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Auction: $4.4M for Naismith's basketball rules

Auctioneer David Redden gavels closed the bidding for

Auctioneer David Redden gavels closed the bidding for the Naismith Rules, the original rules for basketball, at Sotheby's, in Manhattan. (Dec. 10, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

The original rules of basketball, written by James Naismith in 1891, were auctioned Friday for $4.4 million at Sotheby's in New York. A copy of the Emancipation Proclamation sold for $3.7 million.

The 13 rules, a two-page typed document with Naismith's handwritten notes, were purchased by David G. Booth, an alumnus of the University of Kansas and executive officer of Dimensional Fund Advisors. Naismith founded the university basketball program in 1898, staying in Kansas until his death in 1939.

Booth funded the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at the university in honor of his parents and said that he spoke with Kansas head coach Bill Self about the idea of housing the rules on the Lawrence, Kan., campus.

At the same auction Friday, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln that was purchased by Robert F. Kennedy sold for more than $3.7 million, an auction record for a U.S. presidential document.

Kennedy bought the printed copy of the 1863 document declaring all slaves "forever free" shortly after its centennial celebration at the White House. It was sold for $3,778,500 to an anonymous bidder at Sotheby's by Kennedy's widow, Ethel. The price included a buyer's premium. The maximum presale estimate was $1.5 million.

It's one of 48 printed copies signed by Lincoln. About half are known to survive. The original handwritten Emancipation Proclamation is in the National Archives.

The previous record was achieved at Christie's New York in February 2009 for Lincoln's 1864 victory speech after he was re-elected as president. It sold for $3,442,500, Sotheby's said.

In addition, the only U.S. flag not captured or lost during Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn sold for $2.2 million. The buyer was identified as an American private collector. Frayed, torn, and with possible bloodstains, the flag had been valued at up to $5 million. The 7th U.S. Cavalry flag had been the property of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The museum paid $54 for it in 1895.


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