Auction offers glimpse into personal lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan


California Governor Ronald Reagan hugs his wife, Nancy, in his Sacramento office in April 1967. Reagan served two terms in the Governor’s office, from 1967 to 1975.

CBS News

If you’ve ever been to a presidential library, then you’ve seen the over-the-top gifts from foreign heads of state like a giant crystal urn from the Sultan of Brunei. That’s not what this auction is about. These are the personal effects, the things that Ronald and Nancy Reagan had in their home, reports CBS News’ Mo Rocca.

According to Christie’s Andrew McVinish, the auction is “far more sophisticated” than a display of items. McVinish said the items from the private collection of the former president and his wife are part of a narrative -- of family, their friends and of what the couple remembers most from their time in Washington.

Ronald Reagan’s cocktail napkin being auctioned for $400 at Christie’s.  CBS News

Everything up for bid was a part of the Reagans’ everyday life, from cocktail napkins now worth $400 and the Reagan family’s Thanksgiving platter to turkey salt and peppers, worth $1000.

“A lot of these things were in the White House when the president was at the peak of his powers. So that is very, very alluring,” McVinish said.

Everything up for bid was part of the Reagans’ everyday life, from cocktail napkins now worth $400 and the Reagan family’s Thanksgiving platter to turkey salt and peppers, worth $1000. 

“In the library, there was this fantastic paneled bar. And you had these fantastic cocktail napkins,” McVinish said, showing the napkins worth $400.

“He was one of the presidential doodlers,” McVinish explained, showing one of the former president’s $3,500 doodle of a footballer. “I guess he’s sort of thinking back to his time playing his most famous character.” 

“As George Gipp,” Rocca said.

Former president Ronald Reagan’s doodle of a football player, worth $3,500. CBS News

There is a pair of leather elephant Ottomans, a jellybean jar that sat on the desk in President Reagan’s private office and a bronze sculpture of the president as a cowboy. 

“What’s interesting to me here is that he became so firmly identified with California and the West. But, of course, he was raised in Illinois,” Rocca said.

“That’s right. He didn’t learn to ride a horse until he went to Hollywood,” McVinish said.

The auction also has a $20,000 piece of the Berlin Wall, where on June 12, 1987, the president stood at the Brandenburg Gate and made a famous speech.

Piece of the Berlin Wall at Christie’s Reagan auction, worth $20,000. CBS News

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” Reagan said, in an appeal to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader. 

There’s a also a football signed by the president with his most iconic film and political sign written on it: “Tell them to go out there and win one for the Gipper.” 

“He could not have known when he made that movie how important it would be to his entire… political career, right?” Rocca asked.

“Exactly,” McVinish said. 

This collection is not all about the president. A $50,000 necklace worn by the first lady is the auction’s highest valued item.

One of the most highly valued items at the Reagan auction is Nancy Reagan’s $50,000 necklace. CBS News

“They were a very glamorous couple and very unapologetic about it. And she was sort of controversial at the beginning about-- you know, concerning all the glitz,” Rocca said.

In a 1981 interview for “60 Minutes,” correspondent Mike Wallace asked Nancy Reagan about negative press related to her emphasis on style and elegance at a time of economic hardship. 

“Were you unprepared for the scrutiny?” Wallace asked. 

“Yes, I really was,” she answered. 

Now, you can also own the furniture used during that conversation and much more. 

“Prince Charles, Princess Diana have sat here, Mother Teresa,” McVinish said about the chair, now worth $5,000.

The auction also has a painting of fireworks by Frank Sinatra, a birthday gift to Nancy Reagan in 1986.

Starting Saturday, you can preview the items in the exhibition. Bidding starts on Sept. 21st.