• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Andrew Wyeth, an archive of 43 unpublished letters. $80,000-120,000 [lot 1106]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Abraham Lincoln, signed document granting pensions to surviving Revolutionary War Veterans, 1865. $60,000-80,000 [lot 1058]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Forlani Map of North America, 1566. $40,000-60,000 [lot 1555]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> <i>Journal des Dames et des Modes</i>, 1912-1914. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1294]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, late 14th Century. $30,000-40,000 [lot 1162]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Schedel, World Map, 1493. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1589]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Sir Isaac Newton’s copy of <i>Le Grand’s Institutio Philosophiae</i>, 1675. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1308]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Muhammad Mu'min Husaini’s Tuhfat al-Mu'minin, 17th century Persian medical manuscript on paper. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1118]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Persian Calligraphy, an album. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1119]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Edgar Allan Poe, <i>Tales</i>, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. $3,00-5,000 [lot 1361]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> English New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1582, first edition. $10,000-15,000 [lot 1154]
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>Shaw & Nodder, <i>The Naturalist's Miscellany</i>, complete, London, 1789-1813. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Samuel Baker, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Island of St. Christopher</i>, London, 1753. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Henry Briggs, <i>The North Part of America</i>, London, 1625. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Herring Gull</i>, CCXCI, hand-colored plate, London, 1836. $7,000 to $10,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Montanus & Ogilby, <i>America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World</i>, London, 1671. $10,000 to $15,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Robert Cruikshank, portfolio of 25 watercolors, London, 1830s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Group of 55 French watercolors depicting the life and deeds of Napoleon, 1800s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Aaron & Samuel Arrowsmith, <i>Chart of the Sandwich Islands</i>, London, 1830. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Herman Moll, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain</i>, London, 1735. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Jacques-Nicolas Bellin,<i> L'Hydrographie Françoise</i>, Paris, circa 1770. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, <i>Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina</i>, London, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Arnold Colom, <i>Pascaarte van Nieu Nederlandt</i>, Amsterdam, circa 1658. $7,000 to $10,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

Book Auction Prices Declined in 2009...<i>But...</i>

Hammer2009

Book prices at auction inched down in 2009.


By Michael Stillman

A detailed look at book auction results for 2009 reveals that virtually every important number was down. The most telling number - median sales price - was down. Sell through rates were down. The ratio of items sold above the high estimate to those sold below the low estimate was down. The number of auctions held and number of items offered were down. So why are we celebrating these seemingly woeful results? The answer is that these declines, particularly in terms of median price, were surprisingly small. We expected a much steeper decline, but the drop in median price from 2008 to 2009 was only 2%. Compare that to the previous year's drop of 21%. It doesn't sound so bad after all.

The median price for books at auction for 2009 was $376, a drop of $8 from the $384 median of 2008. Last year, the median price had dropped $102 from the $486 median of 2007. We believe this relatively minor drop is a sign that the market has bottomed out, and may even be starting to rebound. Median prices were actually much stronger year to year in the fourth quarter of 2009. They rose by $21 from the fourth quarter prices of 2008. We would not be at all surprised to see sales prices begin to rebound in 2010, provided there is not another serious dip in the economy.

This past year we found 468 auctions offering 207,521 lots. That slipped from 476 auctions and 220,798 lots in 2008. Perhaps the most notable decline was in the sell-through percentage. That was off 4%, from the previous year's 71% to 67% for 2009. That is historically a very low sell-through rate as normally around 75% of items offered are sold. That was the sell-through rate in 2007. In 2009, 44% of the items which were sold, sold for above the high estimate. In 2008, that figure was 47%. Items selling below the low estimate were 32% compared to only 29% the previous year. Estimates evidently did not quite adjust as quickly as the market. When items sold below the low estimate are combined with items that did not sell at all, we find that 54% of the items offered failed to achieve a bid of at least the low estimate. That number was just under 50% the previous year.

The largest number of lots sold from a single location went to German house Kiefer Buch und Kunstauktionen with 18,790. They run very large auctions, the number achieved through just 6 sales. Bloomsbury London was next at 17,317 lots over 32 sales, with Dutch auction house Bubb Kuyper and Swann's in New York also selling over 10,000 lots. Auction houses selling over 1,000 items with the highest sell-through rates were Profiles in History from California and National Book Auctions of upstate New York rounding out at 100% (technically, Profiles' sell-through rate was 99.997%). New England Book Auction, as always, was right there with 99%.

The highest median price went to Sotheby's in New York at $11,875. Sotheby's Milan was next at $11,318 on a very small number of lots, while Christie's London also reached five figures at $10,759. A total of 18 houses/locations had mean sales figures over $1,000, including 5 Bonham's locations, 4 of Christie's and Sotheby's, and Doyle, New York, Artcurial Briest, Paris, Swann's, New York, and Jescheke, Berlin. For those with more modest budgets, 6 houses had medians below $100, another 9 between $100 and $200. The highest average sale was at Sotheby's, New York, at $25,726, followed by Christie's, London, at $22,742. Average prices much higher than medians is a sign that some very expensive items were sold by those houses. A single million-dollar item can greatly skew the average price, but has little impact on the median (which is why we use median prices as offering a better representation of market conditions).

Three percent of lots offered went for over $1,000. That's down a point from last year. Once again, Christie's in New York was the leader in this category with 849 items selling for at least four figures. National Book Auctions had the greatest number of inexpensive items, 3,206 lots under $100. They have a lot of interesting and surprising material, so you might want to check them out if your personal finances have not yet experienced a rebound.

If you are subscriber to AE's services at any paid level (Visitor, Research, or Premium), you can check out all seven charts, including detailed information about results from 468 auctions at 76 auction houses. Be sure you are logged in, and then click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), An Original Manuscript Page of text from <i>Finnegan’s Wake</i>, the opening of the Anna Livia Plurabelle section. €7,500-10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Chamber Music,</i> 1907. First Edition of his First Book, First Issue. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Lady Gregory’s Copy Signed by W.B. Yeats, Cuala Press: Yeats (W.B.), <i>Poems Written in Discouragement</i>, 1913. Limited to 50 Copies Only. €2,500-4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> A Twentieth Century Masterpiece: O’Brien (Flann), <i>At Swim-Two-Birds</i>, 8vo, 1939. First Edn. €1,750-2,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> The Missing Log of the H.M.S. Liffey Manuscript Journal, 1867. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Exceptionally Rare First Publication: Gregory (Augusta Lady), <i>Over the River: An appeal for aid to a poor parish in South London</i>. 1887. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Ex. Rare Irish Broadsheet: An Irish Perspective on the Execution of Louis XVI, 1793 Broadsheet with engraving of the event, headed: “Massacre of the French King.” €500-700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Original Manuscript Poem, Heaney (Seamus), <i>The Schoolbag</i>. In Memoriam John Hewitt. Signed and dated November 8 1991. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Sowerby (J.E.), <i>English Botany; or Coloured Figures of British Plants</i>. Ed. by J.T. Boswell Syme. 10 vols, with 1696 hand-coloured plates. €750-1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Collection of Signed First Editions incl. Francis (Dick), <i>Nerve</i> (London 1964); <i>For Kicks</i> (London 1965); <i>Forfeit</i> (London 1968). €400-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Le Carre (John), <i>The Spy who came in from the Cold</i>, 8vo, 1963, First Edn., with author’s signature tipped in on t.p. €350-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Adams (Richard), <i>Watership Down</i>, 8vo, 1976, First Illustrated Edn., Signed on f.e.p. by Author & Artist, and also signed by Artist on hf. title. €200-300
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> The 1936 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, Presented to Victor Franz Hess for His Discovery of Cosmic Radiation. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Sangorski & Sutcliffe: Jewelled Binding. Byron, Lord [George Gordon]. An illuminated manuscript on vellum, being Byron's <i>Ode to Napoleon.</i> $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Ruscha, Ed. Complete Set of 16 Artist's Books by Ed Ruscha. Various Places: Various Publishers, 1968-1973. All first printings, seven signed or with early inscriptions. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> McKenney, Thomas L. and James Hall. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America.</i> Fine and unsophisticated subscriber's copy in early state. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Williams, Thomas Lanier ("Tennessee Williams"). Producer Charles K. Feldman's file on the production of <i>The Glass Menagerie</i>(Warner Bros., 1950). $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Lee, Harper. Archive of correspondence including 35 autograph letters signed (mostly "Harper", but a few "H", "H.L." or "Nelle Harper"). $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Tocqueville, Alexis de. <i>De la Démocratie en Amérique.</i> First editions of both parts of Tocqueville's classic <i>Democracy In America</i>. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Complete set of all periodical publications of The Royal Geographical Society 1831-1948, comprising 203 volumes with thousands of plates and maps, many folding. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Alchemy. Loewens and Richard. <i>Universal Medicin ex regulo stellato.</i> Original alchemical manuscript written in German and Latin, ink on paper. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Bray, Anna Eliza. <i>Life of Thomas Stothard, R.A. with Personal Reminiscences.</i> Remarkable 10-volume collection of Stothard's work, expansively extra-illustrated. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Algren, Nelson. Producer Charles Feldman's extensive production archive of <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i> (Columbia 1962). $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Elliot, Daniel Giraud. <i>The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America.</i> First edition, one of only 200 copies printed. $10,000 to $15,000
  • <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Hobson, R.L. <i>A catalogue of Chinese pottery and porcelain in the collection of Sir Percival David</i> (London, 1934). Est. € 8.000-10.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Chagall, M. <i>Drawings for the bible</i>. (Paris, 1960). Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Delft kabels</i> (Delft, 1933). Est. € 20.000-30.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Normalieënboekje</i> (Delft, 1924-1926). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Russian children's books]. Mayakovsky, V. Kem byt'? (What to be?) (Moscow, 1932). Est. € 500-700
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Léger, F.]. Cendrars, B. <i>La Fin du Monde filmée par l'Ange</i> N.-D (Paris, 1919). Est. € 2.000-3.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Roche, E. <i>Indische Baukunst</i> (Munich, 1921-1922). Est. € 3.000-5.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> Blume, C.L. <i>Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium./ Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium </i> (Brussels, 1828). Est. € 7.000-9.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> <i>Description de l'Égypte (…) pendant l'expédition de l'armée francaise</i> (Paris, 1820-1829). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Fontaine, J. de. <i>Fables choisies, mises en vers </i> (Paris, 1756).<br>Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> [VOC and WIC]. Pelsaert, F. <i>Ongeluckige Voyagie, Van 't Schip Batavia, Nae de Oost-Indien</i> (Amsterdam, 1647).<br>Est. € 40.000-60.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions June 2:</b> Goya y Lucientes, F.J. de. <i>La Taureaumachie </i> (Paris, 1876), 40 etchings and aquatints. Est. € 8.000-10.000
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Columnis (Guido de). <i>Historia destructionis Troiae</i>, first edition, 1477-79.<br>Est. £30,000 - 40,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Modus versificando. Extraordinary sammelband of 21 works collected by a German humanist, 1492-1519. Est. £40,000 - 60,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Mary I & King Philip II. Letter signed to Lord Paget signed "Mary the Quene" and "Philipp R" and endorsed "By the King and the Quene", 1p., Westminster, 29th January 1555.<br>Est. £18,000 - 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Pontanus (Ludovicus). <i>Singularia</i>, Lyon, 1517. Est. £4,000 - 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Confidential Agent</i>, first edition, 1939. Est. £1,500 - 2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Dodgson (Rev. C.L.). <i>The Hunting of the the Snark</i>, presentation copy inscribed by the author, 1876. Est. £2,500 - 3,500
    <b>Forum Auctions: Important Books & Manuscripts. May 24, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Bacon (Sir Francis). <i>The Tvvoo Bookes of Francis Bacon</i>, first edition, 1605. Est. £1,000 - 1,500
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Metcalf (John Henry). <i>Armorial Sketches</i>, manuscript 1850. Est. £2,000 - 3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions May 24:</b> Firdausi (Abu'l-Qasim). <i>Shahnama [The Book of Kings]</i>, with 20 minaitures, probably Kashmir, [late 18th/early 19th century]. Est. £2,000 - 3,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions