Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2006 Issue

Web Catalogue: Premium Subscription Pt. II

Bookitemdetail

Full details with links to images and footnotes


There are of course links. Images are an essential aspect of old books and we provide a provision for two images and more are possible if and when there is a need. Open one and drag a corner. The images increase in size. There is also a footnotes link which extends the resources of the AED directly onto these listing pages. Bibliographic, dealer and auction history can be selected and attached in a few moments as interactive records. The person who then reads the listing can see all material you provide including footnotes right down to the last word of text. Building and sharing these files is a matter of membership but anyone can read them if the member publishes them on the net. Because these records are in electronic envelopes you can see the material initially in outline and a click later in detail. A collector will read an entire catalogue all the way to the last word but read only the files that are of interest. Total material for single items may run to fifty pages but to the uninterested it's just a description because they don't enter the item's files. It's very clean and efficient.

Why is this information important? Many records, even older ones and sometimes particularly older ones, suggest an item met the "collectible" criteria of particular dealers and collectors in the past. If it has also sold at auction multiple times this too is important. All priced records from the past ninety years are automatically adjusted to current valuation using algorithms that reflect changing value and volume. To eliminate the vagaries of the unusually high or low price we instantly total and average all related transactions. It is still only a suggested valuation but the fraction of a second it takes to see it is time well spent. In the footnote files you build in Web Catalogue such valuations are automatically applied. In a field that is deeply steeped in history the history of books is right at your finger tips.

Then again, you might think all you need to do is study the listing sites today to understand value but you will notice over time that the listing sites are evergreen. Every listing is fresh today - even if it has been up for five years! What you need to know are transaction values because they provide a basis for informed opinion and that's what the AED is primarily. When you look to buy a house no one asks for the history of "listing" prices. No, we all need to know what they sold for. Later we may ask for an appraisal. On AE we provide both history and synthetic current valuation, a good alternative to a full narrative appraisal.

Because so much material is moving into the market every day, and is increasingly accessible, prices [but not values] have recently been falling. This may last for another five years. Because there are currently more books than buyers there is the illusion that material is plentiful. Think again. In Hong Kong in the late 1960s refugees fled China with only the clothes on their back and collectible coins in their pockets. For a few years the market was awash in extraordinary rarities and they sold for low prices. Today this material is again unobtainable. Today we live in a unique moment where emerging technology is releasing rare printed material into the market by the boxcar. Once gone, prices will rise. For those who collect today the opportunity is unique and will be gone in a generation.

Rare Book Monthly


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