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SMITH: The Schulzes won't buy those letters

In a word, no.

The family of the late Charles Schulz has no interest in bidding for the playfully doodled letters the late "Peanuts" cartoonist wrote to his lover 40 years ago, nor does his museum.

The question arose with news that Sotheby's in New York will auction 44 letters that Schulz penned to Tracey Claudius, who lived in Mountain View in the &‘70s and now is ailing in Pennsylvania.

The love affair ended Schulz's marriage with the former Joyce Halverson and crept into "Peanuts."

In the strip of July 16, 1970, a swooning Snoopy relives meeting a girl-beagle. He remembers, "We laughed a lot, and we teased each other ... and then there were those soft paws ... Wow!"

Karen Johnson, director of the Schulz Museum, said the museum possesses copies of the letters, so they don't constitute a missing portion of Schulz's life.

"We have all the history," Johnson said. "We're not losing anything in the telling of the story of Charles Schulz."

And both Johnson and the Schulz family attorney, Barbara Gallagher of Santa Rosa, said the family holds a copyright to Schulz's letters to Claudius. Gallagher said the letters can be sold, but cannot be republished without the consent of the Schulz family.

"I think it is a very unique collection that a serious &‘Peanuts' collector could enjoy," the attorney said. "But the commercial possibilities are very limited."

Estimates of the price the letters my bring range up to about $350,000. The auction is set for next Friday.

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