Collecting can take years but in a few cases just a few minutes. Those who treasure the hunt need not read further for if you want a day by day, month by month accumulation of objects purchased at auction, on eBay, online on the listing sites and/or even at the occasional garage sale to build into, over a decade or more, a monument to your intelligence and determination what I am about to tell you may not go down easy.
At Addison & Sarova of Macon, Georgia on July 25th they will dispose of some very large lots from the collections of Robert Easton who, who while American, seems to have measured his collection in pounds [the 16 ounce ones]. I say collections because some of his lots amount to lifetime accumulations of narrow sectors of the printed word. So you can, with one win, both start and complete a collection but you will have to be open-minded about what you collect.
Here are two lots to consider.
Lot number 260. This is a shelf lot of more than 2,000 plays. Here is how it is described:
A very large collection of plays printed between the mid and late 1800s. All are pamphlets in wrappers with condition ranging from Poor to Very Good. Most are VG and intact while some have loose wraps. Due to the ephemeral nature, not many survive in their original state. There are repeats of various plays throughout the collection. Most were published by Samuel French (London and New York.) A sampling of the titles: The Sea of Ice; Or Thirst for Gold **** Po-ca-hon-tas, or The Gentle Savage **** Black-Eyed Susan **** Mazeppa; Or, The Wild Horse of Tartary **** Sardanapalus. King of Assyria **** All's Fair in Love **** The French Spy: Or, The Siege of Constantina **** Hiram Hireout. And a large quantity of others, similar in subject. None collated, sold as-is with all faults. Condition for shelf-lot items stated in general terms. Total of approx. 2,000 or more items, retail value in excess of $5,000, weight 190 lbs. From the Library of Robert Easton.
For this lot to work you have to be open to collecting 19th century plays, apparently in English. If you are open to a Samuel French concentration your ship is coming in. The lot is estimated at $400-$600 but plan to go higher. For a thousand dollars you can both start and complete this collection. This is cheap.
The other lot, in the past few hours now withdrawn, was for maniacs with ambition. It’s lot number 265. It was fittingly the final lot because it contained everything not otherwise catalogued or removed and was called the Mother of all Shelf Lots and was described this way:
This is the final lot of this sale, featuring approximately 100,000 books remaining in the Robert Easton estate. The books are located at the Easton estate in North Hollywood, CA. Preview will be available by appointment two weeks prior to the sale (Call 478-787-BOOK to make an appointment.) NOTE: THIS LOT IS PICK-UP ONLY AND LOCATED AT THE EASTON RESIDENCE. Load-out is the responsibility of the winning bidder. All books must be removed from the premises no later than 4 weeks after the auction. For more information please visit our site [see below], click on the Robert Easton collection link to find the Mother of all Shelf-Lots!
But now this lot 265 has disappeared, the sellers, gulled by the blandishments of buyers who convinced them to let them pick the fresh berries while leaving the unwanted balance to an unsuspecting public who would have bid on July 25th. In the mean time Addison and Sarova have now cut all ties to the lot. They had left appealing material in the lot to ensure it would sell. Now it’s a fool’s purchase.
The circumstances of this auction fall into two possible scenarios. The more common one is that the heirs see money in the real estate and have been encouraged by their broker to think of time as money. That is smart. The other is the “who is going to notice a few missing items” theory. That is dumb. The answer is that the auctioneer will and their reputation for honesty is more important than any book they will ever sell.
The material in lot 265 was always going to be a tough to handle. The era of big lots full of gems is mostly behind us.
Half dozen years ago I helped an acquaintance dispose of her inventory of a 100,000-item lot of 20th century school texts. We created a video and sent the material to auction in Kingston, New York. With a few seconds to go an on-line bidder bid $1,000. He won and was immediately sorry. A week later he paid the grand on condition he had no further responsibility. That lot was later sold twice more on Craig’s list within a few minutes of posting, the first for $3,250 and the second for $2,000. Loved ones of the $3,250 buyer stepped in to negotiate an orderly withdrawal. “Keep the money and also keep the books.” That buyer resisted his family’s entreaties and took with him 3,000 or 4,000 items for his trouble. The now 96,000 item lot was again resold with a similar result: immediate buyer’s remorse. Finally the seller conceived something even more original. She offered her house with more than 90,000 books. The house had been on the market for years. Soon after it sold.
Big lots are complicated. There is romance in them but often not much else.
The other lots do not have this problem. Addison & Sarova know what they are doing. All that I suggest is that you do too. The Mother of all Shelf lots was estimated $20,000 to $30,000. How could you have gone wrong? Let us count the ways.
A link to Addison & Sarova