When Was The Last Time You Paid $6,500 For a National Park Map?

The $850 map that got away.

These days you can get a perfectly good map of a national park for less than $12. So why would anyone pay $6,500 for a creased, faded map of Yellowstone National Park?

Well, if I were independently wealthy, I might consider spending so much for an 1885 map of Yellowstone drawn by G.L. Holt. The $6,500 is the asking price by Martayan Lan, a New York City-based dealer of "fine antique maps."

Very scarce, separately published map published in Wyoming. Superb example of the best early map of Wyoming. In many respects it is even more richly detailed than readily available contemporary maps. Rumsey hails it as “An outstanding map full of interesting detail on all matter of subjects.” Wheat says, “Its detail is impressive, extending even to a representation of a ‘telephone line.’” The map locates numerous ranches (e.g. “McCray’s No. 6”) and also private residences. It also shows mineral deposits, mines, waterways, land grants, Indian reservations, telegraph lines, and railroads. The Union Pacific Railroad is shown as is a survey for the Central Pacific. Jackson’s Hole and Yellowstone National Park are shown and named. Eight counties are outlined in bright original color, and township and range boundaries are also indicated. Flanking the title are illustrations of a horse and cattle and of an industrial complex. "Students of early Wyoming history will sometimes find Holt their most helpful cartographic tool."- Wheat

This is the third edition of the map, which was first issued in 1883. Although Rumsey cites a total of five editions, it is still rare on the market, especially in an example of this quality.

Scare it might be, but it's definitely out of my price range. Closer was an 1886 map of the park by George Wingate. Contained within Through The Yellowstone Park On Horseback, the map was being offered for "just" $850.

A very informative map of the nation’s first national park (established in 1872), which attractively depicts its topographic features, in particular its highly varying elevations. The map notes Yellowstone’s important natural sites, the locations of cabins for campers, as well as trails--both those then currently in use and those taken by earlier explorers. “Many features are illustrated for the first time on a non-government map” (Blevins). The map is here offered with the first edition of Wingate’s authoritative guidebook to the park, in which it was originally published. The guide illustrates many of the park’s major sites, including Old Faithful. Wingate was the co-founder of the National Rifle Association, of which he was president for 25 years.

While I might have been able to justify this addition to my meager collection of Yellowstone memorabilia, sadly the map had been sold by the time I went to the company's website. Still up for grabs, though, was an 1863 edition of The Definitive Description Battle of Gettysburg, by J.B. Bachelder. But with an asking price of $28,500, there's no way I'll be able to swing that. Still, it certainly sounds intriguing.

A very fine example of what has become a rare work. Not only was this the definitive, contemporaneous visual record of the Battle of Gettysburg, but it is also one of the most remarkable and accurate visual representations of an important and complex military operation ever produced. Bachelder conducted exhaustive surveys of the battlefield immediately after it concluded and interviewed a range of its participants—from generals to its lowest ranking wounded on both sides—in order to establish the exact locations of every unit involved. Bachelder’s production of this work grew into a lifelong involvement with the battle; he was not only its preeminent historian of the 19th century but also led the effort to permanently memorialize the battlefield and its cemetery.

Another place to look for rare prints or books or maps is in Santa Fe at William R. Talbot, a dealer of those items. On occasion he's offered Morans (Thomas as well as brother Peter) or Biertstadts or Catllns. Though my wife considers Albert Bierstadt's works too dark and brooding, I find them to be fascinating. And out of my price range...