LOS ANGELES (AP) — A ghoulish piece of American history is now up for sale to the highest bidder.
The modest wooden coffin in which John F. Kennedy's assassin was buried for 18 years is being auctioned off by Allen Baumgardner, owner of Baumgardner Funeral Home in Fort Worth, Texas.
The brown pine box, its rusted metal ornamentation still intact, was dug up in 1981 as part of an effort to put to rest theories that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't in it. Authorities used dental records to conclude the remains did indeed belong to the man who shot the president to death in 1963.
The body was then reburied at Rose Hill Memorial Cemetery in Fort Worth.
"We placed Lee in a new casket, and I just brought that one back to the funeral home," Baumgardner said Wednesday. "I've had it all these years."
Baumgardner said he was selling the coffin, along with the original embalming equipment and paperwork, because he felt it was time to do something with it.
I'm 68 years old, I think this would be a good time to go ahead and see if anybody is interested in it," he said.
Bidding, which opened at $1,000 on Tuesday, was expected to go as high as $100,000 by the time it closes on Dec. 16, said Laura Yntema, manager of Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Santa Monica, which is handling the sale. Bids are being taken by phone and online.
An early version of Oswald's death certificate, in which the cause of death was listed as being shot by Jack Ruby (identified by his real name, Jack Rubenstein), was being auctioned separately. Yntema said it is expected to fetch as much as $20,000.
That certificate was later changed because Ruby hadn't yet been convicted of killing Oswald in a Dallas police station two days after Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which is dedicated to the Kennedy assassination, has no interest in bidding on the coffin, said curator Gary Mack, adding its exhibits lean heavily toward photographs and videos. The museum is on the sixth floor of Dallas' old Texas School Book Depository Building, from which Oswald is believed to have opened fire on the president.
But Mack said he expected no shortage of bidders. Kennedy and the circumstances of his death, he said, were still fascinate people 47 years later.
"My experience as a curator has been, if people have room and it's a Kennedy item, they will collect it," he said.
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