Some things — especially those that are one-of-a-kind — can be difficult to put a value on. That’s the case with an item that Kraig Staples recently brought in for an appraisal recently downtown at DuMouchelles.
“I have what I’d say is the original article of association for the Detroit Automobile Company which was Henry Ford’s first auto company on 8-5-1899,” he wrote to the column in an email seeking assistance. “My father was the comptroller for Cadillac in the 60/70s and my guess is he found it in an old office or plant. Once DAC went out of business in 1902, some of the remaining company went on to form Cadillac. My family found this after he’d passed away in 2010. The document doesn’t present well since it’s about 20” x 20” in a pamphlet type document. It does have some original federal and state stamps and seals though.”
Bob DuMouchelle examined the piece at the recent event. Staples filled him in a little more detail. “I found this after my dad passed away and have tried to do research, but it’s very difficult … I’ve met with a Henry Ford museum rep as well as the Cadillac historical society at the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo in the past.” Document signatures include Frank Hecker, whose mansion still stands and is part of Wayne State, William Maybury, mayor of Detroit at the time, and secretary of state Willard K. Bush.
The two-sided document is preserved behind glass and has a wax seal. “This basically gave Henry Ford license to do business,” Staples claimed. Staples said he took it to the Henry Ford museum thinking they may be interested in the piece because of its distinguished history. “They liked it and thought it was interesting but didn’t jump up and down, I guess, because how do you display something which was basically a loser?”
DuMouchelle said the piece isn’t the type of things that would generally be forged, so there’s a good chance it’s authentic. That said, it’s also difficult to authenticate and to estimate a value, as it’s one of a kind.
Authenticating it would be key if he was interested in selling, DuMouchelle said. He suggested that Staples reach out to the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library or the Automotive Hall of Fame next to the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village, which may also have more information. Hiring a historian or research assistant to dig a little deeper is another option.
DuMouchelle said, “This is extremely rare, and very unique. ... I think it’s real and there’s an intrinsic value to this because it’s historic. That said, someone has to be looking for it and it has to be the right time and the right place to get a decent amount.”
Staples said “a Ford guy who was a collector,” offered him $1,800 for it.
DuMouchelle said that’s a good offer, but it has potential to do better. “This is the kind of thing we would put up at auction to see how the market reacts. In the right market, I think you could get anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 for it ... It’s Detroit history, it’s car history, it’s Henry Ford.”
About this item
Item: Article of Association
Owner: Kraig Staples
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle
Estimated value: $2,000 to $4,000