Friday, May 16, 2008

1777 Lachlan McIntosh and Button Gwinnett shoot each other during a duel near Savannah, Georgia.

Button Gwinnett (baptized: April 10, 1735 – May 19, 1777), was second of the signatories (first signature on the left) on the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Georgia. He was also briefly the provisional president of Georgia in 1777, and Gwinnett County (now a major suburb of metro Atlanta) was named after him.

A fairly obscure historical figure, Gwinnett nonetheless does hold one claim to fame: his autograph is among the most valuable in the world, a fact used to good effect by science fiction author Isaac Asimov in his short story "Button, Button." Valuations usually suggest an example of an original Gwinnett signature would be valued only behind the likes of Julius Caesar and William Shakespeare, making Gwinnett’s by far the most valuable American autograph. Single examples of Gwinnett’s autograph have been sold for as much as $150,000. Its extraordinarily high value is a result of a combination of the desire by many top collectors to acquire a complete set of autographs by all 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the extreme rarity of the Gwinnett signature (there are less than 30 known extant examples, since Gwinnett was fairly obscure prior to signing the Declaration and died shortly afterwards). In the 1920s, five copies of his signature were owned by renowned rare bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach.

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