Energy in the Auction Rooms
By Bruce McKinney
On February 10th, 16th and 18th interesting book auctions were held in New York at Swann, and in San Francisco by Dorothy Sloan and at John's Western Gallery. Both the Swann and Sloan sales did well while the Gilchriese presentation at John's found buying interest to be as narrow as the Gilchriese collecting focus: Wyatt Earp manuscript and memorabilia. At Swann the material was the remainder of a large Americana consignment and at Sloan it was actually two sales. The first was No. 14, Americana with an Emphasis on Borderlands, Texas, California, Mexico & Central America. The second, No. 15, was the Daniel G. Volkmann, Jr. collection of Californiana. In these sales a substantial portion of the lots sold: clear evidence of broad strength in the marketplace.
At Swann the material was mainly mid-market. It was a combination of lesser known items combined with better known material with occasional condition problems. The estimates were relatively low and almost everything sold. Of 358 lots 324 sold. There has been plenty of talk that the market for important, essentially perfect material is almost unlimited while the middle-market is less certain. At Swann's on the 10th there were plenty of buyers to bid and almost everything, at a price, sold. In the mid-market the variable isn't interest. It's price. The total hammer price was $227,460 and the average lot realization an affordable $702.
Susannah Carter's Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook brought $9,775 against an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000. The engraving on silk of the Declaration of Independence  brought $21,850 against the estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. And for the person who purchased the 1753 Poor Richard's Almanack they won't need to wait for Poor Richard's predictions of book prices. Against an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000 it brought $19,550.
In the first Sloan sale [No. 14] there were 64 lots of which 48 sold at the auction. During the following two days several more were sold at the low estimate plus 15% commission. Several bidders, who left order bids that failed to win, later converted their unspent funds into purchases of unsold lots. Twelve lots sold at the low estimate and another 12 remain unsold but available. The average hammer price was $4,870.