• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> THE PAPERS OF BREVET MAJOR GENERAL JOHN GROSS BARNARD (1815-1882), Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. Estimate: $75,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> ALVIN LANGDON COBURN. London. With 20 photogravures by Coburn and text by Hilaire Belloc, London and New York: 1909. First edition. Est: $4,000-6,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WILLIAM FADEN, A Plan of New York Island, with part of Long Island, Staten Island & East New Jersey. London: 1776. Estimate: $5,000-8,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> MAX BEERBOHM, Lord Curzon delivering an oration. Original drawing with collage. London, 1912. Est: $2,000-3,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> AMERICAN REVOLUTION, Recueil des Loix Constitutives des Colonies Angloises. A Philadelphie, et se vend a Paris: Cellot & Jombert, 1778. First collected edition in French. Estimate: $500-800
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN, Confederate General Joseph Johnston's copy of Sherman's General Orders No. 65 announcing the final agreement of Surrender, 27 April 1865. Est: $4,000-6,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> JOHN KEATS, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820. First edition of Keats’s third book.. Estimate: $5,000-7,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> M. T. Cicero's Cato Major, or his discourse of Old-age: With Explanatory Notes. Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1744. Est: $5,000-8,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WINSTON S CHURCHILL, History of the English Speaking Peoples. London: Cassell, 1956-58. First editions. Est: $1,500-2,500

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2013 Issue

Selling the Collection - No Easy Answers

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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>Auction Pierre Bergé & associés in association with Sotheby’s: Important Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Jean A. Bonna from the 15th to the 20th Century. Sale on April 26, 2017. Exhibition in London March 28-30</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Galileo, <i>Discorsi e Dimostrazioni matematiche.</i> Leyde, Elzevier, 1638. Original edition: only known copy of the first state. €700,000 – 900,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Fables illustrated by Benjamin Rabier. Paris, Tallandier, without date [ca. 1910]. Superb binding doubled in vellum decorated with painted and mosaic decors by André Mare illustrating four fables. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Gustave Flaubert, draft for the preface of the <i>Memoir for the defense of Madame Bovary</i>, 15-30 January 1857. Exceptiona signed autograph manuscript. €40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Auction Pierre Bergé & associés in association with Sotheby’s: Important Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Jean A. Bonna from the 15th to the 20th Century. Sale on April 26, 2017. Exhibition in London March 28-30</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Boccace, <i>The Book of Praise and the Virtue of the Noble and Cleric Ladies.</i> Verard, 1493. First edition of the French version attributed to Laurent de Premierfait. €40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Exceptional set of 15 original bindings by Jean de Gonet, on rare editions illustrated by Picasso, Matisse, Miro or original editions of Bataille or Radiguet.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Malcolm X, typed manuscripts for the <i>LA Herald Dispatch</i> column "God's Angry Men," 1957.<br>$200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, Washington, 1880.<br>$40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Carte-de-visite album featuring a previously unrecorded image of Harriet Tubman, 1860s.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Collection of documents from the Montgomery Improvement Association, Alabama, 1955-63. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Martin Luther King, Jr., working draft of the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Alabama, 1963. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> <i>Benjamin Bannaker's Almanac</i> for 1795, Baltimore. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Collection of 41 letters addressed to Rebecca Primus, 1854-72.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Abby Fisher, <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking</i>, first edition, San Francisco, 1881.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green-Book for 1941</i>, New York, 1940. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Toni Morrison, <i>The Bluest Eye, </i>reviewer's copy, New York, 1971. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Potter (Beatrix). The Tale of Peter Rabbit, first edition, first issue, [1901]. Part of an extensive, private Beatrix Potter collection. £15,000 - 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Dodgson (Charles Lutwidge). The Hunting of the Snark, first edition, with original printed dust-jacket, 1876.<br>£7,000 - 9,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Buckland Wright (John). Pervigilium Veneris: The Vigil of Venus, number 1 of 100 copies (Christopher Sandford's copy), Golden Cockerel Press, 1939.<br>£2,000 - 3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Kelmscott Press. Keats (John). The Poems, one of 300, orig. vellum, 8vo, Kelmscott Press, 1894. £1,800 - 2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Greenhill (Elizabeth).- Morison (Stanley) and Kenneth Day. The Typographic Book, 1450-1935, bound in dark green goatskin by Elizabeth Greenhill, 1963. £6,000 - 8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Fitzgerald (F. Scott). The Great Gatsby, first edition, first state dust-jacket, New York, 1925. £25,000 - 35,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Dionysius, <i>Halicarnassensis</i>. Antiquitates Romanae, Editio princeps, Treviso, Bernardinus Celerius, 24 or 25 February, 1480. £4,000 - 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Canon Law. [Laurentius Puldericus. Breviarum decreti], manuscript in Latin, on paper, [?Germany], [c. 1450].<br>£5,000 - 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Swimming. Percey (William) The Compleat Swimmer: or, the Art of Swimming, first and only edition, by J.C. for Henry Fletcher, 1658. £5,000 - 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Binding with silverwork by Anthony Nelme. The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New: : newly translated out of the original tongues, Oxford, John Baskett, 1716. £10,000 - 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> George IV's copy. Nash (John, architect). The Royal Pavilion at Brighton, one of 10 copies, 1826. £8,000 - 10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Blake (William, 1757-1827). "With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me & affrightest me with Visions", 1825. £700 - 1,000

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