Reader seeks value of Angela Davis FBI wanted poster
From time to time, I get questions from readers about the items they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, the results are market values based on prices I find on the web, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.
Today’s question is about the value of a 1970 Angela Davis FBI wanted poster.
My son-in-law has an authentic original Angela Davis post office wanted poster in very good condition. Should he consider auctioning it? What would the minimum value be? I would assume that it might have a value of $500 to perhaps $3,000.
The reader was referring to a wanted poster for political activist Angela Davis issued by the FBI in connection with a kidnapping and shootout at the Marin County Courthouse in San Rafael, CA, on Aug. 7, 1970. The guns used in the incident were registered to her.
It all started when a teen named Jonathan Jackson came into a courtroom with weapons and freed two inmates. They left with five hostages, including an assistant district attorney, the judge and three jurors. The plan was to trade them for the release of Jonathan’s brother George Jackson, who was one of three “Soledad Brothers” accused of murdering a Soledad State Prison guard who had killed some black inmates during a fight. Davis was head of their defense committee. (Interestingly, a Black Panther poster, “Free the Soledad Brothers,” sold for $5,000 at auction in 2011).
As they were leaving in a van, their driver was shot by a San Quentin guard, and then shooting erupted inside and outside the van. Jonathan Jackson and the two inmates were killed, along with the judge.
A warrant was issued for Davis’ arrest, and four days later, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover added her to the agency’s Most Wanted List, accusing her of kidnapping, murder and interstate flight. She was the third woman to be placed on the fugitives list.
A member of the Communist Party and a supporter of the Black Panther Party, Davis was already on the government’s radar. Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan had persuaded the University of California at Los Angeles to fire her (but she got her job back), and President Nixon considered her a terrorist.
She was apprehended in October, spent 16 months in jail after bail was denied and was acquitted of all charges at trial two years later.
Davis was a very popular and powerful revolutionary, and once the poster was out there, it was reproduced, becoming “the hottest item in the underground,” as one newspaper described it.
The FBI offered this “Caution” on the poster:
“Angela Davis is wanted on kidnaping and murder charges growing out of an abduction in Marin County, California, on August 7, 1970. She allegedly has purchased several guns in the past. Consider possibly armed and dangerous. A federal warrant was issued on August 15, 1970, at San Francisco, California, charging Davis with unlawful interstate flight to avoid prosecution for murder and kidnaping.”
An authentic FBI Angela Davis poster is said to have Hoover’s facsimile signature along with a watermark. To determine authenticity, hold the poster up to the light and look for the watermark.
As for the value of the poster, I found several sale prices at auctions in the last four years.
2012: $960 (with the buyer’s premium)
2013: $1,560 (with the buyer’s premium)
2015: $225 (without the buyer’s premium)
2016: $520 (with the buyer’s premium)
On eBay: Two most recently sold for $75 and $138. “Free Angela Davis” posters tended to sell for much more.
I would suggest that the reader continue to do research to find other recent sales. It seems that the poster brings in bigger bucks at auctions. The selling price usually depends on condition and the number of people who really want an item at a given time.
Thank you so much for the information and the leads. My son-in-law works for the local PO. While cleaning files they found the poster among many old documents. His boss let him have it. For some reason it was never posted on the wall and remained in original condition without any adhesive material or pin holes. I’m sure that he will be delighted with the leads you have provided. He can do other research and follow through as he decides on whether to keep, sell or auction the poster.