Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

How to Quickly Locate Lots at Book Auctions All Over the World

Auctionsearch09-12

Select “Upcoming Auctions” and enter your search terms near top of page. Then click “Search."

The heavy fall auction season is about to begin. This makes for perfect timing for a reminder of a free AE service that is virtually a necessity for anyone considering bidding at auction, or just looking for a better understanding of the book market today. AE keeps a database of upcoming auction listings in the field of books, works on paper, and related ephemera at well over 150 auction houses around the world. This database is available to you for searching any time, at no charge. At the lightest time of the year, there may be under 10,000 lots available. At the busiest time, which is where we are heading right now, it may exceed 40,000 lots on any given day. Many of the lots in the database change almost daily, as one auction is completed and another one is posted, so it pays to come back at least every few days to search for your favorite subjects or books.

Here is how you search the auction database. Near the top of this page (and most every other page on AE), just below the toolbar, is a search box. It's the one with “Search for keywords here” in it. Before you enter your keywords, look at the three choices to the left of the search box. The choices are “AE Database,” “Upcoming Auctions,” and “Books for Sale.” Select “Upcoming Auctions.” Otherwise, you will get something else.

Next, put your keywords in the search box and click “search.” Mission accomplished. You will get a page that shows you for each match the name of the auction house, the date of the auction, the estimated price (if there is one) for the lot, and the title and a brief description. The title is a link to the detailed description. You can either click that link, or if, like me, you prefer the details to pop up in a new window, click the square, book-like icon next to the title.

You may also do an advanced search. Click “Advanced Search” to the right of the search box. It lets you target your matches more closely, by such parameters as author or date. We don't recommend you use it. The advanced search is really meant for the other search options, which access databases with millions of records. With a database that large, it makes sense to more finely target what you want so you aren't overwhelmed with matches. With the much smaller upcoming auction lot database, with no more than a few ten thousand lots, it is rare that you will be overwhelmed with matches. Searching more broadly (that is, using a keyword search) will reduce the odds that you miss an item you really want.

If you find a lot on which you would like to bid, there is a link to the auction house provided. You should contact them directly to place your bid. If you aren't sure how, just call or send them a message. They want your business. We don't place bids and aren't involved in the sales ourselves. We are more like Google – providing you with free access to essential information, with no favoritism for anyone.

If you are looking to find the price paid for an item after the auction, jot down the auction name, date, and lot number. Results are usually available within a couple of days for most auctions. Go to the “Upcoming Auctions” tab on the top toolbar. That will take you to a page with a calendar. Click on the correct date on the calendar, and then on the auction house's name on the list. That will give you the complete results. Scroll down to the lot numbers of interest.

Returning to the search box, for those curious about the other two options, one is for “Books for Sale.” This accesses a database of books offered for sale by independent booksellers. Rather than being a typical listing site, these listings provide contacts directly to the seller. There is no middleman. The other option is the “AE Database,” and this requires being a subscriber to access. It contains over 3.5 million records, primarily from auctions, some dating back over a hundred years, but particularly concentrated in those from the past decade. All of the lot descriptions you can access in the Upcoming Auction Search, once the prices are in, make their way to the AE Database. You will not find another searchable database of past auction/bibliographic records anything like this anywhere else. It is essential for booksellers, serious collectors, rare book librarians, book appraisers, and more. If you have any questions about it, drop me an email and I will do my best to provide an answer, or find someone smarter than I who can – mike@americanaexchange.com.

Just remember to come back to the auction search regularly so you don't miss any listings. Some auction houses only provide their lot listings a few days before an auction, so if you wait too long, many items will slip past you sight unseen. One might be the one you really want. The best way to make sure you don't forget is to bookmark this site and put it on your toolbar. That's www.americanaexchange.com.

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