Two thousand and eleven was an interesting rather than good year in the books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera field. Median lot value made a three-year bottom in April, at $345 and has since steadily improved. This December the median result approached $380, still well down from the March 2008 high of $486 but now well off the low. This suggests a mild recovery.
These numbers are encouraging but only part of the story. Lot volume is also up suggesting an increasing role for auctions in clearing unsold material from individuals, dealers and institutions. The number of documented lots posted in 2011 was 244,840 of which 166,822 sold, both numbers new records. In 2010 218,017 lots were offered and 149,075 sold. Total turnover was $381 million, up from $336 million in 2010. A detailed analysis of auction results for 2011 will be published in the February issue of AE Monthly.
In the mean time we have updated the charts in the auction section of AE under the quick links. The first chart, “Trends in Book Auction Prices,” the twelve month moving average of Median Auction Prices confirms a continuing mild recovery. The second chart, Year to Year Change in 12 Month Moving Average expressed as change in the median selling price, by month, over the past 5 years, shows steady improvement over the past year. The “12 Month Moving Average of Sell Through Rate” suggests that, while volume and median price have fluctuated, the sell-through rate has remained steady at around 70%.
Given the magnitude of decline in GDP and rise in unemployment in America coupled with recession in Europe and national refinancing issues the trends look quite positive.
People in the embrace of old and rare books are not fair weather sailors. They buy in thick and thin.
Link to the recently updated charts:
Note that the chart type is set to default but can be changed to area, bar, line or point.