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The $570,000 JFK bomber jacket bargain

February 18, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • President Kennedy's Air Force One leather bomber jacket in 2012.
President Kennedy's Air Force One leather bomber jacket in 2012. (Matthew Bourgeois / John…)

Would you pay $570,000 for a bomber jacket?

Probably not (though I’m willing to give NBA stars and the like an out here).

But would you pay $570,000 for a bomber jacket, complete with presidential seal, once worn by John F. Kennedy aboard Air Force One?

Ah, as Shakespeare would say, there’s the rub.

On Sunday, the jacket -- part of a trove of JFK memorabilia owned by the late David Powers, a longtime JFK aide and confidant -- brought more than 10 times its asking price at auction.

That's nuts, you say?

I disagree.

I hate to go Hollywood on you, but a line from one of my favorite movies sums up my feelings about such items. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones’ rival, Belloq, calls his bluff when Indy threatens to destroy the Ark of the Covenant, saying: “Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this is history.”

And indeed, isn’t that it?  A leather bomber jacket from the 1960s is just a jacket. But my leather letterman’s jacket from the 1960s is something more than a jacket. And my dad’s World War II dress uniform -- well, that’s priceless, at least to me.

On a recent visit to a Civil War exhibit at the Huntington Library, I gazed at the knife used in the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William H. Seward. Just a knife, really. But its connection to the events of the night Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed made it so much more.

Sure, it’s a bit macabre. But to touch it is to touch history.

Just like JFK’s bomber jacket. 

I’d say that $570,000 was a bargain.

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