Collectible ephemera from and about the UN

As most of us know, the United Nations began operations shortly after the Second World War was formally ended. Since the Rockefellers donated the land on which the Unites Nations now sits, it was virtually a certainty that the United States would join. That was not the case with the League of Nations that was established in 1919.

Despite President Woodrow Wilson’s strong urging, the United States Congress rejected membership in the League, as the country, fresh from the end of World War I, did not want to even think about another world conflict.

The failure of the United States to join the League of Nations virtually assured the demise of the League. It did linger, but closed operations after not preventing the Second World War.

However, in August-October 1944, representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and the United Kingdom, met at Dumbarton Oaks, an estate in Washington, D.C., to work on proposals to essentially create a United Nations. On April 25, 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, where they produced the final Charter of the United Nations. The United Nation Charter was drawn up and signed by the 50 countries on June 26, 1945. A 51st country, Poland, which was not present at the United Nations Conference on International Organization later signed the Charter and was deemed to be one of the original 51 Member Countries. Soon thereafter, the United States ratified and the UN was now viable. The United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945.

Headquartered in New York City, the UN also has offices in such other cities as Geneva and Vienna. The official languages of the UN are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.  The United Nations was the second multipurpose international organization established in the 20th century that was worldwide in scope and membership, after the League of Nations. By the early 21st century the UN comprised nearly 190 member states.

For the most part, any United Nations collectible is general in nature, and does not reflect particular ideology. Although there is not a great deal of United Nations collectibles, there are still a small number of items that are coveted by collectors.

For example, there is a poster of the United Nations from 1945. It depicts a tree being planted. The leaves on the tree are colorful flags of the involved countries. The item sold for $425 by Swann Galleries.

Another item carries a great deal of historical significance, a charter of the United Nations and Statue of the International Quarter of Justice, from 1945. It was a bound version, and believed to be given to all member countries. It sold for $950 through Michaan’s Auctions. Likewise, an admission card to a 1945 United Nations ball sold for $100 by Potter & Potter Auctions.

And then there is a signed copy of the historic 1945 proclamation declaring a Day of Prayer to honor the fallen from World War II. The proclamation was signed by U.S. President Truman on May 13, 1945. It should be noted that prior to reading the proclamation, Truman announced he had been informed by General Eisenhower that the German forces had surrendered to the United Nations. This very rare historical document was sold for $5975 by Heritage Auctions. The item has special significance to collectors not only of United Nations items but presidential items as well.

Although UN items are not plentiful they remain popular among collectors.

As for the United Nations itself, it has persevered since 1945, and it is apparent it will continue to do so for a long time.

Jeff Figler has authored over 700 published articles about collecting.  He is a professional certified appraiser and one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles.   His latest book “The Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia” has been #1 on Amazon. He can be reached at info@jefffigler.com.