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Ask the Experts: Inscribed Berryman political cartoon could fetch $1,000

The subject of a recent Ask the Experts inquiry, a political cartoon of President Johnson by Jim Berryman, prompts an intriguing response from evaluator Dr. Anthony Cavo.

QHello. My name is Amy and I have been researching an item that I picked up at a local thrift store and I came across your name and email address. It is a Jim Berryman political cartoon signed to Lyndon Johnson. It almost seems like a rough draft or something because of the words written in pencil (on top and bottom) underneath the black marker or pen he used. Also, it looks like white out may have been used in a few spots.

Based on my research of this item, that I might have something pretty rare here. I so badly want to open the back and check it out outside of the frame, but of course I am not going to that due to fear of damaging. I am including photos below and would LOVE any information that you could or would be willing to provide. Thank you.

— A.S.

Political Cartoon With Famous Roots

Cartoon of President Johnson

Berryman cartoon of President Lyndon Johnson. (Submitted photo)

A Jim Berryman (1902-1971) was a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist for the Washington Star newspaper who began his career as a sports cartoonist. In 1935 when his father, Clifford Berryman, a famous political cartoonist for the Washington Star, suffered a stroke Jim served as a stand-in cartoonist. Upon his father’s return, Jim remained with the Washington Star (it was the Washington Evening Star at that time) and worked with his father as a political cartoonist; he was a favorite of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Washington Star, initially called the Washington Star-News, then the Washington Evening Star was a daily paper published between 1852 and 1981.

The original artwork for Jim Berryman’s cartoons can be found in many private collections and are sometimes available online at prices in the $400 to $600 range; however, those pieces that have been inscribed to the subject of the cartoon typically sell in the $800 to $1,000 range or more depending on the venue.

Inscription Lends to Authenticity

Everything about your cartoon looks correct, including the signature and writing. I would venture to

Johnson cartoon

Identifying details behind Johnson cartoon.

say that it did at one time belong to President Johnson since Jim was known to sometimes inscribe and send his original artwork to those who were the subject of the cartoon. I cannot tell you, however, if this cartoon ever appeared in the Washington Star, though I would imagine it did. In 1981 the Washington Post purchased the Washington Star building and contents; you may want to contact their archive department for further information.

With regard to removing the cartoon from the frame I would recommend that you do. The cardboard on the back does not appear to be archival board. If the backing is not archival (acid-free) it will eventually damage the artwork. If you do not feel secure in doing this yourself, bring it to a reputable framer, but make sure the original backing with the word “Johnson” is retained and replaced. This original backing will not damage the artwork as long as there is archival matting between it and the art.

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