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'Rest of story' from Bandera Pickers

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

This official portrait of President John F. Kennedy was sold on eBay after being consigned to Bandera Pickers on Highway 173 North.

Photos by Judith Pannebaker
The late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy inscribed this presidential portrait to John Carroll Cone Sr. The official photograph resurfaced in Bandera after being lost for decades.

Bandera Pickers on Highway 173 North in Bandera is the newest business to help turn antiques, collectibles and just plain interesting stuff into hard cash in this uncertain economy.

Just two weeks after opening, Bandera Pickers on Highway 173 North has scored a major coup in the collectibles market.
According to Sheldon Ray Tuma, who owns the consignment shop with his wife, Norma, a man brought in three studio photographic portraits that he believed might have some monetary value. After studying the trio of portraits, Tuma decided the man could be correct. "He asked me what I thought they were worth and I told him we'd put them on eBay and find out," Tuma said in an interview.
When the hammer came down on the virtual auction, the inscribed photographs of President Harry Truman and Alben W. Barkley, who served as Truman's vice president, went for several hundred dollars. However, it was the third item that generated the most interest.
According to Tuma, a signed portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, went for a high bid of $1,200. "I knew since it was the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's death, the photograph would probably generate a lot of interest," Tuma said.
That might have been the end of the story but for a phone call that Tuma received from John Carroll Cone Jr. of Heber, Utah. Although the Kennedy portrait will be shipped overseas, the Truman and Barkley portraits will be returned to their new "old" home in Utah.
"Mr. Cone told me that I had his dad's items for sale on eBay and that they had been missing since the 1970s," Tuma revealed. "He said the family had been trying to recover the items for decades." Tuma added, "Mr. Cone was particularly interested in the Truman and Barkley portraits because his father had worked for that Administration."
Although Cone Jr. turned out to be the surprise high bidder on the Truman and Barkley portraits, Tuma and the unidentified consignor decided to donate the items, along with some personal photos, back to the family. "Mr. Cone paid the shipping and we were more than happy to send the items back to Utah," Tuma said.
As the story went, the errant items had purportedly been taken by Cone's first wife, who had apparently "scrammed" with them after the divorce.
In the interim between then and now, the portraits and family items had been squirreled away in a storage unit that was eventually abandoned - which is how they ended up with Tuma's consignor. "He bought the storage unit," Tuma said.
An inventory of the merchandise included the presidential and vice president's portraits taken by the august Harris & Ewing Photographers of Washington, DC, as well as an obituary of Cone Sr., a snapshot of him jumping out of his bi-plane and a smaller photograph of Cone Sr.'s brother, United States Navy Admiral Henry Shipman Cone.
The political portraits had been personally inscribed to Cone Sr., who had taught aerial combat to Eddie Rickenbacker, the most famous flying ace in World War I. In 1924, Cone Sr. became the first political candidate to campaign by plane during an unsuccessful bid for governor of Arkansas.
While serving as that state's director of aeronautics from 1930 to 1933, he pioneered airport development by convincing cities to provide landing fields for aircraft assigned to the Arkansas Air National Guard, which, coincidentally, Cone Sr. also helped establish.
Additionally, after becoming a vice president of Pan American Airways, he served as an adviser to Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Truman on commercial aircraft.
For many years, Cone Sr. held the oldest active civil pilot's license - No. 4. At the time of his death in 1976, nearly two million licenses had been issued since he received his.
"Mr. Cone was excited to learn that the political portraits and personal documents would be returned to his family," Tuma said, "particularly since Vice President Barkley specifically mentioned him in the handwritten inscription." He was the "little John Jr." to whom Barkley referred.
Bandera Pickers is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Telephone is 830-796-9988. Those convinced they have something valuable to consign are advised to drop by and have Tuma check it out. And, that is the rest of the story.