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“Some people like memorabilia and Americana, and they all want to own a little piece of it,” Woody said.

Sealed in a custom-made plexiglass case by the Detroit museum since its return from the Park Service in 1982, the flag has several holes in it and the red of some its stripes has run into the white stripes. The once-sharp swallow tail tips are now tattered and torn.

Culbertson’s Guidon also is missing a star and a section of striping about 9 inches wide and 6 inches high — apparently cut away as a souvenir before its acquisition by the museum. Yet on the auction block, even what’s missing gets a story.

“I’m sure Culbertson let other men take small snippets for themselves,” Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden said.