• Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
    Pierre Bergé & Associates in Collaboration with Sotheby's, Personal library of Pierre Bergé, <br>11 Dec 2015.
  • Bloomsbury Auctions London, 9th December Western Manuscripts
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 19, Extracts from various authors on demons<br>and demonology, [France, 13th c.] Est.: £3,000-5,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 3, Leaf from an illuminated monastic Missal, [southern Germany, 10th c.]<br>Est.: £3,000–5,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 23, Large cutting from an extremely early <br>copy of Gratian's <i>Decretum</i> [northern France or Low Countries, 12th c.] Est.: £2,000-3,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 47, Christ holding a book and blessing, within a mandorla supported by two angels, [northern France, 11th c.]<br>Est.: £25,000-35,000
    Bloomsbury Auctions London, 9th December Western Manuscripts
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 56, Animal initial with a bear and a griffon,<br>from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible [France, 12th c.]<br>Est.: £8,000-12,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 57, Animal initial with two dogs, from a monu-<br>mental illuminated manuscript Bible [France, 12th c.] Est.: £7,000-9,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 61, Cutting showing the murder of a youth, [northern France (Paris, 14thc.]<br>Est.: £6,000-8,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 74, Leaf<br>from a finely illuminated manuscript Missal with an almost nude man and two men's heads [Italy, c.1290]<br>Est.: £4,000-6,000
    Bloomsbury Auctions London, 9th December Western Manuscripts
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 105, Fragment of a Sefer Torah (Genesis 28:7-47:3), [Sephard (perhaps c.1300)] Est.: £30,000-50,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 115, Bernard of Botone, <i>Glossa ordinaria</i> on the Decretals of Gregory IX, [Italy, c. 1300] Est.: £30,000-50,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 125, The Hours of Gabrielle d'Estrées, Use of Paris, [northern France, c. 1480]<br>Est.: £8,000-12,000
    Bloomsbury Dec 9: Lot 118,<br> The Astronomical Compendium of San Cristoforo, Turin, including Regiomontanus, Calendarium [northern Italy, (perhaps c. 1474)] Est.: £40,000-60,000
  • <b>Christie's London, December 1: Valuable Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 144. BLOCH, Marcus Elieser. [Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische:] 12 parts in 9 volumes, comprising 6 <br>text vols. Est. £40,000-£60,000 .
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 77. JOYCE, James (1882-1941). <i>Ulysses</i>. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. Est. £50,000-£80,000.
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 1. THE THREE MARYS AT THE SEPULCHRE and THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. Est. £150,000-£200,000.
    <b>Christie's London, December 1: Valuable Books & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 164. VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413-84). <br><i>De re militari</i>. Edited by Paulus Ramusius, Junior. Verona... <br>Est. £35,000-£45,000.
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 171. [POTTER, Beatrix (1866-1943), illustrator]. Frederic E. WEATHERLY. <i><br>A Happy Pair...Illustrated by H.B.P.</i><br> Est. £5,000-£8,000.
    <b>Christie's London Dec 1: </b> Lot 181. CAO, Junyi (fl. 1644). <i>Tianxia jiubian fenyie renji lucheng quantu.</i><br>Est. £300,000-£500,000.
    Arader Nov 21: Lot 93. A Mapp of Ye Improved Parts of Pennsylvania in America... Description: Thomas Holme (1624-1695). Est: $15,000-$20,000
  • <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 113. EINSTEIN, ALBERT. 1879-1955. Autograph Manuscript Signed<br>("A. Einstein") on final page.<br>US$ 80,000-120,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 10. BURNS, ROBERT. 1759-1796. Autograph Revised Manuscript, <i>Monody on Maria<br>R._________</i> US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 100. WOOLF, VIRGINIA. 1882-1941. Autograph Letter Signed ("AVS"), 4 pp recto and verso, 8vo. US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 28. DICKINSON, EMILY. 1830-1886. Autograph Note Signed ("Emily"). US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 79. REVERE, PAUL. 1735-1818. Autograph Note Signed ("Paul Revere"), 1 p, oblong 16mo. US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 22. DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. Autograph Letter Signed ("C. Darwin"), 2-1/2 pp, 8vo. US$ 8,000-12,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 58. OYCE, JAMES. 1882-1941. Autograph Letter Signed ("James Joyce"), December 5, 1920. US$ 8,000-12,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 249. MATISSE, HENRI. 1869-1954. MALLARMÉ, STEPHANE. Poésies. Lausanne: Albert Skira, 1932. US$ 40,000-60,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 229. STOKER, BRAM. 1847-1912. Dracula, 1899. <i>First American edition, inscribed by the author</i>. US$ 12,000-18,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 241. GAUGUIN, PAUL. 1848-1903. [Noa Noa, Vojage de Tahiti. 1893-1894.] US$ 15,000-25,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 233. CHAGALL, MARC. 1887-1985. Poémes. Geneva: Cramer Éditeur, 1968. 124 pp. Poems. US$ 20,000-30,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec 9th: </b> Lot 20. CUMMINGS, EDWARD ESTLIN. 1894-1962. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("E.E. Cummings"), headed "Poem". US$ 5,000-8,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2013 Issue

Selling the Collection - No Easy Answers


This is a small portion of the holdings of one older collector who finds “letting go is the hardest part.”

This month’s article is the outgrowth of a query to an on-line list-serve populated mainly by book dealers. No long ago the following post was received:

“Suppose for the moment that you are a "civilian" with a large accumulation of books, gathered over many years. Now it's time to dispose of the library. How would you go about doing it? What actions on your part or features of the collection would be most likely to make it salable or attract the attention of knowledgeable dealers?


“What should a seller do to dispose of a collection at reasonable prices?

“This is not entirely a rhetorical question,” the writer continued. “A neighbor of mine has spent his career as a professor of philosophy. He is now in his mid-80s. He has hinted that he might want me to give him some advice or help him dispose of his library ‘when the time comes.’ He has never been a real ‘collector’ but has been a prodigious accumulator of books for more than 60 years.


“Most of his house is stuffed with books, almost all non-fiction; I would estimate 8,000 - 10,000 volumes. It's heavy on philosophy, mostly ethics and esthetics, only a little epistemology or political philosophy. … He has never attempted to catalog his books -- as he says, ‘I know where everything is.’ All volumes are neatly shelved, and readily accessible. His books range from as-new condition to heavily-used.

“We have no used/rare/antiquarian dealers within 100 miles, except for a Half-Price Books store which is completely unable/unwilling to deal with this volume of books, especially in these categories. What do I tell him? That his books are worthless, or that dealers will offer him pennies (or less) on the dollar for his library? ….

“Although I have couched this inquiry in terms of my neighbor's books (a real case), the same or similar questions will eventually apply to my own collection. I have more volumes, and have focused more on acquiring rare and collectible items, but the same difficulties apply.


“There are no nearby dealers. Most of the specialist dealers with whom I have worked over the past half-century are dead, retired or trying to retire.”


The writer of this post, turned out to be a 70 year old professor emeritus at a large American university, who asked to remain anonymous. He estimated his own holdings in “Western Americana” from the Coronado Expedition to the 1840s might be 12,000-18,000 volumes. Though he is in good health and people in his family lived to “their 80s or 90s,” he knew the day would come when he’d need to sell.


His situation is far more common than might be expected. AE receives similar inquires quite frequently. Almost immediately he made several comments we’ve heard before including:


* “Letting it go is the hardest part.”


* “Don’t tell my wife how much I spend on books.”


* “What I’d really like is a good home, a place that will take good care of it.”


Like many who face the prospect of selling he’s torn between conflicting emotions. On one hand, he really doesn’t want to sell at all, on the other he hopes both to recover a good portion of what he’s spent and at the same time place it with “another individual who cares for it as much as I do… someone I could pass it on to ….sooner or later it’s got to pass.”


How much is his collection worth? Well that depends. This collector gave an estimate in the low six figures, but whether he will be able to realize that amount, or even a fraction of it, remains to be seen.


Probably nobody hears more stories like this one than AE Monthly publisher Bruce McKinney. McKinney is an ardent collector himself who has successfully sold some of his earlier holding. As such, he is frequently asked for his advice. He outlined the usual options: sell it all to a dealer, find an auction house that will take it, put it out on consignment or work with an institution.


He then proceeded to give a variety of reasons that all of these possibilities might be less than ideal from the seller’s point of view.


Looking at the auction option he observed that many sellers experience what he termed “auction anxiety.” The theory is, he said, “that a book is a book is a book,” and at least hypothetically the same item should bring a similar price if offered in a comparable setting, but, he explained, it seldom works that way. “A book that brings $800 in one auction can bring $2,500 at another.”


This kind of variable combined with a long time line and the unknown outcome create a tense situation. And then the auction houses can be very particular and selective. It may be hard to place your material, and the chances of all of it going to one place, in his opinion, were unlikely. He observed that auction houses seldom want the whole collection, only the highlights. It’s often the case that the majority of the value is found in only a handful of items.


Turning to institutions he noted that here the time lines and process can take years and that today’s special collections are often reluctant to commit to acquisition and care of materials where there is significant duplication of what they already own. That’s before we even get to a discussion of price.


As for dealers, McKinney pointed to an increasing reluctance to buy - i.e. spend their own money and an increasing trend toward consigning because “nobody really knows” where the market for books is going. And though consignment terms are negotiable, often time the seller ends up feeling “he’s been had” and because terms of consignment may not be well defined, the dealer sometimes shares those sentiments.


Add to the mix that the seller’s own ideas about the value of his holding is based on what things might have been worth in years past, but is often not realistic in light of the current market.


Said McKinney, “They can not bring themselves to believe they’re not going to get those prices today. Today’s price is often going to be lower. They’ve got to adjust their expectations.”


One new option he mentioned was a recently formed group called Collectorsfolio. This firm bills itself as a specialist in collection development. It also offers fee-for-service cataloging in digital format.


On the sell side it provides brokerage services for high end books - similar to the representation provided by a real estate agent. The present commission schedule quotes rates that in the book trade would be considered quite modest. One reason for that is the dealer has none of his own money tied up in the venture. McKinney sees this combination as “the new model.”


Jeremy O’Connor, 39 and Michael DiRuggiero, 41, are co-founders Collectorsfolio. It is an outgrowth of their firm Manhattan Rare Book Company (ABAA) in New York City which has been active in the trade since 1999.


According to O’Connor, Collectorsfolio is still in its early stages and came on-line this summer in a beta version. The concept, he said, “is a result of our conversation with our clients and their needs.”


On the cataloging side Collectorsfolio works with collectors to help create a digital file that can be converted to on-line use or can be printed. He said that charges to create these documents have so far ranged from a few hundred for inserting professionally taken photos into a Word file up to $5,500 dollars for a more soup-to-nuts approach for a catalog of Modern First Editions. The fee depends on the number of items, whether a basic list already exists, the complexity of the photography and a variety of other factors.


Once a digital document is prepared it can be a useful marketing tool for the seller, and give him “more leverage.” If desired Collectorsfolio can also act as a seller’s broker for a flat percentage which O’Connor quoted as “15 percent of items selling for up to $5,000 and 10 percent for books sold above $5,000.”


O’Connor thought that “the best owner for a book above $5,000 is a collector, with the dealer to act as agent for the prior owner.” Collectorsfolio always takes possession of the book before the transaction is completed. The difference between a dealer and a collector, he said, is ‘I never met a dealer who loved a book more the longer he had it.”


This writer, a dealer’s daughter and a dealer herself for more than 30 years, is only too familiar with the collector’s dilemma.


To realize top dollar takes planning, cataloging and usually a time line of several years. It requires realistic expectations and finding the right vehicle - be it auction, dealer, internet, institution or combination of any or all to achieve maximum value.


Asked for an opinion, I recommended first selling duplicates, then culling books that were no longer as interesting to the collector as they might have been in the past and selling those next, if only to get used to the idea of “selling.”


I also suggested using eBay as a very low cost vehicle to showcase attractive items as bait to find buyers who shared similar interests and had the financial resources to afford them.


The worst scenario is to do nothing and let time take its course. When a collector dies, the wives and families are seldom equipped to handle the disposal of the books that have been so lovingly accumulated.


Then the collection goes from being a treasured asset to a burden that needs to be liquidated and rapidly. The distress model yields the lowest prices and frequently brings turmoil to the heirs who in most cases know little or nothing about books or how to sell them.




Reach writer Susan Halas at wailukusue@gmail.com


Posted On: 2013-09-01 12:18
User Name: knathan

"When a collector dies, the wives and families are seldom equipped...."

Or husbands. I know we're in the minority, but women collect books as well!

Posted On: 2013-09-01 16:34
User Name: blackmud42

When I retired as a history professor, I donated my books to my university's library. As my collection was nothing special, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a charitable donation receipt that gave me a $14,000 tax deduction. I think such donation is an option any collector might well consider. You get a modest financial return, save a lot of bother, and have the satisfaction of knowing your books will be put to good use.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn. A lovely copy of Twain’s masterpiece.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and <br>the Sea. A pristine copy of this American classic.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. A high-spot of children’s literature.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Actively seeking famous works of literature.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Cotton Mather, Triumphs of the Reformed Religion, in America. A rare family association copy.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. An inscribed first edition of Rand’s magnum opus.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> John K. Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces. Easily the most hilarious Pulitzer Prize Winner.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Click here to view our latest catalogues.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Ian Fleming, Casino Royale. First American in the exceptionally rare 1st issue jacket.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> John Donne, Poems. One of the great 17th century works of poetry.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to <br>the Galaxy. Inscribed first edition.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Seeking to purchase exceptional books.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian. Most important work of American fiction from the 1980s.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are.<br>A lovely first edition.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Basis for the beloved 1971 film.
    <b>Whitmore Rare Books.</b> Click here to view our latest catalogues.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24:<br>Art, Press & Illustrated Books</b>
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Kelmscott Press, <i>The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly<br>imprinted</i>, Hammersmith, 1896. $45,000 to $60,000.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Marcel Schwob, <i>Vies Imaginaires</i>,<br>with illustrations by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1929.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Marc Chagall, <i>Psaumes de David</i>, signed first edition, Geneva, 1979. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24:<br>Art, Press & Illustrated Books</b>
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Collection of 84 Weimar-era book jackets, including designs by<br>George Grosz, Moholy-Nagy, et. al., Berlin,1926-32. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Antoni Tàpies, <i>Llull-Tàpies</i>, 75 of 105 copies signed in an edition of 165, Paris and Barcelona, 1985.<br>$7,000 to $10,000.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Black Sun Press, Harry Crosby, <i>Shadows of the Sun</i>, first edition<br>in 3 volumes, Paris, 1928-30.<br>$5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24:<br>Art, Press & Illustrated Books</b>
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24:<br>Earl of Rochester [John Wilmot], Sodom: <i>Ein Spiel</i>, illustrated by<br>Julius Klinger, folio, Leipzig, 1909.<br>$3,500 to $5,000.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24: Herbert Matter, <i>Trademarks and Symbols</i>, 2 volumes, California, 1960s. $3,000 to $4,000.
    Swann Auction Galleries Nov 24:<br>H. Boylston Dummer, <i>The Robin<br>Book</i>, 14 typed pages with water-<br>color illustrations, string-bound & hand-painted, Rockport, c. 1925.<br>$300 to $400.
  • Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Davies, John, of Hereford. <i>Wittes Pilgrimage</i>. London, [1605?]. $10,000-15,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Rowley, Samuel. <i>When you See Me, You know Mee</i>. London, 1632. $3,000-5,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: <br>Ariosto, Lodovico (John Harington, trans.). <i>Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse</i>. (London, 1591). $90,000-120,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Marlowe, Christopher. <i>The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta</i>. London, 1633. $40,000-60,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Caius, Joannes. <i>Of Englishe Dogges</i>. London, 1576. $30,000-50,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan, <i>Or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth</i>. London, 1651. $25,000-35,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Missal, Use of Sarum. <i>Missale ad usu[m] insignis ac preclare ecclesie Sar[um]</i>. London, [1512]. $15,000-20,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Bacon, Sir Francis. <i>Instauratio Magna [Novum Organum]</i>. London, 1620. <br>$20,000-30,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Walton, Izaak. <i>The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative man's Recreation</i>. London, 1653. $70,000-100,000
    Sotheby's NY December 2-4:<br>Milton, John. <i>Poems</i>. London, 1645. $25,000-35,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Baldwin, William. <i>A Myrroure for Magistrates</i>. London, 1559. $100,000-$150,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Newton, Isaac. <i>Opticks</i>. London, 1704. Presentation copy given by the author to Edmund Halley. $400,000-600,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Shakespeare, William. <i>Poems</i>. London, 1640. $150,000-200,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Chaucer, Geoffrey. <i>Canterbury Tales</i>. London, 1526. $200,000-$300,000
    Sotheby's NY Dec 2-4: Donne, John. Autograph letter signed to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, presenting a first edition of <i>Pseudo-Martyr</i>, London, 1610. $150,000-200,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A patriot who fought with George Washington Superb Daguerreotype of Baltus<br>Stone at age 101 (1846).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Edward Curtis portrait of Honovi, Walpi Snake Priest "Honovi was one of the author's principal informants" (1910).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Execution of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators by Alexander Gardner (1865).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the other siblings with their father Lyman Beecher. By Mathew Brady (1850s).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> From Slaves to World-Famous Entertainers Millie-Christine, "The Two-Headed Nightingale" (c. 1868-71)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Goldfield, Nevada Photograph Collection Fabled Western Mining Boomtown (1905-1906)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Tycoon-Collector Benjamin Richardson poses with his great-grandson as appeared in parade.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Alexander Gardner portrait of Lincoln the only known copy, ex-John Hay (1863).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Magnificent Niagara Falls album with a strong provenance (1867).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Spectacular American West Album From Yosemite to Salt Lake City to San Francisco.

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