As summer comes to a close, and the temperatures begin to cool, the auction season starts to heat up. Fall is always the busiest time for auctions, and with the number of lots in the books, manuscripts, and ephemera field rising significantly over the past few years, there will be much to consider. Last year, over 158,000 lots came up for sale during the last four months of the year. This year, it will likely be even more.
Naturally enough, the challenge is finding the lots that are of interest to you amid all of the clutter. The lots you seek will be buried among dozens of auction houses and a couple of hundred auctions, some with lots in the thousands. How do you find them? Do you have to go to each auction house's website, see which have auctions that include works in the books and works on paper category, and then scroll through all of their listings? No. That would be impossible.
The Americana Exchange website allows you to search all of these listings from one place. It takes a fraction of a second to find all of your matches. Here's all you have to do. Near the top of this, and most other pages of the AE website, you will see a search box. Chances are, it is already set to search “Upcoming Auctions” (look just to the left of the long search bar). If not, click the little arrow “for additional selections” below the setting and it will allow you change the selection to Upcoming Auctions.
Next, enter the keywords you wish to search and click the “Search” button. That's it. In some fraction of a second, your results will be displayed. You will notice a link to the right of the “Search” button for “Advanced Search.” Unless you are overwhelmed with matches, stick with the keyword search. Broader keyword searches are less likely to miss something you want than are tighter advanced searches. The advanced search is meant mainly for use with the other databases, which contain millions of records, than the upcoming auctions database that maxes out around 40,000 in the busy season.
Once you conduct your search, you will see a page listing all of the matches. It concisely provides the pertinent information – author, title, auction house and auction date, publication date, estimated price, and a brief description. Your search terms will be highlighted in yellow to make it easier to see why the listing is a match. To see the detailed record for each lot, click the book's title. If you would prefer to see the detailed record in a new window, click the rectangle after the title. If there is a camera icon after the title, it means the detailed listing contains one or more pictures of the item.
When you click on the link to the individual lot listing, you will find the complete description and more information about the particular auction, including a link to the auction house. If you have not bid at the house before, you will need to set up an account first, usually at least a day prior to the auction, as they will want to be sure you are a real bidder. Of course that won't require you to bid. It will just enable you to bid if you so choose.
When you conduct your search, you will see two links near the top left, just under “Auction Search Results.” One is to “Books for Sale.” These are listings offered by booksellers. People often assume they will get the lowest price at auction. That is not always the case. You may be surprised at how often a book will sell at auction for a price higher than the same title is offered by a dealer. It's what assuming can make of us. Research is always worth the effort. Additionally, there may be a difference in the copies, perhaps condition, issue, etc. Again, the more information you have, the better will be the decision you make.
The other link near the top is to the “AE Database.” To access this, you will need to be an AE member at any paid level (everything else described here is free). The AE Database is a collection of over 5.4 million bibliographic records, most being priced records from past auctions. If you are a serious collector, the wealth of knowledge this database provides is way more than worth the cost, both for making good decisions and avoiding bad ones.
One final point – our name, “Americana Exchange,” is a leftover relic. You will find books and other works on paper in every imaginable field, and from auctions all over the world – Europe, England, South Africa and Australia, as well as Canada and Latin America. You will also find most ship all around the world, and sometimes, they have books you would never expect from an auction at their location.
Come back here often as new listings are added almost everyday. Some auctions only post their lots a few days in advance of their auctions, so if you wait a week, some items will slip by without your ever knowing.