Is JFK losing his star power?

It's probably too early to tell, but 55 years after President John F. Kennedy's assassination an auction of some of the most iconic items associated with the Kennedy White House fell well short of the pre-sale hype.

A rocking chair JFK used to meet with world leaders in the Oval Office sold for US$50,000, ($75,000) and a collection of pens he used to establish the Peace Corps and sign a landmark nuclear treaty sold for US$60,000 at an auction on Cape Cod.

But other intriguing items didn't sell, including Kennedy's last pencil doodles before he was killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and a tie clip in the shape of the PT-109 torpedo boat he commanded in World War II.


Other items that didn't get the minimum bid included a charcoal drawing done as a study for the slain president's official White House portrait; handwritten notes he jotted about Vietnam around 1953; his letter opener and crystal ashtray; and his personal stereo and Jackie Gleason records.

"About half of it sold," said Josh Eldred, president of Eldred's auction gallery in East Dennis. Buyers' identities were not disclosed.

Though the auction was over, buyers could still make offers, he said. He was confident the best of the memorabilia would sell.

JFK's worn oak rocking chair had been expected to sell for up to US$70,000. JFK often was photographed sitting in it while meeting world leaders. Doctors urged him to use rockers to ease chronic back pain.

The pens sold were used not only to sign the Peace Corps into existence but the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

A few oddball items also sold: JFK's prized if garish silk scarf, decorated with bronze Democrat donkeys and blue stars, and a creased and stained 1961 inaugural ball invitation JFK sent Frank Sinatra. Each fetched US$800. His doodles of sailboats sold for US$7000. But his scribbles on Texas hotel stationery the day before he was shot didn't.

"It may have been one of the last things he put on paper," auction house vice-president Bill Bourne said. "In fact, it probably was."

- AP