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Auctioneer Discovers 1796 Letter Written by First President

October 27, 1988

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) _ An auctioneer examining a collection of papers in preparation for an estate sale found ″the absolute dream of every autograph collector″ - a letter written by George Washington.

The one-page letter, dated Dec. 10, 1796, was addressed to a Richard Peters and concerned a suggestion Peters had made about agricultural policy.

″I haven’t slept a lot since Saturday night,″ Phil Riner said about his discovery, made when he examined documents in the estate of an ailing Lakeland resident, whose hobby was collecting historical documents.

The family of the collector, whom Riner refused to identify, had asked Riner to inventory items for an estate sale.

Some documents written by Washington have recently brought as much as $19,000, Riner said Wednesday. They vary in value depending on their importance and when they were written. Washington’s autograph has brought $3,000, he said.

The brief letter to Peters referred to documents Washington was enclosing with a suggestion that they might be of interest to congressional committees. Peters’ address was not listed, and Riner did not disclose the text of the letter.

″I have not had a chance to do any research on it, but I would assume it had something to do with congressional business,″ Riner said. The letter was written about three months before Washington’s second term ended.

Riner, who heads Phil Riner Auctions, Jewelry, and Estate Liquidators in nearby Winter Haven, said the auction for the letter, probably within 60 days, would be widely advertised.

″I will, of course, have it thoroughly authenticated beforehand,″ he said.

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