September marks the start of the fall auction season and this promises to be an extremely busy one. The amount of material coming out has been growing rapidly over the past couple of years as collectors and others seek to move large numbers of books quickly. There will be many great deals, and many books or one-of-a-kind items you may not see on the market again for years, if ever. The problem is finding them, or even being aware of what is available. Books and paper are sold at over 100 auction houses scattered around the world. Frequently, they are sold at unexpected locations – Americana in Europe, ancient Latin texts in America. Auctions from even less expected places, such as Australia, Latin America, and South Africa, can offer items of greatest interest to collectors half way around the world. How does the collector ever find this material?
There is really only one place. For books and works on paper, this site, the Americana Exchange, provides the only practical search. Don't be fooled by the name. Everything in the works on paper field, fiction and non-fiction, books and ephemera, American, European, and everywhere else, is covered. AE takes all of the individual listings from auctions all over the world and places them in one searchable database. You not only don't have to go to each auction house's website or catalogue to see their listings, you don't have to scroll through their listings in hopes of finding something of interest either. AE enables you to do a keyword search of all listings from one location, like a Google search of the internet. And, the cost is the same as doing a Google search – nothing.
At the top of this page, and just about every other on this site, is a search box. First, make sure it is set on “Upcoming Auctions” to the left of the box. If not, click the upside down triangle to find the correct selection. Then, just enter the term or terms you follow as keywords and click “search.” That's all. It takes about a second. A list of your matches will appear, with basic information, including title, author, auction house, auction date, and estimated price. Clicking the title will display the detailed description. If you click on the little square box to the right of the title, the detailed description will appear in a new window. If you click on the title itself, it will appear on the same page.
You will also notice images from several important auctions slowly flickering by on this and other pages (advertisements). If you see an item you like, just click the image before it goes by (or scroll over the image for an arrow to click back to it). Then click on the image and it will take you to the auction listing.
While some auction houses give you plenty of time to review their listings, others post them only a few days in advance. In other words, you should come back every few days at most to search the terms that most interest you. Otherwise, you may very well completely miss items on which you would really like to bid. This particularly can be an issue during the fall, which is the busiest season of the year for auction houses.
Listings provide links to auction houses. Virtually all auction houses now offer some sort of absentee bidding, by internet, phone, or other means. Most provide multiple avenues. If you have not bid at a particular house before, you need to get an application a day or two in advance so they will know you are a real bidder. On more expensive items at the larger houses, you may want to ask a dealer to represent you. Many larger booksellers provide this service and it can pay to have a pair of trained eyes look over the material and provide an estimate of an appropriate bid before committing a large sum of money.