Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2013 Issue

Slow Auction

Slow auction

More reasons to be online. A Clipart illustration

For many reasons books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera get sold.  In the collectible field we tend to think of single items but there are reasons for selling larger quantities too.  It can be someone who is narrowing his or her focus or a dealer preparing to retire.  For collectors it’s the material personally appreciated but outside the current collecting scope or already passed over as other items have been sold or been consigned, in other words; the residue.  For material in all these categories and, inevitably others I simply haven’t thought of, there comes a time when the need to dispose becomes pressing, even necessary.

Such material isn’t necessarily unimportant but it probably has become difficult to sell.  There’s money in it but no liquidity.  As an example many, and I assume most, dealers have material they acquired for a song or perhaps for real money with the expectation it would sell but simply hasn’t.  The best dealers look ahead buying the next big thing that sometimes never becomes the next big opportunity.  Sometimes it becomes the forgotten thing.  Eventually such material will be sold or given away.

The same is true for the collector who sold his high points easily and has been left with the residue he still believes has value.  Libraries too have material that never make it into the stacks and now won’t.  Such material too needs a path to the exit, one providing a fair prospect for an adequate price and a high probability of sale.

My suggestion to achieve this is a process called Slow Auction.

Auctions are events, the material selected, described and advertised.  This is what auction houses believe will sell.  In selecting 500 items they considered thousands of others.  They use rules and experience and make, because they have to, categorical judgments.  This leaves interesting, if sometimes a bit too common or marginal, material out.   These rejected things stay on the shelves or are placed in boxes, their day will come but never did.

In a Slow Auction they will have their chance.  Here is how it works.

Most dealers have their inventory on line.  For those that do they simply select what they propose to sell.  It’s already priced.  Let’s say they select 1000 items to post.

The entire sale will take 63 days and the timing is important.  Auctions are intense events built around well-researched and illustrated catalogues and plenty of advertising.  Slow sales lack most of these attributes but they do have two things regular auctions don’t, a long time for interest to build and software that captures buyer interest [and bids] in a convenient way.  Here is what the auction schedule looks like -

Day 1 to day 7:                      $100 [the listed price]

Day 8 to Day 15                    $  80  [less 20% discount if still unsold]

Day 16 to day 21                  $  60  [less 40% discount]

Day 22 to day 28                  $  40  [less 60% discount ]

Day 29 to day 35                  $  20 [less 80% discount]

Day 36 to 42                          $  10 [less 90% discount]

Day 43 to 49                          $    5  [less 95% discount]

Day 50 to day 56                  $    1

57 to 63                                 Free to a good home

Each item has a “I’d like to follow this item” link as well as a “submit my offer if this item becomes available at $--.”  Thereafter, whenever there is a change, be it a sale or price reduction, the person following receives an email or instant message updating the status.

I think there should be various statistics for each item:

1.     the number of times an item has been seen;

2.     the number of people following;

3.     the number of bids pending

4.     the history of the listing from first posting through to any announcements of outcomes such as “Lot 341, Lefevre’s History of New Paltz, second edition.  Sold for $60, initial price $100, sold on the 22nd  day.

If hosted on AE there would be a nominal starting fee.  If the outcome is reported, half the listing fee would be credited against further listings.  The listing fee would be a percentage of the starting price so those posting may feel a desire to start lower.
          

Such a service can be provided on any listing site.  I’m describing what I believe has become necessary to help the field clear the accumulating millions of books.  Any site can do it.

If you have a response, questions or suggestions post them to this story.  I, and other readers, will read your comments and respond.

And personally, I can’t wait.


Posted On: 2013-07-01 00:00
User Name: Gene

Bruce, this is a terrific idea. I'm 70, still selling via catalogue & on standard internet sites; also still buying when I find interesting material --


Posted On: 2013-07-01 00:00
User Name: tweney

Some years ago, we had a small bookstore in a small town. We used a similar schedule, starting at 80%, moving to "free to a good home" over the course


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. <i>A superb collection of manuscripts signed by Lincoln and relics related to Lincoln’s death</i>. Washington, 1864-1865
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Rare Relic of the Underground Railroad (1857). <i>$500 Reward Ran away ...</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CARTER, SUSANNAH. <i>The Frugal Housewife,</i> (1772) the second American cookbook, plates by Paul Revere.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> SCHIRRA, WALTER M.. Icon of the American Space Program. <i>A Complete Set of Schirra’s Flight Log Books (1947-69).</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A fine pair of daguerreotypes, one a black nurse holding a white baby, the other the white parents. Maryland, c. 1853.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Internet. (COMPUTERS.) CERF, VINTON & KAHN, ROBERT. <i>"A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication" in IEEE Transactions on Communications.</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs<br>& Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Marcus A. Root, "<i>General Tom Thumb</i>" with parents, daguerreotype, circa 1846. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> William Saunders, <i>Sketches of Chinese Life and Character</i>, album with 50 hand-colored photographs, 1871-72. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Wilson A. Bentley, album of 25 microphotographs from glass<br>plate negatives, 1888-1927.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs<br>& Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Hilla & Bernhard Becher, <i>Anonyme Skulpturen, Eine Typologie technischer Bauten</i>, first edition inscribed, Düsseldorf, 1970. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Edward Ruscha, four seminal artist's books in original dust jackets.<br>$1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Typological set of more than 100 photographs of WWII fighter planes, 1942-45. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b><br>Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes, <i>The Sweet Flypaper of Life</i>, first edition signed by authors, New York, 1955. $500 to $750.
  • <b>Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, February 14th, 2016.</b>
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 9. HIERONYMUS. C.340-420. <i>Epistolae. WITH: Lupus de Oliveto. Regula Monachorum ...</i> US$ 20,000-30,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 47. FROST, A.B. 1858-1921. Shooting Pictures. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.<br>US$ 10,000-15,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 53. PICASSO, PABLO, RAOUL HAUSMANN, et al. ILIAZD, ed. Poesie de mots inconnus. 1949. US$ 8,000-12,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 64. BRIGGS, HENRY. 1561-1630. <i>The North Part of America</i>. [London: 1625]. Engraved by R. Elstracke. US$ 8,000-12,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 79. COPERNICUS, NICOLAUS. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. 1566. US$ 80,000-120,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 80. DARWIN, CHARLES. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of ... US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 87. NEWTON, ISAAC, SIR. Autograph Manuscript in Latin and English [n.p., early 1670s}. US$ 100,000-150,000
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 93. Dr. Kary Mullis' 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to him for the invention of the Polymerase Chain Reaction. US$ 450,000-550,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 96.<br>CLEMENS, SAMUEL. Autograph Manuscript, nearly complete chapter 30 of <i>A Tramp Abroad</i>, c.1879.<br>US$ 20,000-30,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 105. GOLF. [MATHISON, THOMAS. d.1754.]<br><i>The Goff</i>. An Heroi-Comical Poem.<br>US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 113. JOYCE, JAMES. 1882-1941. <i>Ulysses</i>. First Edition, Presentation Copy, Signed and Inscribed by Joyce on the half-title. US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 120. LONDON, JACK. Autograph Manuscript of the short story "Flush of Gold". US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 135. STEINBECK, JOHN. Autograph Manuscript of an unpublished short story. US$ 35,000-45,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 149. GERONIMO. BARRETT, S.M., ed. Geronimo's Story of His Life. 1906. US$ 12,000-18,000.
    <b>Bonhams Feb 14th:</b> Lot 165.<br>ENOLA GAY. LEWIS, ROBERT A. An official pilot's log, 1942 to 1946.<br>US$ 50,000-80,000.
  • <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 14. Blaeu,<i>Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula</i>, 1635. Est. $14000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 305. Arrowsmith, <i>Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas</i>, 1841. Est. $18000-$20000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b><br>Lot 256. Thackara, <i>Plan of the City<br>of Washington in the Territory of Columbia</i>, 1792. Est. $13000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 188. Browne/Senex, A New<br>Map of Virginia Mary-land, 1719. <br>Est. $5500-$6500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 47. Cellarius, <i>Scenographia Systematis Copernicani</i>, 1708.<br>Est. $2400-$3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 6. Ortelius, <i>Typus Orbis Terrarum</i>, 1571. Est. $7000-$8500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 413. De Medina, <i>Mundo Novo,</i> 1554. Est. $7000-$9000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 37. Jansson, <i>Histoire des Grands Chemins de l'Empire Romain</i>, 1736. Est. $3000-$3750
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 798. Le Rouge, <i>Atlas Nouveau Portatif a l'Usage des Militaires</i>, 1748. Est. $2400-$3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 60. Munster, <i>Tabula Novarum Insularum</i>, 1559. Est. $5500-$7000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 122. Morden, <i>A New Map of the English Empire in America</i>, 1695. <br>Est. $14000-$16000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 291. J.J. Stoner, Niagara-Falls, <br>N.Y., 1882. Est. $1600-$1900
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 797. Sanson, <i>Die Gantze Erd-Kugel</i> ... Europa, Asia, Africa und America, 1679. Est. $8000-$10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 799. Lotter/Lobeck, Atlas Geographicus Portatilis, 1760.<br>Est. $1600-$1900
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 808. Railroad Companies, [<i>Manuscript Railroad Atlas</i>], 1890.<br>Est. $1000-$1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (Feb 3-17):</b> <br>Lot 800. Pinkerton, <i>A Modern Atlas</i>, 1815. Est. $8000-$10000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions