Mao Zedong’s Elusive Signature Goes to Auction

An extremely rare autograph of the founding father of the People’s Republic of China is now up for auction. As part of its 2024 King of Collectibles Auction, Goldin is selling a signed print of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1949 to 1976.

Signed print of Mao Zedong
Signed print of Mao Zedong. (credit: Goldin)

The starting bid is $50,000. The auction concludes July 13.

“Offered is a color 5 x 7 paper stock photo of the Chinese Communist leader standing and applauding from behind a podium at the 9th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing in April 1969, featuring the exceedingly rare signature of Mao Zedong, who placed a flowing blue ink signature across the bottom portion. The photo is in fine to good condition overall,” Goldin writes in the description lot. “The exceedingly rare signature is accompanied by a photograph booklet titled Our Great Leader Chairman Mao, published by the Foreign Languages Press Peking in 1969, from which the photo was taken. The booklet itself contains light elements of foxing, cornering, and edging.”

The reason why Mao’s signature is scarce in the collectibles community is because the Chinese government buys up autographs of the former People’s Republic of China chairman, causing demand and prices to increase.

“Thus, any signed Mao Zedong items that appear for auction tend to disappear into collections, and rarely do they re-emerge. Not only is this the first Mao Zedong-signed portrait that we have ever offered at Goldin, but this rare and sought-after signature is an enticing investment opportunity, as Mao’s signature is amongst the most elite and rare signatures in the entire hobby,” notes Goldin.

Earlier this year, a signed “Little Red Box” of speeches and quotations from the Chinese dictator brought in $250,000 at R.R. Auction. In 2015, a letter signed by Mao sold for $910,880 at Sotheby’s.

Decades after his death, Mao’s influence continues to loom large over China as he shaped the nation’s trajectory in ways still felt today.

Mao’s policies, including the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, led to widespread famine and social upheaval, causing the deaths of millions. Yet his image as a revolutionary hero persists in official narratives. His portrait still gazes over Tiananmen Square, and “Mao thought” remains enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Modern China continues to grapple with Mao’s complex legacy. While the country has embraced market reforms that diverge from his vision, the Communist Party maintains a careful balance — critical of Mao’s excesses while venerating his role as a national unifier.

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