Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

California Rescinds Application of Hated Autograph Law to Booksellers

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California Assemblyman Todd Gloria, author of the repeal of the autograph law as applied to booksellers.

Good news for booksellers – California has repealed its hated new autograph law, at least as it applies to booksellers. The onerous requirements, which also could have affected out-of-state booksellers selling to California residents and participants in California trade shows, will no longer apply to those in the book trade. The same applies to those selling manuscripts, numbered prints and other forms of autographed ephemera not pertaining to the sports or entertainment media industries.

 

The old law, which took effect on January 1 of this year, was never meant to apply to booksellers. It was intended to reach various memorabilia sellers, particularly in sports and entertainment, who regularly sell forged material. It is an industry by itself. According to the California Assembly's discussion of the bill, 94% of all Beatles' memorabilia is forged, 76% for Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, the wording of the law did not make this point clear. As written, it sounded like the law would apply to booksellers selling autographed books and others as well.

 

What made this so upsetting to booksellers were the draconian requirements. Selling an autographed book might have required presenting the buyer with a Certificate of Authenticity with all sorts of information, some possibly hard to come by. Included in the detailed information were a description of the item, purchase price, an express warranty, size of edition if it is part of a limited edition, whether it was signed in the dealer's presence and the name of a witness to the signing, and if purchased from a third party the name and address of the person from whom it was purchased. Various warning notices had to be posted in bookshops and trade shows, and specific records had to be kept. Dealers specializing in signed editions or hosting author signing events would have been particularly hard hit by the requirements.

 

The terms were so demanding on booksellers that the author of the bill wrote a letter saying it was not intended to apply to booksellers. Unfortunately, that is not good enough. Only the law is the law, and her letter was not a part of the law. Under the letter of the law, it could readily be interpreted as applying to booksellers.

 

The new law makes numerous changes to the old legislation, such as increasing the minimum value of the item qualifying as a (autographed) collectible from the absurd $5 to $50. However, rather than looking at the adjustments, we will get straight to the new part that is targeted specifically to booksellers. The new law has some exceptions as to what is considered an autographed collectible. The previous law only said, sometimes in general terms, what was. Here is the key new section – "autographed collectibles" do not include, "signed books, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media." That is quite clear when it comes to books, and to much of the other material booksellers often handle. Another exception covers "works of fine art," including "numbered multiples," which will cover many artistic prints.

 

What is still in? Well, this revised definition now limits what is a collectible for purposes of the statute to just two areas, sports and entertainment media (music, television, and film). So now, we are limited to two subjects of collectibles, and with various formats such as books and original art in any subjects removed.

 

Is there anything that booksellers might handle which still could cause a problem? There are a few signed ephemeral items within the works on paper category one might have. Baseball programs, tickets, or cards are specifically listed. So are pictures and photographs related to films, along with tickets and playbills. These do show up occasionally in a dealer's inventory, so it is wise to be mindful here. You don't have to sell too many of them to be subject to the requirements. Just three of these valued at $50 or more over a 12-month period will subject you to the requirements. Be careful if you are a California dealer or selling into California. The statute also makes clear that auctions selling such non-exempt material must also comply with the revised rules.

 

 

Update:  As of October 3, the bill had not yet been signed by Gov. Brown. Unless the Governor vetoes it, it will become law on his signature or on October 15 if he neither signs nor vetoes the bill. It is expected the bill will be approved by the Governor.

 

Further Update:  The legislation has now been signed by Gov. Brown and is now law.


Posted On: 2017-10-01 14:18
User Name: robert.kearley06@gmail.com

Bravo for California Lawmakers! I wish all States would enact this legislation and focus on the many, many so-called Auction Houses that are simply in operation to turn a profit and would not stand up to the scrutiny of this Law.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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