Antiques Roadshow: Laura Woolley values Frank Sinatra letter
Antiques Roadshow expert Laura was over the moon to be presented with a rare letter from Frank Sinatra on the PBS version of the popular BBC series. She explained it was the “best Frank Sinatra letter I have ever seen” and was keen to find out how the guest had come to be in possession of the note which addressed his son Frank Sinatra Jr’s kidnap.
The guest explained: “Before I existed, my dad was in prison for a forgery and worked for this priest, and was also in prison at the same time that two men kidnapped Frank Sinatra, Jr.
“And on behalf of those two men, the priest wrote a letter to Frank Sinatra, asking forgiveness. And this was the six-page rebuttal that was written back to the priest. And my dad worked for him, and somehow it ended up with my dad.”
“So he magically happened to be there right when this letter’s written about a really historic event that occurred,” Laura asked, which the guest confirmed.
Detailing Frank Sinatra Jr’s kidnap, Laura explained: “In December of 1963, a couple of 23-year-olds in California had this get-rich-quick scheme, that they were going to kidnap Frank Sinatra, Jr.
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“And so, in December of ’63, they hatch this plot. They take him at gunpoint, they kidnap him, and they ask for $240,000 in ransom.”
She continued: “I think it is the best Frank Sinatra letter I have ever seen because not only is it lengthy, it’s also about a deeply personal subject.
“And, unlike many of the other letters that are really famous from Frank Sinatra, which he has full of barbs and, and has a lot of grit to it.
“It’s not quite as bombastic, because sometimes he was writing those knowing that they were going to be known and made public, and he got in some good jabs at the people he wrote to.
“But because this is such a deeply personal subject, he’s forceful, he’s strong, he takes offence to what the chaplain is saying to him.
“More than anything else, and this is what I thought was really fascinating about this letter, you have these two young men who’ve kidnapped his son, taken him at gunpoint, put him through this crazy ordeal, and he’s not so much upset about the fact that they kidnapped him.
“Most of the letter actually deals with the fact that he’s more upset about the fact that their defence in this was that Frank Sinatra, Jr., was in on it, and that it was a hoax. The people we’re talking about are Keenan and Amsler, Barry Keenan and Joe Amsler.”
Laura went on to detail: “Joe Amsler’s no longer with us. Keenan is still alive. He has given interviews since Frank Sinatra, Jr., passed away.
“And expressed deep regret that he was never able to set the record straight because this story that Frank Sinatra, Jr., hatched this plot to become kidnapped to get headlines to try and help sell his first record because he was actually at a casino performing and was, he was 19 years old.”
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“Because this story that Frank Sinatra, Jr., hatched this plot to become kidnapped to get headlines to try and help sell his first record because he was actually at a casino performing and was, he was 19 years old.”
Laura also revealed her favourite part was Frank Sinatra scolding the men who kidnapped his son, as he wrote: “How dare you. The embarrassment that this has caused to my family.”
Going on to value the item, expert Laura remarked: “Given that and the provenance on this, we know that your father was there. We have the original transmittal envelope.
“And given the incredible personal content in this letter, which is the only record I know of that shows what Frank Sinatra, Sr., was thinking about it, and knowing that Frank Sinatra, Jr., really never fully recovered from the event, have you ever had the letter appraised?”
The guest revealed they had sent copies of the letter to other experts who had estimated “between, I believe, $8,000 and $12,000”.
Laura had a surprise in store for the guest as she gave it a much higher valuation, exclaiming: “I would be really, really confident at auction an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000, and I really would not be surprised if it definitely exceeded that.
“I know we always like to set a relatively conservative estimates at auction. And given the fact that there’s nothing like this out there, who knows what would happen on the day, as we like to say?”
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