The AED, the Americana Exchange Database of books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera offered at auction, described by leading dealers, explained in important bibliographies or included in collector catalogues, in mid December last, passed by 4,000,000 full text records. It seems a distant idea, something like a meteor passing by that we note but hardly notice because the progress seems so inevitable. The AED, initially a satellite launched into low orbit with 151,000 records, over the past ten years has become a galactic exploration, the goal now clear – to record every appearance and every outcome at auction world-wide for the period 1875 to yesterday. Its number, allowing for two million dealer and bibliographic records, is ten million and will provide a seamless history of descriptions, prices or outcomes from which to estimate value, rarity and probability of reappearance. At four million the AED already provides 8 to 12 times as many results as any alternative database, not only because we have more records but also because our records include every scrap of data we can confirm – particularly seller and buyer names that often have to be separately determined. Increasingly we are adding images if they are available.
The path ahead, from 4 to 10 million, is generally understood. We have in hand the next 2 million records, they the outcome of aggressive purchasing over the past 20 years. And we have also been lent some runs and they too are entering the AED. Additional archives arrive periodically.
The cost of the AED has of course increased since its introduction in 2002 but the cost per record dropped by 87%. Ten years ago it cost $74.50 for 151,000 records, today $265 for 4,000,000. As our accountant points out we are providing almost 27 times as many records for 3.5 times the initial cost. But while cost is important we believe that completeness is crucial. Our goal is to provide a single lightning fast search of all identified and confirmed records. For this we have a way to go but are already far deeper into the compilation of such a database than we or anyone else ever expected.
So over the next 2 years expect that the AED will approach 60% of all auction records for the period 1875 to yesterday and in the following 3 years 80%. We will face challenges but they will be worth it. The impossible is becoming the likely.
To those who are members we say thank you for your continuing support. To those who are not yet on board we suggest the transparency is compelling. It can be fun to muck around in the dark but for efficient buying and selling clarity always trumps guess work.
The attached graph shows how the AED, now in its 11th year, has evolved. At its outset in the fall of 2002 we provided 151,000 records for $74.50. We reached 500,000 in 2003, a million in 2004 [$141.60], 1,500,000 in 2006 and 2,000,000 in 2008. In 2010 we passed 3,000,000 [$185.00], Jan AEM 2013 and this past December 4,000,000 [$265]. We are now focused on adding another million in 2013 and another in 2014. As we do this we are also rebuilding the site and the databases to handle higher traffic and more complex searches. We have learned that when you provide more possibilities an audience emerges to use them.
We believe that clarity defines the future of collecting.