head of government to visit the United States. This screen was formerly in The Family Residence at the White House. In accordance with the rules on state gifts, an outgoing president is entitled to purchase items of significance for their private collection. Mrs. Reagan was so taken with this table screen that President Reagan purchased it for her so that it could be displayed in the living room of their Bel Air home.

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  • You ain’t seen nothing yet

A monogrammed needlepoint pillow, circa 1984. Embroidered with a map of the United States and YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET, NOVEMBER 6, 1984, LOVE, FRAN AND RAY. 19 in (48.5 cm) wide. Estimate $1,000-1,500. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

A monogrammed needlepoint pillow, circa 1984. Embroidered with a map of the United States and YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET, NOVEMBER 6, 1984, LOVE, FRAN AND RAY. 19 in (48.5 cm) wide. Estimate: $1,000-1,500. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

This pillow was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Ray Stark, and represents the 49 out of 50 states won by Reagan in 1984. Ray Stark was one of the most successful independent producers in post-war Hollywood. He was involved with more than 125 films, including Funny Girl and The Goodbye Girl, both of which were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. After serving in the US Navy in World War II, Stark became a literary agent. During his subsequent career as a talent agent at the Famous Artists Agency he represented Ronald Reagan. The Starks owned a property close to the Reagans’ California ranch. Ray Stark died in 2004 at the age of 88.

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  • A relic of one of Ronald Reagan’s greatest foreign policy achievements

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). His signature (‘Ronald Reagan’) accomplished in black felt-tip pen on the surface of a sizeable graffiti-strewn fragment of the Berlin Wall. Approximately 25 in long, 13 in high and 2 in thick. Provenance Formerly in the Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Estimate $10,000-20,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). His signature (‘Ronald Reagan’) accomplished in black felt-tip pen on the surface of a sizeable graffiti-strewn fragment of the Berlin Wall. Approximately 25 in long, 13 in high and 2 in thick. Provenance: Formerly in the Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Estimate: $10,000-20,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

On June 12, 1987, with the Brandenburg Gate in the background, Reagan implored Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev: ‘If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ That address became a rallying cry for ending the Cold War and dismantling the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since the close of the Second World War.

Reagan delivered his famous exhortation to Gorbachev amidst a warming relationship with his Soviet counterpart, who upon coming to power in 1985, introduced the polices of glasnost (‘openness’) and perestroika (‘restructuring’). The Soviet leader’s new direction convinced Reagan to revise the confrontational foreign policy of his first term and embrace diplomacy as a means of promoting improved relations between the two superpowers. By the time Reagan left office in January 1989, the two had held four major summit meetings, had signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and laid the groundwork for the START I Treaty.

Ten months after Reagan left office, the Iron Curtain began to crumble — first in Hungary, then in Czechoslovakia — events that placed tremendous pressure on the East German government to open its own borders as thousands of Germans fled the country. When East German authorities finally announced that their frontiers would be open to all, enormous crowds began to form around the Berlin Wall demanding that the gates be opened immediately. On the evening of November 9, 1989, East German authorities opened the gates and over the next several weeks, Berliners began to dismantle what had come to be called simply die Mauer (‘the wall’). Today, only small sections of the infamous barrier remain standing.

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  • The President’s White House doodles

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). A series of pencil sketches signed (‘Ronald Reagan’) as President, Washington, n.d. [watermarked 1980]. Accomplished on White House stationery. Estimate $2,500-3,500. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). A series of pencil sketches signed (‘Ronald Reagan’) as President, Washington, n.d. [watermarked 1980]. Accomplished on White House stationery. Estimate: $2,500-3,500. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

A series of doodles, primarily consisting of cartoon portraits of a variety of characters, including a football player (a running back — recalling his high school football days, and also perhaps his portrayal on film of the legendary George Gipp, aka ‘The Gipper’), a sailor, a cowboy smoking a cigarette, a gentleman wearing a monocle and a baby, among others. Two additional pages of doodles are offered as individual lots in the auction.

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  • A signed football inscribed with Ronald Reagan’s famous campaign slogan: ‘Win one for the Gipper’

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). An official NFL Wilson football, signed and inscribed by Reagan on the blank panel ‘WIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER Ronald Reagan’. 11 in long. Unused, and housed in its original box. Estimate $5,000-10,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). An official NFL Wilson football, signed and inscribed by Reagan on the blank panel: ‘WIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER Ronald Reagan’. 11 in long. Unused, and housed in its original box. Estimate: $5,000-10,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

After several years spent in Iowa as a sports announcer, Reagan travelled to Hollywood to take a screen test for Warner Bros. in 1937. He soon graduated from B-movie roles to star in feature films including Dark Victory with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and Santa Fe Trail, starring Errol Flynn. In 1940 he landed the role of George Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American, starring Pat O’Brien as the legendary Notre Dame coach.

Gipp (1895-1920) was a gifted halfback who played for the Fighting Irish from 1917 to 1920. His career was cut short by a throat infection that killed him at the age of just 25. On his deathbed, Gipp told Rockne to inspire the team: ‘Ask them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.’ Rockne later used Gipp’s story to rally his team to beat the undefeated Army team of 1928, telling them to ‘win one for the Gipper’.

During his political career Reagan parlayed his memorable portrayal of Gipp into a political slogan and was often referred to by supporters as ‘The Gipper’. He used the phrase most notably at the 1988 Republican National Convention when he urged George W. H. Bush to ‘go out there and win one for the Gipper’.

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  • A personal gift from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

A pair of Elizabeth II silver beakers, Mark of Gerald Benney, London, 1985 and 1990. Each with gilt interior, inscribed ‘With love from Margaret and Denis Thatcher’ to one side, the reverse each with an initial R or N, marked Gerald Benney, London on base, and marked on rim. 3 ⅜ in (8.6 cm) high; 11 oz 10 dwt (360 g). Estimate $1,000-2,000. This lot will be offered in The Private

A pair of Elizabeth II silver beakers, Mark of Gerald Benney, London, 1985 and 1990. Each with gilt interior, inscribed ‘With love from Margaret and Denis Thatcher’ to one side, the reverse each with an initial R or N, marked Gerald Benney, London on base, and marked on rim. 3 ⅜ in (8.6 cm) high; 11 oz 10 dwt (360 g). Estimate: $1,000-2,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

In 1981, during the first state visit he hosted for the British Prime Minister, President Reagan addressed Margaret Thatcher, and spoke of a meeting between them in London two years previously. ‘I was impressed by the similar challenges our countries faced,’ he said, ‘and by your determination to meet those challenges. So long as our adversaries continue to arm themselves at a pace far beyond the needs of defence, so the free world must do whatever is necessary to safeguard its own security.’

The two leaders were famously close, and Mrs Thatcher made frequent visits to the White House. In 1997, when Lady Thatcher, as she had by then become, unveiled a Mark Balma portrait of herself and President Reagan at Cannon House in Washington, she remarked, ‘Fate decided that Ronnie should be in charge of the great United States when I was in charge politically in Britain. We had almost identical beliefs. From very different backgrounds, very different circumstances, we had come to this passionate belief that the world is not created by governments, it is created by the creativity of man. The task of government is to create a framework in which the talents of man can flourish.’

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  • Eight memorable years: 1981-1989

A Mottahedeh porcelain Chinese export-style presidential presentation monteith on wood stand. Modern, blue printed mark. The exterior richly gilded with panels of the Presidential seal alternating with quotes from President Reagan, the interior centred by the Presidential seal and eight shields dated for each year of the Reagan Administration, the underside inscribed, PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT

A Mottahedeh porcelain Chinese export-style presidential presentation monteith on wood stand. Modern, blue printed mark. The exterior richly gilded with panels of the Presidential seal alternating with quotes from President Reagan, the interior centred by the Presidential seal and eight shields dated for each year of the Reagan Administration, the underside inscribed, 'PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT AND MRS. REAGAN RECALLING EIGHT MEMORABLE YEARS 1981-1989.’ 12 ¾ in (32.3 cm) diameter. Estimate: $8,000-12,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

The four quotes on the bowl are some of President Reagan’s best-known. Two are taken from the addresses to either Congress or Western Europe regarding relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. One is from an address to the Canadian Parliament and the last from an address to Chinese community leaders in Beijing. 

  • 10
  • The ‘invisible hand’

Adam Smith (1723-1790). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. With notes, supplementary chapters, and a life of Dr. Smith by William Playfair. London for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1805. 3 volumes, 8°. Contemporary diced calf gilt, marbled edges (rebacked preserving original spines). Eleventh edition. Estimate $800-1,200. This lot will be offered in The Private

Adam Smith (1723-1790). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. With notes, supplementary chapters, and a life of Dr. Smith by William Playfair. London: for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1805. 3 volumes, 8°. Contemporary diced calf gilt, marbled edges (rebacked preserving original spines). Eleventh edition. Estimate: $800-1,200. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

In remarks made at a memorial to Reagan in 2004, Bruce Chapman, a Deputy Assistant to Reagan in the White House, recalled: ‘Let me tell you about this Invisible Hand. Many of you will remember that the phrase originally comes from the economist Adam Smith, who believed that the actions of a free market work like an “invisible hand” to ensure that the activities of many individuals, though seemingly self-interested, result in benefits for the common good.’

Chapman continued: ‘Ever since Ronald Reagan studied classical economics at Eureka College, Adam Smith was his hero. So everybody in the Administration quoted Adam Smith. Neckties with little Adam Smith busts on them festooned every male conservative chest in Washington when I was there. But, as I have suggested, the real invisible hand in the Reagan Administration belonged to Ronald Reagan. Call it self-effacing, or call it shrewd; he often didn’t leave his fingerprints. But on such issues as defense and diplomacy, the economy, the family — his hand was there.’