Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

A Positive Trend for Regional Auction Houses

Trend1

$25 a word


By Bruce McKinney


Leslie Hindman Auctioneers of Chicago struck gold with 3,129 words which they sold for $79,300 or $25.34 each. These words were written in 1880 by Samuel Clemens in his hand, the manuscript document, chapter XLII of 'A Tramp Abroad.' One can only imagine what Twain would say about this today. Possibly nothing. Rather he might write a note saying something like. "I'm happy to hear the news. Please pay me $250." This note is of course ten words. Whether he would demand a premium for large words is unknown. In Chicago recently Leslie Hindman made no distinction. Sam would no doubt be happy just to know that he is remembered and that since he slipped off this mortal coil one hundred years ago his words continue to be valued.

That Twain's words are valuable will surprise no one. That they are rising in Chicago is encouraging and part of a trend that sees more important books going to auction in regional centers. The economic distinctions, for the auction business, between New York and London and other major cities in the United States and Europe is narrowing just a bit. In the evolving world that incorporates the internet into everyday experience material consigned locally is increasingly selling nationally. Consignments after all are physical and usually vetted locally. That such material then consigned locally can reach an international audience and achieve pricing parity with the major auction houses is something new and good news for Chicago and other auction venues.

Such was the case with this chapter of Mark Twain that was consigned by a regional estate to a Chicago auction house and sold to a private buyer in the northeast. Not so many years ago such items might have brought less outside of New York. By all reports, the price achieved in Chicago is a record.

According to Mary Williams, Director of Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman, while Hindman is a full service house selling all kinds of consignments in catalogued sales throughout the year they gather books and manuscripts into three specialist sales a year to intensify interest. In this way extensive cataloguing and promotion are possible. Recently they issued their first printed book catalogue with color. With the pricing differential between major and minor venues narrowing we can expect to see more regional catalogues. Ms. Williams indicated their threshold for cataloguing single owner sales is generally lower than New York houses.

For Chicago and mid-west consignors it's a very nice opportunity. Catalogued books usually obtain better outcomes.

For auction houses, consignors and bidders elsewhere it's an indication that the rules are changing. What is already working in Chicago, Boston [Skinner's] and New Orleans [Neal] can certainly work in Atlanta, St. Louis and Denver and across western Europe.

As with most things in life there's only one enduring rule: Change is inevitable. Machiavelli [1469-1527] said it this way, "Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times." It was true then. It is true now.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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