84-year-old Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague is a “chaser” of black history artifacts. Montague, a pioneer radio DJ, has collected 50 years of rare and one-of-a-kind documents, footage, recordings and papers in a private collection – 8,000 pieces in all. His collection is valued as being worth millions of dollars. His impressive collection started in 1956 with first-edition Paul Laurence Dunbar books. The nickname “Magnificent” was Montague’s on-air name during his days as a disc jockey.
In a recent valuation, only five pieces from Montague’s collection was worth over half a million dollars. He and his wife of 56 years maintained the collection. Montague carried his collection to every city he took residence – New York, Chicago, Oakland, and Los Angeles, before finally settling in Las Vegas.
Some of the items include an 1890 pastel drawing of an African king wearing traditional robes called “The African.” The piece was drawn and signed by Austrian artist Rudolf von Mehoffer, who was known for his portraits of German and Austrian royalty. Other pieces are even older, like the first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s “Poems on Various Subjects,” dated 1773 and signed by Wheatley. Montague’s collection includes sheet music for the song “Coon, Coon, Coon” (1900).
As his financial situation declined, Montague was forced to use monies to restore and archive his collection and prepare it for sale. Unfortunately, in the process of restoration, Montague had to file for bankruptcy. His collection was seized and it is now up for auction. The items will be sold to settle the “Magnificent Montague’s” debts.
The decades of artifacts that Montague has collected are being stored in a confidential location in Nevada. If the entire collection is not purchased by a single buyer, each piece will be separated and sold individually. The collector of fine things will be heartbroken if the collection is broken up to a myriad of buyers.