Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2011 Issue

A Sale that Confirms

Ae-12

AE: The American Experience

On December 2nd Bonhams in New York and via simulcast in San Francisco, conducted the sale of "The American Experience 1630 - 1890".  As the consignor I can confirm it was an experience.  The sale was presented as an unreserved mirror-on-the-market event and everyone seemed to see the results differently.  As Shakespeare might have said, "the mirror always lies" or tries to.  For myself it was confirmation of the efficacy of 'the-auction-as-event' approach and evidence of the endemic market weakness that prevails today.  In succinct terms the sale brought a 20% premium on its full original cost.   More than 200 registered to bid, 34 of which were new bidders at Bonhams.  Thirty-seven spent more than $10,000.  The overall bidding pool represented 29 American states and 8 countries.  The house issued a superb catalogue, offered it widely,  and advertised the sale extensively.  A series of videos were issued.  All that could be done was done.   The outcome was very good but the results, given the support Bonhams provided, may be difficult to duplicate.        

 

The sale worked while suggesting comparative weakness.  The highly valuable and rarest material sold well as it has elsewhere throughout the downturn, common rarities less well.  The threshold between 'safe and supported' material probably rose to more than $5,000.  A decade ago it was $1,000, as recently as three years ago around $2,500. 

 

During much of the past decade such material has been listed by dealers at somewhat higher prices, reflecting the general strength of the rarest books that have been trending up over the past twenty years.  However, in this sale, when exposed to public reappraisal without reserves the community that buys, sells and collects often stepped aside to let items change hands for substantially less than what they themselves asked years ago.  This suggests two possibilities.  Prices may not so much have fallen as been exposed as inflated.   Alternatively prices may have risen with the market but now fall at different rates, the middle of the market demonstrably weaker than the first tier.  As to which view is more accurate it's unclear and probably irrelevant.  When I was acquiring the material I believed the prices made sense.  That the market's view changes is unsurprising.  Neither is dealer pricing infallible.  In buying primarily from Bill Reese I didn't know then what I know now - that he often bids at auction on items he sold.  In this sale which brought $4.058 million he was the largest buyer by lots and dollar volume.  Every collector should have such a dealer.         


Posted On: 2011-01-01 00:00
User Name: arader

Congratulations on your successful sale Bruce.

This is a great essay that was very useful to read.

What I would like to read next would be your v


Posted On: 2011-01-09 00:00
User Name: jaysnider

Bruce, first of all, congratulations on building a tremendous collection. I appreciate your analysis, and I'm sure this was bittersweet.
I'd like t


Posted On: 2011-01-10 00:00
User Name: MiRIAMGREEN

William Reese is to be commended for stepping up and gathering back your book inventory purchased from him, like the Oriental rug dealer tha


Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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.
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    <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
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