How much Green is there in the White Mountains?
By Bruce McKinney
Once in a while an auction provides an interesting test of strength. Such is the case at New England Book Auctions on April 10th when 210 lots of Americana including a collection on The White Mountains, as well as cartography, travel and nautical material goes under the hammer. Of particular interest is the concentration of White Mountain material: about 30 lots that's a mix of the simply interesting and the difficult to obtain. This material dates to the 19th century when the White Mountains of New Hampshire were a popular vacation area for the well-to-do of New England and New York. The area, always beautiful was also rich in history and attracted sufficient following to justify both bibliographies and book dealer specialization in the category. Goodspeeds, whose catalogues are included in the AED, was the largest of them. Alas, America moved west and interest in the White Mountains waned. This auction permits us to see if, as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, "the good is oft interred with the bones." What was once highly collectible about the White Mountains, and is now mostly overlooked and forgotten, will someday be collectible again. The question now is whether a collector or two will seize the opportunity in this area, while prices are low, to move valuations within this focus up a notch.
Certainly some of this material is available on line; in a few cases, many copies. What an auction of concentrated subject matter, such as this one, does is to bring out the collectors and the dealers who make markets in this material so that for a few hours there is visibility, a sense of the scale of interest and willingness to pay. For the White Mountains this is one of those moments. Bidding in this sale will be both dealers defending their turf, established collectors carefully acquiring, and new collectors venturing. Out of it may come one or two new collectors. For the White Mountains, New England Book Auctions offers a window on this forgotten area of collecting. It's an interesting place with a deep history, a subject worth collecting.
The 31 lots relating to the White Mountains, New Hampshire and Vermont have an aggregate low estimate of $4,990 and a high estimate of $7,610. These are not expensive items although many will be appealing. It should be noted that New England Book Auction has had the highest sell-through rate in the auction business the past few years selling 2,369 of 2,376 documented lots in 2006 and 2,781 of 2,799 in 2005. They sell through because NEBA insists on low estimates. If no one counters your bid you may buy a good book for a song. On the other hand there are usually others willing to bid against you. This said, if you seriously want to buy specific lots in this White Mountain group expect, in many cases, to go at least 50% over the high estimate to have a chance.