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JFK keepsakes belonging to close pal up for auction

Story highlights

  • Kennedy-related items will be up for auction February 17
  • Memorabilia comes from collection of friend and aide David Powers
  • Powers' family enlisted the Massachusetts-based auction house John McInnis
  • People who can't make it in person can bid online in real time

If you want to bring a piece of Camelot home to your castle, Presidents Day weekend will bring a rare opportunity.

You could win a piece of presidential history -- actually, hundreds of them.

Amesbury, Massachusetts-based John McInnis Auctioneers says it is auctioning off 723 lots of documents, photographs, letters and gifts from the estate of David Powers, longtime friend and special assistant to President John F. Kennedy.

The auction will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 17. Potential buyers can view the items online now or by visiting the auction house from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily from Saturday, February 9, through Saturday, February 16, and starting at 8 a.m. on the auction day.

Powers' family members discovered the memorabilia locked away last year as they prepared to sell the family home, the auctioneer's website says. McInnis appraiser Dan Meader told CNN that the family engaged McInnis last May.

Powers traveled with JFK from 1946 to 1963 and was the curator of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum until he retired in 1994. He died in 1998 at the age of 85.

"The auction is in chronological order, from the earliest to the latest stuff, to follow the lives of Dave Powers in relation to the Kennedy family," Meader said.

Lower-numbered lots include candid snapshots of the strapping young Kennedy and his siblings enjoying themselves in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida.

The mid-numbered lots focus on one-of-a-kind photographs from the 1960 campaign and JFK's ensuing presidency, some signed by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

The president's personal Air Force One bomber jacket, given to Powers in 1962 or 1963, gets its own catalog page, as does a May 29, 1963, birthday card signed by JFK's young son, John Jr. Another item is a marked-up itinerary for the fateful trip JFK took to Dallas 50 years ago this November.

While McInnis previously has auctioned off individual lots related to Kennedy, the house has never hosted an auction "of this scope or magnitude or personal connection," Meader says. "This is a truly unique opportunity. Dave Powers is not a member of the family, but he really was... he was as close as he could be."

"Growing up in Massachusetts, every family had a picture of JFK on the wall. These are not like that. These are things that belong to the president's close, close, close friend," Meader says, noting the inscriptions are sometimes "heartbreaking" and tell a story.

Items span several generations of Kennedys, from patriarch Joseph, to brothers Robert and Edward, to niece Maria Shriver and her estranged husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Aficionados can get some of the limited live auction seating by purchasing the print 124-page catalog for $50. Meader says a portion of that charge will be donated to the Kennedy Library, though he isn't sure how much.

The catalog has been scanned onto McInnis' website, where potential buyers can see the artifacts in their full-color glory before deciding on bidding online.

Meader expects bidders around the world to compete in real time via phone or computer, along with the people in the room. Online winners will have to pay a slightly higher commission on winning bids.