Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

PBA:   New Ownership

Pba-5

Sharon Gee CEO, shown with Bruce MacMakin, Executive Vice President

On January 1st Sharon Gee acquired PBA Galleries in San Francisco.  PBA has a long history of service to the book, manuscript, map and ephemera trade, as well as to collectors and institutions.  Its presence on the West Coast in San Francisco has provided regional liquidity for more than fifty years.  In 2012 the firm offered approximately 10,000 lots in 25 sales and is one of the busiest auction houses in the field.

In making calls for reactions I encountered the opinion that “new ownership will be a strong positive for PBA,” a view offered by two long time observers both of whom added “but the road has not always been smooth.”  A decade ago Roger Wagner of San Diego acquired the firm, providing the financial resources and steadying hand that saved the company when it was going through a difficult period.  Today it is Ms. Gee who will see the company through to its next iteration.

The auction business has always been challenging.  During the Wagner years the firm rebuilt its position at the confluence of buyers and sellers by developing a broader market via the Internet.  “San Francisco is a book city and California a book state but we live in a book world.  Mr. Wagner gave us the support and resources to become a firm that sells around the world,” according to Bruce MacMakin, the firm’s Executive Vice President.

John Creighton of nearby Brick Row Books added, “it took a few years but the problems of a decade ago are gone, and in my view forgotten.  It’s great to have a serious auction house in downtown San Francisco.”

The firm has a long and storied history.  Maurice Powers organized the firm in 1955 as California Book Auction Galleries.  Over the next 35 years it moved within the city from Sutter to McAllister, on to Golden Gate Avenue and eventually to Mission Street where, on the steps of the bankruptcy court, Butterfield’s purchased the name and mailing list while leaving the nucleus of the firm intact.  Within months most of the original team had resurrected the Lazarus-like firm under its new name – Pacific Book Auction Galleries.  Today the lone survivor of this transition, Bruce MacMakin, is its Executive Vice President.

In 2008 the firm experienced, as did the entire auction field, the serious economic downturn brought on by the Wall Street meltdown, but the firm survived the challenging period and emerged as strong as ever. Under the new ownership Ms. Gee, whose background is in marketing, confirms the firm is continuing to concentrate on obtaining important consignments, provide expert descriptions and bring sales to the attention of bidders worldwide.  “The firm has a remarkable past but I understand we will be measured by how we advance.”

George Fox, the firm’s grey-haired rainmaker, sitting in his office and behind a mountain of yet-to-be-solds, spreads his arms to encompass the many treasures he’s brought in that are stacked up and waiting for consideration, “soon enough they’ll be in the rooms and on their way to collectors.” As a benediction he adds although its already obvious, “we all enjoy working here.”     



Posted On: 2013-02-01 00:00
User Name: baltobook

Dang - pictures of me and Bruce MacMakin on the same website at the same time! What a coup - two of the most photo-reluctant folks in the biz


Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <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
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <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
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
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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.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
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    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
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    <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

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