Evidence of Life in the White Mountains
By Bruce McKinney
The White Mountains, as a collecting focus, received a boost this past month as a group of White Mountains, Vermont and New Hampshire items came up at New England Book Auctions on April 10th and found willing buyers. In the 19th century the White Mountains were a favorite vacation spot for the well-to-do, a collecting focus then and a potentially interesting area today.
The sale, No. 350: Americana including a collection on The White Mountains, Cartography, Travel and Nautical, brought out a good crowd that Leif Laudamus, the auctioneer, described as "a full house." Every lot sold. As is NEBA's practice estimates were set at reasonable levels, the estimates in fact more an enticement to bid than a predictor of outcomes. The Tuesday evening audience at the Hotel Northampton in western Massachusetts responded with aggressive bids. The overall sale also did well.
Of 210 lots offered 36 pertained directly and indirectly to the White Mountains including a short run of groups. For those wondering if the glory days of White Mountains collecting have irretrievably faded the answer on April 11th was no. According to Mr. Laudamus there were many bidders for most items and very intense bidding for a few. As was to be expected, images and books with images fared best. Two items brought 5 times the low estimate:
By comparison with the results of the Streeter sale at Christies the following week the prices in this sale were low. But most collectors do not have deep pockets, only a passion for collecting. For them this was an interesting opportunity.
Lot 55, M. Conant's 1852 map of the Mountains and Lake Region of New-Hampshire with Rail-Road Routes, brought $1,100 against a low estimate of $200. Lot 203, a group of White Mountain items brought $500 against the low estimate of $100.
Two items brought the highest prices, both of them selling for $1,430: a mixed set of Jeremy Belknap's The History of New Hampshire against an estimate of $600-900; and Romeyn B. Hough's Woods of the White Mountains against an estimate of $150-250. Items with many comparables on the net did less well although here too there were exceptions. Lot 88, Farmer's 1823 New Hampshire Gazetteer brought $275, $25 higher than any of the ten copies offered recently on the net. It was probably a very nice copy. The majority of buyers were dealers who know to check online availability and pricing. They bid with eyes open and wallets secured. Collectors were also on hand to contend.
By any calculation the prices for the White Mountain material were firm if not high. In recent years dealers have cited lack of interest in this category as evidence of declining interest in book collecting generally. Some of the items were available on the net but it is an altogether different experience, even for jaded dealers, to see the material grouped and offered at auction. In this forum, a collector's logic is apparent and buyers sense what the pursuit of such material as a long term endeavor may entail. Hopefully a new collector or two found in this selection the beginnings of a passion. It is absolutely justified.
Click here for all the White Mountains [and related materials] offered in the recent New England Book Auction sale.
To view the White Mountains material broken out and in more detail click here.