Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2005 Issue

The Snider Sale of Important Americana Meets High Expectations

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The Snider sale confirmed current pricing.


By Bruce McKinney

Both Christies and Jay Snider have reason to celebrate the successful outcome of Mr. Snider's sale of important Americana in New York on June 21st which realized $6,318,720 including hammer against aggregate low and high estimates of $3,886,700 and $5,631,500. Fifty-eight lots failed to sell including 16 of the 27 early almanacs that were interesting but in many cases carried high reserves. For the most part the items that failed to sell were the less expensive ones.

Buyers could be equally pleased. According to the paddle numbers 52 individual accounts were credited with at least one buy. Several dealers mentioned they were bidding for collectors. Perhaps as many as 75 dealers and collectors directly and indirectly purchased at the sale. In the room there were about a dozen actual bidders and 25 to 30 witnesses to report, snort and support. Christies ringed the room with eleven staff, the auctioneers in their pulpit, record keepers to the right and banks of manned phones along both walls. It felt and was serious. [See the list of successful bidders]

William Reese of New Haven continued his dominance of the printed Americana market. Bidding in the room, using paddle 800, 78 lots fell to him for an aggregate cost of more than $1.25 million dollars. Four others purchased twenty or more items: Lou Weinstein of Heritage with a collector at his side, Joseph Felcone, the Princeton dealer, and two unidentified phone bidders using the paddles 1726 and 1901.

Five others purchased 6 to 11 lots including Clarence Wolf of MacManus. The 19th Century Shop, focusing on iconic Americana, spent more than $500,000 for eight lots. David Block, representing the Berkley Collection, purchased John Adam's "Thoughts on Government..." for $216,000. Thirty seven additional bidding accounts registered a win on at least one lot. As some bidders were inevitably not successful on any lots the total of registered bidders was higher. Only winners' numbers are disclosed and only in the room. In the auction business second place is anonymous.

Perhaps what will be best remembered from this sale are the 11 lots that Joe Felcone purchased on behalf of the New Jersey State Archives for $656,760 including premium. Six of these items were purchased in 1996 as one lot: a manuscript minute book of the Lord Proprietors of East Jersey, 1664-1683 with a group of hand drawn maps, reputedly purchased by Donald Heald in London for 45,000 pounds. Mr. Snider purchased it in 1998 and later removed the maps and offered the book and maps in this sale individually. The New Jersey State Archives aggressively pursued each related lot, won them all and now has every piece and the option to reassemble them. In this sale the book and 5 map lots brought $493,200 including vigorish. These fragile, rare and exceptionally important items will now permanently reside in the state whose motto is "liberty and prosperity."

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