Kahanamoku in fine print
By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
Ink imprints of Duke Kahanamoku's hands are expected to fetch as much as $12,000 at an auction of surf memorabilia in Los Angeles on Monday.
The framed handprints are the highlight of a 34-lot sale of surfing history and artifacts being offered by fine arts auctioneer Bonhams & Butterfields.
The auction will also offer for bid many rare Hawaiian books and prints, including a 1791 color engraving depicting the death of Capt. James Cook, early Hawaiian Bibles and an 1841 edition of the Constitution of Hawaii.
The ink impressions of Kahanamoku's hands were made in 1943 and are estimated by Bonhams & Butterfields to be worth $8,000 to $12,000.
"His hands were what propelled him to victory, really," said Matthew Haley, a New York-based books and manuscripts specialist for Bonhams who valued the surf memorabilia . He said Kahanamoku's hands measured nine inches long by almost six inches wide and powered him to swimming victories in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics. Kahanamoku also during this time helped introduce and popularize surfing outside of Hawaii and is a much-honored figure in the sport.
"I guess one of his fans asked him to do a hand stamp of them."
The prints are among surf-related items collected by Honolulu resident Mark Blackburn.
Other notable items from the collection to be auctioned Oct. 19 include a signed first edition of Tom Blake's 1935 book "The Hawaiian Surfboard" (estimated value $3,000 to $5,000). Haley said it was difficult to appraise the surf memorabilia , though a copy of "The Hawaiian Surfboard" without its dust jacket sold earlier for $3,500.
Haley said there was a showing of the items in New York last week, with some interest from institutional investors. He said the market for such items includes some California universities that are interested in surfing history, along with people who collect surfing-related items.
"We've had some serious interest in it," Haley said.
"Some of the items are unique purely because they weren't produced in large numbers to begin with."
Other notable items up for auction include a black woolen bathing costume from John Hawkshaw ($1,000 to $2,000) and an invitation, signed poster and patch for big-wave rider Ricky Grigg to the 1967 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surf Championships.
There are also posters from early surfing movies and a signed photograph of Jack London and his wife under a coconut palm in front of the Outrigger Canoe Club ($1,500 to $2,500).
The auction at the Los Angeles location of Bonhams & Butterfields will start at 10 a.m. Hawaii time and begin with significant printed works from Hawaii's history. The 1841 Hawaiian Constitution is valued at between $7,000 and $9,000, and the engraving of the painting of Cook's death is thought to be worth as much as $18,000.
Among other items are works by missionaries in Hawaii, a 1783 seaman's account of sailing with Cook (valued at between $7,000 and $9,000), the first codified texts of the Hawaiian government under King Kamehameha III (estimated worth of up to $8,000) and a 1784 atlas of one of Cook's voyages to the Pacific (estimated to be worth as much as $12,000).
Also up for bid is a copy of the first English-language version of the Hawaiian creation chant as translated by Queen Liliuokalani from family manuscripts during her imprisonment.