Clarity about the future is rooted in clarity about the past. The picture that emerges will not always be appealing and will sometimes be inconvenient, particularly in a period of regression to the norm such as we are in today. In such times clarity is particularly important.
I believe a complete record of all auction records from 1875 to yesterday for books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera offered at auction is still three years away but the Americana Exchange Database, a continuing and growing project, is already very complete and many times more complete than any other efforts to aggregate auction records have ever been.
This completeness will be necessary for the rebuilding of confidence in a collecting area of enormous importance that is consolidating at lower price levels but will rise again based on increasing clarity about relevance and rarity. The field is in its autumn but will, in time again have its spring as new collectors are attracted by lower prices and the complex opportunities to see what has been unknown and unknowable.
Through this transition the opportunities and risks will be substantial. Those who use the AED as a guide will find their feet firmly planted. In such periods it is easy to make mistakes. With the AED there will be many substantial wins and fewer mistakes.
Such errors are important because it is collectors that are now stabilizing the field and it is with them that the future will be determined. It is important that they experience success. Honest dealer descriptions and logical prices, well-described and well-estimated auction lots and the AED together are a basis for a secure future.
For our part we will continue to build the AED. It was a year ago at four million records. We start 2014 at 5,150,984. It is what we can do and it is what we should do. The future of the field requires nothing less.