Enrichment Arts & Culture

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal library auctions for $2.3 million

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks onstage at the Fourth Annual Berggruen Prize Gala celebrating 2019 Laureate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg In New York City on December 16, 2019 in New York City.  Eugene Gologursky/ Stringer/ AP
  • Auction-house Bonhams facilitated the auction of over 1,000 items from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s personal library.
  • Ginsberg’s top selling item was her annotated copy of the 1975-78 Harvard Law Review, which sold for $100,312.
  • Every one of the 166 available lots sold during the auction sale, which ran from Jan. 19 to Jan. 27.

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s personal library was put up for auction and raked in final bids that totaled $2.3 million, well over expectations.  

The auction included more than 1,000 items from Ginsburg’s personal library, from books to photographs and offprints of Ginsberg’s own articles. Many of the items include personal inscriptions addressed to Ginsberg by her fellow Supreme Court justices, like Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and even the late Antonin Scalia.  

The auction was being facilitated by auction-house Bonhams and began on Jan. 19 and ended on Jan. 27.  

Catherine Williamson, specialist of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams, told CNBC that she expected the auction would result in anywhere between $300,000 to $500,000. However, the sum of all final bids ended up totaling $2.3 million. 


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Williamson told CNBC that the auction’s bids were, “beyond our wildest dreams.” 

Bidding on almost all the lots exceeded Bonhams’ estimates for Ginsberg’s items, and many were deliberately listed conservatively because a few of her items had previously come up for auction. However, Williamson told CNBC that Ginsberg’s unexpected popularity in her later years brought a much higher level of attention and interest from potential buyers much younger than Bonhams’ usual crowd of book collectors.  

In 2018, a documentary about Ginsberg’s comeuppance, titled “RBG,” detailed her personal and professional journey to the Supreme Court.  

Ginsberg’s top-selling book was her annotated copy of the 1975-58 Harvard Law Review, which sold for $100,312. Bonhams had it listed with an estimated value of up to $3,500. 

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

In all, every one of the available lots, a total of 166 were listed, sold in the auction, which is known as a “white glove” sale, Williamson said to CNBC.  

“Those don’t happen very often!” said Williamson. 

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


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