A British auction house announced on Thursday that it had withdrawn from sale a vial said to contain blood taken from late US president Ronald Reagan after he was shot in 1981.
PFC Auctions, based on the Channel Island of Guernsey, said the owner had agreed to donate the item to the California-based Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation — which had threatened legal action to stop the sale.
The auction house said it had “negotiated with the consignor to arrange for the item to be withdrawn from the auction and donated to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, a considerable financial gesture from the consignor.”
Bidding in the auction, which was due to conclude at 7pm on Thursday, had reached US$30,086, PFC Auctions said.
The 12.5cm long, 1.27cm diameter vial dates from the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt, when Reagan was shot and wounded as he left the Washington Hilton Hotel.
The lot description said “dried blood residue from president Reagan (1911-2004) can be seen clearly” in a half-centimeter ring at the end of the rubber stopper.
A letter of provenance said the vial came from a woman who worked at a Maryland laboratory that did a blood test for lead after the shooting.
The seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, bought the item at a public auction in the US in February for US$3,550, PFC said, a boutique online auctioneer on Guernsey, a British crown dependency off France’s north coast.
“I realized what an important artifact this was when bidding in the US auction. I am a serious collector of presidential memorabilia and have donated to museums before, and thought from the provenance supplied at the auction where I purchased that the Reagan Foundation had no interest in the item,” the seller said in a statement.
He said the reaction to the sale “clearly highlighted the importance of this historical artifact and I would personally be delighted to see this important artifact put on public display by the foundation.”
After the 1981 blood test was completed, the vial remained on the laboratory employee’s desk, and her director said she could keep the paperwork and the test tube.
After she died, it was put up for sale by her son.
John Heubusch, the Reagan Foundation’s executive director, said following Thursday’s donation: “We are very pleased with this outcome.”
“While we contend that the removal of the vial from the hospital laboratory and the US auction sale in February 2012 were not legal acts in our opinion, we are grateful to the current custodian of the vial for this generous donation to the foundation, ensuring president Reagan’s blood remains out of public hands,” Heubusch added.
The assassination attempt was carried out by John Hinckley Jr, who was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.
Hinckley was committed to St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington in 1982 after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.