Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2011 Issue

The Fall Approaches

The season

The season opens with high hopes

Heading into fall buyers and sellers will be meeting head one in a series of auctions that will illuminate the strength and direction of the market.  A great deal is at stake.  As has been the case all year auction houses are handling increasing volume while recently experiencing a marginally lower percentage of completed sales [see charts].  A reasonable conclusion is that reserves are bit higher than buyers are comfortable to reach.  The why is less certain.  One interpretation is that the market, while orderly, is having trouble absorbing increasing volume.  Another is that the economy is weighing on the market.  Both are probably true and their interaction hard to gauge.  Simultaneously the median lot price continues to rise – suggesting that while the percentage of lots has declined those items that are selling are realizing higher prices.  This supports the argument that many dealers make – that quality, rarity and importance sell.  Unfortunately there is more to the market than high spots and the important middle market, defined, as $500 to $4,000, is selectively weak.  Some of this weakness owes to improving value and relevance analysis but the underlying issue is simply availability.  Material in the middle market is often not as rare or significant as once thought.

This may lead to a paradoxical shift in values with premium material increasing in value while a wide swath of [1] collectible but relatively common and [2] important but thinly supported material decline.  Pricing, which has been somewhat arbitrary for decades, may be facing energetic rebuttal in the market place.  What is known is that 70% of spending in dollar terms is made by 20% of the population and that they tend to purchase luxury material.  

Into all this uncertainty the auctions approach.  On September 15th the Eric Caren collection How History Unfolds on Paper, Part I will be sold at Swann.  The Caren sale, which I write about elsewhere in this month’s issue of AE Monthly, is a difficult sale for serious collectors to ignore.  It includes intriguing material relating to signal events.  Eric has a marvelous eye and has commissioned Swann to sell, in three sections over the next two years, many unique pieces relating to history, most of it American.  It’s complexity is such that a review of its index [see attached] may well be the best way to see it, that of course and AE’s auction lot search.

And because this sale is composed of “mixed media,” that is many forms of works on paper including photographs, broadsides, newspapers, pamphlets and books, it taps into some of the strongest sectors in collecting today.  Such material deserves to do well.

Another sale in October will provide us with perspective on how a more narrowly focused collection does.  It’s the Robert H. and Donna L. Jackson Collection of the 19th century and includes both printed and manuscript material, much of it unique.  It is an important collection.

Between these two single owner sales and the many other auctions to be conducted this fall we will live through the changing alchemy of collectibles on paper.  On the other side we will know more.  What we know going in is that some very appealing material is coming up.  How the market will treat this material remains to be seen.

So the title of this article is the fall ahead.  Is it the autumn season or something else?   We’ll know soon enough.


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

Although you seem to draw the lines at price still that is not the sole determinant of rarity or importance. It may not even be the omst important


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions