• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1863. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Laurie & Whittle, <i>The Complete East-India Pilot</i>, with 113 maps, London, 1797. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> George W. Browning, 134 sketches of natural history & landscape subjects, American West, 1880s-90s.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Catesby & Ehret, <i>Magnolia Grandiflora</i>, from first edition <i>Natural History of Carolina</i>, London, 1731-43. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Petrus Plancius, <i>The Spice Map</i>, hand-colored, London, 1598.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John Miller, <i>Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei</i>, London, 1770-77. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Thomas Shotter Boys, <i>Original Views of London As It Is</i>, de luxe issue, 26 hand-colored lithographs, London, 1842. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Frederick de Wit, <i>Belgi XVII Provinciarum Tabula</i>, true first state wall map, Amsterdam, ca 1670. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Passenger Pigeon, Plate LXII</i>, aquatint & engraving before color, London, 1829. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Joannes Clericus, <i>Atlas Atiquus, Sacer, Ecclesiasticus et Profanus</i>, Amsterdam, 1705. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Matthaus Seutter, <i>Atlas Novus sive Tabulae Geographicae totius Orbis</i>, Augsburg, ca 1735.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> William Roscoe, <i>Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae</i>, Liverpool, 1824-28. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>The Mocking Bird</i>, hand-colored aquatint & engraving, London, 1827.<br>$7,000 to $10,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CURTIS, EDWARD. <i>Original glass plate photograph, Honovi – Walpi Snake Priest, prepared by Curtis for the printing of The North American Indian</i>, c.1910
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various</i>, ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Darwin Family Photograph Album</i>. Down, Kent, 1871-1879
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (SECRET SERVICE). <i>The photographic archive, papers, and relics of William Kennoch, Secret Service Agent</i>. Various places, 1870s and 1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN REVOLUTION). <i>Daguerreotype Portrait of Baltus Stone, the earliest photo of a Revolution veteran,</i> 1846
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.</i> Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1916.<br>$80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in English, Signed Integrally ("Isaac Newton"). $50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. London: John Murray, 1859. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.</i> London: Benjamin Motte, 1729.<br>$20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEISENBERG, WERNER. Autograph Manuscript entitled "<i>Entwicklung der Theorie der Elementarteilche,</i>” [1964].<br>$15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> BERNOULLI, DANIEL. <i>Hydrodynamica, sive De viribus et motibus fluidorum commentarii.</i> Strasbourg: Johann Heinrich Decker for Johann Reinhold Dulsecker, 1738. $5,000 – 7,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> [TARKOVSKY, ANDREI ARSENIEVICH.] STRUGATSKY, BORIS AND ARKADY. Typed Manuscript for <i>Stalker</i>, being the director's working script, 1977. $150,000 – 200,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. Typed Manuscript of "Marlin Off the Morro: A Cuban Letter," n.p., [1933]. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> SALINGER, JEROME DAVID. 4 Autograph Letters, 2 of which Signed ("Jerry") and 6 Typed Letters, 2 of which Initialed ("J"). $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> PASTERNAK, BORIS LEONIDOVICH. Typed Manuscript Carbon, "Doktor Zhivago," with some typed corrections, Moscow, 1948. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> MILNE, ALAN ALEXANDER. Autograph Manuscript Signed 3 times ("A.A. Milne"), entitled "Peace with Honour: An Enquiry into the War Convention," 1934.<br>$30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Robert Frost"), titled "Gold for Christmas," 1952. $15,000 – 20,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2009 Issue

Book Prices Down 30% Year Over Year at Auction

Pricegraph03-09

Book prices at auction have been slipping.


By Michael Stillman

Book prices at auction showed a continuing sharp decline during the first two months of 2009. The median price at auction for the period was 31% lower than for the same period a year ago. This compares to a decline of 21% for all of last year compared to 2007.

While the smaller sampling available for two months versus a year leaves a greater margin of error, there is no mistaking that there has been a very substantial decline in book prices at auction. However, the implication that prices have slipped further in 2009 is not necessarily true. Last year's 21% decline included sales from the first half of the year, when the market was still relatively strong. The decline was likely steeper in the last half of the year. The current estimated 31% drop may reflect the level of decline already in place by the last half of 2008, rather than further deterioration of the market in 2009. It will take more time to determine whether book prices are continuing to fall or have begun to bottom out.

What has been happening to prices at the bookseller level is less clear since such sales are not conducted in a visible marketplace as are auctions. However, anecdotal observation does not indicate a decrease in listing prices of anything near the 30% level. Most sellers appear to be opting for reduced sales over reduced prices. In a challenging economic environment such as the current one, sellers have three choices: (1) lower asking prices, (2) maintain asking prices but discount and bargain more aggressively, or (3) maintain current prices and wait for recovery. While it is impossible to know what kind of dealing may be going on behind the scenes, anecdotal reports we have from booksellers indicate sales are down, implying that most are holding fairly closely to past pricing.

Reports we received from sellers at the recent California Book Fair would support the belief that sales, rather than prices, are down at the bookseller level. Sales between dealers in the pre-opening period were reportedly very slow, indicating a great reluctance on the part of sellers to purchase new inventory. When sellers are selling, they need to replenish inventory. This is a sign that most dealers appear to be in a wait-and-see mode, rather than aggressively discounting in an attempt to boost sales.

What booksellers will do, or should do, in the days ahead is far less clear. Decisions will be made based on the immediacy of a dealer's need for cash and his or her belief in how long it will take for the market to recover. Those dealers in a strong financial condition may choose to wait out the storm. Those who will need greater cash flow in the months ahead may be better advised to start developing new strategies sooner rather than later. Recovery will come, but it appears almost certain that the time frame will be years, not months. Those whose survival under current conditions will be limited to months need to make adjustments now before time further erodes their financial strength. A business model that depends on a market turnaround by summer appears almost certain to be destined for failure. Even the more optimistic of economic forecasters do not see a recovery beginning until late in the year, and that does not mean prices will suddenly rebound by 30%. That simply means a slow return to growth. Other forecasters believe it will be years before real recovery comes. We do not mean to sound pessimistic, or be the bearer of bad news, but auction prices are a firm reality check for the book business. We believe the bookseller armed with realistic, even if unpleasant data, has a better chance of surviving and succeeding than one who builds a business model based on wishful thinking.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Laurie & Whittle, <i>The Complete East-India Pilot</i>, with 113 maps, London, 1797. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> George W. Browning, 134 sketches of natural history & landscape subjects, American West, 1880s-90s.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Catesby & Ehret, <i>Magnolia Grandiflora</i>, from first edition <i>Natural History of Carolina</i>, London, 1731-43. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Petrus Plancius, <i>The Spice Map</i>, hand-colored, London, 1598.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John Miller, <i>Illustratio Systematis Sexualis Linnaei</i>, London, 1770-77. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Thomas Shotter Boys, <i>Original Views of London As It Is</i>, de luxe issue, 26 hand-colored lithographs, London, 1842. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Frederick de Wit, <i>Belgi XVII Provinciarum Tabula</i>, true first state wall map, Amsterdam, ca 1670. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Passenger Pigeon, Plate LXII</i>, aquatint & engraving before color, London, 1829. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Joannes Clericus, <i>Atlas Atiquus, Sacer, Ecclesiasticus et Profanus</i>, Amsterdam, 1705. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Matthaus Seutter, <i>Atlas Novus sive Tabulae Geographicae totius Orbis</i>, Augsburg, ca 1735.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> William Roscoe, <i>Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae</i>, Liverpool, 1824-28. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>The Mocking Bird</i>, hand-colored aquatint & engraving, London, 1827.<br>$7,000 to $10,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CURTIS, EDWARD. <i>Original glass plate photograph, Honovi – Walpi Snake Priest, prepared by Curtis for the printing of The North American Indian</i>, c.1910
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various</i>, ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Darwin Family Photograph Album</i>. Down, Kent, 1871-1879
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (SECRET SERVICE). <i>The photographic archive, papers, and relics of William Kennoch, Secret Service Agent</i>. Various places, 1870s and 1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN REVOLUTION). <i>Daguerreotype Portrait of Baltus Stone, the earliest photo of a Revolution veteran,</i> 1846
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1863. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.

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