It’s not the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in…

imagePine coffin belonging to suspected assassin of President John F Kennedy expected to fetch at least £600 at auction

A Los Angeles auction house said today it would sell the coffin in which the suspected assassin of President John F Kennedy was buried for almost 20 years.

Bidding will start at $1,000 (£640), but the item is expected to garner strong interest from museums and collectors of presidential memorabilia when it goes on the block on 16 December.

"There’s just a lot of interest in Kennedy and anything to do with his assassination," said Laura Yntema, the auction manager at Nate D Sanders in Santa Monica, California.

The simple pine coffin was unearthed in October 1981 after a legal dispute between Oswald’s widow, Marina, and his brother, Robert. Marina successfully sought an exhumation to test a theory that a lookalike Russian agent had been buried in her husband’s place, according to the auction house.

A medical examination showed the badly decomposed body was indeed Oswald’s, and he was returned to Shannon Rose Hill memorial park in Fort Worth, Texas, in a new casket.

The original coffin, which has extensive water damage, is being sold by Baumgardner Funeral Home, the local undertaker that handled the re-internment.