Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2005 Issue

Pacific Book Auction - A good place to do business


PBA Senior Vice-President Bruce MacMakin.

PBA is located in the traffic-clogged downtown of San Francisco on Kearny Street. It costs an arm and a leg to park, so be sure to build the parking costs into any bidding. They were formerly located in Silicone Valley but high rents ousted them. They moved to San Francisco and took over the offices of a former book auction house. "It was perfectly laid out for our purposes and our landlord loves us," said Bruce. "The traffic is bad, but we have a BART station close by and a lot of buses."

The building is a rather unassuming place with no exterior sign and one buzzes the door and then elevators oneself up to the fourth floor. The auction room is a very modern, clean, brightly lighted space with a horseshoe-shaped glass cabinet full of yummy antiquarian and scarce-to-rare books. The walls are lined on several sides with bookcases full of the less rare books which may be neatly tied with gold cord in multiple book lots or may be a lot of only one or two books. The least significant books line the floor in boxes and are sold by the box. There may be great riches in the boxes or they may be completely uninteresting, it is for the crafty bookseller to figure out whether there is anything in a box worth bidding on and some pretty hot and heavy bidding can go on if there is a recognized treasure.

I asked MacMakin about the history of PBA. For some reason I had it in my head that they had been around since the early 1900s, but I was mistaken. Pacific Book Auction was instigated in 1992 by ex-members and staff of the California Book Auction organization. They held their first auction in July of 1992. Five years ago, they were bought by Roger Wagner, one of their former good customers who was the owner of a software dot com company in Silicone Valley. He revolutionized their online and internet presence, which has contributed greatly to their continuing success. They have a small office in Los Angeles where one person, Rachel Hammelman, pretty much acquires consignments and then ships them to San Francisco for auction.

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