Black history collection could be broken up, sold to highest bidder

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Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague spent more than 50 years collecting rare artifacts of black history and culture. Facing bankruptcy, he lost it all, and now the priceless collection could be broken up and sold at auction. In all, it’s comprised of nearly 8,000 pieces, including a signed first-edition book of poetry by Phyllis Wheatley.

“You’re not going to see another collection like this,” said appraiser Philip Merrill of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” a consultant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. “It’s all rare and one-of-a-kind.” CNN reports:

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For decades Montague carted the collection of African-American artwork, artifacts and ephemera around the country with his family as he took jobs at radio stations in New York, Chicago, Oakland, and Los Angeles, and then finally to Las Vegas, where he moved 12 years ago after closing a station he built from the ground up in Palm Springs, California.


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The Montague Collection was his prized possession, but because of financial woes he has lost it. It is now up for auction.

“I have not been able to maintain the collection for the last couple of years,” Montague said. While working with his wife of 56 years, Rose Casalan, to archive and prepare the collection for sale, he took out a loan to help pay for the archiving, found himself overextended financially and declared bankruptcy. His collection was seized, and it is now in the hands of a trusteeship charged with selling it to satisfy his debts, including a judgment for $325,000 plus interest and court fees.

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