• <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A patriot who fought with George Washington Superb Daguerreotype of Baltus<br>Stone at age 101 (1846).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Edward Curtis portrait of Honovi, Walpi Snake Priest "Honovi was one of the author's principal informants" (1910).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Execution of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators by Alexander Gardner (1865).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the other siblings with their father Lyman Beecher. By Mathew Brady (1850s).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> From Slaves to World-Famous Entertainers Millie-Christine, "The Two-Headed Nightingale" (c. 1868-71)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Goldfield, Nevada Photograph Collection Fabled Western Mining Boomtown (1905-1906)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Tycoon-Collector Benjamin Richardson poses with his great-grandson as appeared in parade.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Alexander Gardner portrait of Lincoln the only known copy, ex-John Hay (1863).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Magnificent Niagara Falls album with a strong provenance (1867).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Spectacular American West Album From Yosemite to Salt Lake City to San Francisco.
  • <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 14. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection... 1859.</i>. US$ 60,000-80,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. Smith, Adam. 1723-1790. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 224. CIVIL WAR. Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War [1865-1866]. US$ 120,000-180,000.
    255 — add to caption: First Edition, Subscriber’s Copy
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 270. Serra, Junipero. 1713-1774, ET AL. Pangua, Francisco. Letter in Spanish, 1775. US$ 60,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 77. Apple 1 Motherboard, with label "Apple Computer 1 / Palo Alto. Ca. Copyright 1976." US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. The 1934 Nobel Prize Medal for Physiology or Medicine. Presented to George Minot. US$ 200,000-300,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 39. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. Autograph Letter Signed ("Ch. Darwin"). US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 4. Lubieniecki, Stanislaw. 1623-1675. <i>[Theatri Cometici pars posterior] Historia Cometarum...</i> US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 3. Vera rare George III mahogany and engraved brass orrery. US$ 200,000-250,000.
  • <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 163. Stéphane Mallarmé. An autograph manuscript for <i>Un coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le Hasard</i>. [Avril Ou Début MAI 1897]. Est. 500,000-800,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 109. Manet, Edouard - Edgar Allan Poe - Stéphane Mallarmé. <i>Le Corbeau. The Raven. 1875</i>. Est 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 152. Edgar Degas. <i>Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé and Auguste Renoir</i>, [16 Décembre 1895]. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 15. Baudelaire, Charles. <i>Les Fleurs du Mal. Paris, Poulet-Malassis et De Broise, 1861.</i> <br>Est. 80,000 - 120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 137. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Vers Sur un Galet D'Honfleur. [Eté 1892 OU Été 1894.] Est. 5,000-8,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 48. Gide, André - Maurice Denis. <i>Le Voyage d'Urien. Paris, Librairie de L’Art indépendant, 1893.</i> Est. 20,000-30,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 103. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edgar Allan Poe. Manuscripts Autographs. [1870-1875 ET 1869]. Est. 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 107. [Revue - Stéphane Mallarmé] La Derniere Mode. Gazette du monde et de la famille. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 110. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edouard Manet. <i>L’après midi d'un Faune. Églogue. Paris, 1876.</i> Est. 30,000-50,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 160. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Premier état D'un Un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard. Manuscrit Autographe. [1897].<br>Est. 60,000-80,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 164. Mallarmé, Stephane. 6 jeux d’épreuves Pour un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard De l’édition définitive chez Vollard. Est. 100,000-150,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 198. [Méry Laurent] <i>Liber Amicorum De Méry Laurent</i>. 1875-Fin Des Années 1890]. Est. 50,000-80,000 EUR.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

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


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>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 52. Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Snoopy Baseball Strip, U.S.A, 1964. Starting price $16,000.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 6.<br>Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), 'Max, Where the Wild Things Are', Pen & Ink, 2012. Starting price $1,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 13.<br>Leo Rijn after Dr. Seuss, Cowfish Maquette, U.S.A, 1998. Signed on stand. Starting price $1,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 17.<br>Dr. Seuss, Untitled, Color Pen & Ink, C. 1940. Signed ‘Dr Seuss’ lower left. Starting price $4,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 19.<br>Dr. Seuss, ‘I wonder how I offended George…’ Pen & Ink, C. 1930. Starting price $7,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 29.<br>Disney Studios, 'Queen, Snow White', Concept Sketch, U.S.A., C. 1937. Starting price $3,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 30.<br>Marc Davis, 'Sleeping Beauty in a Meadow', Production Cel, 1959. Signed. Starting price $1,200.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 50.<br>Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Daily Strip, USA, 1966. Signed 'Schulz'. Starting price $10,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 58.<br>Chuck Jones, Signed, hand-painted Production Cels from Duck Dodgers, 1952. Starting price $4,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 77.<br>Stan Lee, Marvel Studios, Bishop,<br>X-Men, Production Cel, C.1995. <br>Starting price $240.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 79.<br>Warner Bros, 'New Adventures of Superman', C. 2000. Production Cel. Starting price $300.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 84.<br>Tim Burton, Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas, C. 1993. Starting price $1,500.00.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to Senator John William Clark Watson, Richmond, 1865. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph poem by John Quincy Adams from an album kept by Abby Smith, w. inscription signed by her grandfather, John Adams, 1820s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Typed letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt to assemblyman Michael A. Schapp, New York, 1913. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Richard Wagner to Hofkapellmeister Max Seifriz, Zürich, 1853. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to librettist Paul Collin, 1888. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> <i>Katalog der Wiener Kunstschau</i> signed and inscribed by Egon Schiele, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Letter signed by Mohandas K. Gandhi to Dr. John Haynes Holmes, Sevagram, 1940. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to Dulce Brito, circa 1957. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Two typed letters signed by William Faulkner, Los Angeles, 1943. $4,000 to $6,000.

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