Patrick Martin said the map, which is signed by Jewish settler Jacob De Cordova, has been in his family for years, but he did not know it was a rare and valuable first edition map of Texas, the first map ever issued by the Texas General Land Office, until he took it to an appraisal event late last year.
"By the time it got to my hands it was sheer luck it hadn't been damaged," Martin said. "I remember looking it over when I was younger, 8, 10, 12 years old, unfolding it in my parents' basement. The map shows Indian territories and I thought Indians were cool."
"My parents didn't have any objection to me playing with it and I could have easily done some damage," he said. "Until recently, I was still pulling it out and showing it to guests if they were history buffs. We moved the butter and the wine glasses and started taking it out. At that point it could have been a disaster."
Heritage Auctions said the map will be a star attraction at the Texana Signature Auction March 15 in Dallas.
Experts said the map is expected to sell for as much as $150,000.
"The accuracy of this map, and its importance to understanding the development of Texas cannot be overstated," said Joe Fay, manager of rare books at Heritage Auctions. "Sam Houston himself called it 'the most correct and authentic map of Texas ever compiled.' The hand-colored map shows the state of Texas at a critical point, most noticeable when comparing it to subsequent revisions, reflecting big changes from the Texas of this map to the Texas of just a few years later. When I saw this walk into the appraisal event in Birmingham, and Mr. Martin and I unfolded it, I was floored. It's one of those very few high points in Texana that few collectors or dealers ever see in the wild."