• <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
  • <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>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton's Appointment as Aide-De-Camp to General George Washington. $150,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Correspondence about his reputation as a soldier and a gentleman nearly provoking a duel, 1779. $100,000 -150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. The earliest surviving love letter from Hamilton to his future wife Elizabeth Schuyler. $40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to Elizabeth Schuyler; a love letter that also announces the arrival of French General Rochambeau. $15,000 – 20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter to Elizabeth Schuyler, announcing the treason of Benedict Arnold. $35,000 – 50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to Elizabeth Hamilton, announcing that the army is preparing to engage Cornwallis in Virginia. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter draft to John Jay, concerning his lawsuit against Lewis Littlepage and Henry Brockholst Livingston. $10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph notes prepared for President Washington's third annual message to congress. $15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. A prevously unrecorded autograph draft of Pacificus essay no. VI.<br>$300,000 – 500,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts. January 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Autograph letter draft to an unnamed recipient (but possibly Jeremiah Wadsworth), regarding the presidential election of 1796. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b><br>Philip Hamilton. Autograph letter signed to his father, Alexander Hamilton, ("Dear Papa"), discussing his schooling and his desire to be "a good man." $8,000 – 12,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York Jan 18:</b> Alexander Hamilton. Two autograph memoranda, one with a diagram, planning the gardens at the grange. $15,000 – 25,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2010 Issue

Exit Strategies - Getting Out (A Bad News - Good News Story)

Halas4-10

What do you do with your books when it's time to exit?


By Susan Halas

As book values slide and taste changes, boomers age, and new technologies play an ever larger role in the book trade - dealers and collectors increasingly ponder their exit strategies. There are lots of ways to get out of the book business, but few are fast, and even fewer it seems are profitable.

This month AE spoke with a wide range of individuals and firms. These were collectors and dealers who either had recently left the trade or were seriously contemplating downsizing, refocusing or completely closing shop. Though almost all were willing to talk about their situations, almost nobody wanted to be quoted for attribution. Given a high degree of confidential information associated with this topic we'll try to hit the highlights without revealing too many of the specific details.

The Bad News

Most AE Monthly readers already know the bad news: As more and more inventory comes to market prices, even for good books in good condition, continue to decline with no sign this trend will end or rebound. On the contrary, indicators are strong that eBooks, Kindle, the wide availability of free on-line content for previously out-of-print titles, print-on demand and other innovations will make even greater inroads into what was once the territory of the printed book and continue to erode book values.

The Train Wreck Scenario

When AE asked for comments on this topic our IN box filled rapidly with train wreck scenarios.

Take for example the dealer who decided to put it all on eBay. Such a deal - he offered thousands of volumes of clean stock at a low starting price with no reserve. Shazam!! It sold. It sold for 10 cents on the dollar. That was not 10 cents on the dollar of retail value, that was 10 cents on the dollar of his original cost!

Then there was the bricks and mortar store in the college town that finally couldn't make it any more. They held a huge liquidation sale which did indeed clear the shelves and brought in enough cash to cover their debts. Prices started at 50% off; each week there were even further reductions until it was 90% off. What was left sold by box and the rest went to Goodwill. They got out in three months and the average selling price for nearly 100,000 volumes came to less than a buck a book.

If that's not grim enough, consider the widow of a long time specialist. She died and left a will saying that her heirs were to have equal shares of her book collection, other collectibles, papers and copyrights. She named a family friend as her executor, a local lawyer who knew nothing about the books or the book business. Her children did know something about the trade but they had very different ideas about what constituted an "equal share."

The body was hardly cold before they were at each other tooth and nail. With lawyer in the middle and the meter running at $250 an hour it took two years to settle the estate. The beneficiaries each got some of what their mother would have wanted them to have, however they still aren't speaking to each other.

Here's what one of the heirs in that drama had to say: "If you're thinking about passing books and other collections on to the next generation give it while you're still alive. If you don't want these things to actually transfer until you die, at least designate book-by-book, picture-by-picture, map-by-map: Who is it for? Who do you want to have it? What is fair? If our mother had made these decisions while she was still alive, it could have been so simple. Instead it was miserable, bitter and expensive."

The Good News

The good news is you can get out, and there are at least a few recent examples of people who have gotten out without taking a beating, but… it takes time, a certain Zen like detachment, and realistic valuation.

What are your books worth? Do you want to sell them one at a time or as a collection? Are you expecting to get as much or more than you paid for each and every one of them? If so you might have an unpleasant surprise in store. Over and over again the sellers who did well pointed out that a very high percentage of the value is usually concentrated in a very small number of items.

Let's say it again: accurately valuing your holdings is critical. That means separating the true high value items from the mid range and the low to no value books. Accurate realistic valuation is the first step toward an exit strategy that maximizes the return for each category. It takes time and planning.

One high profile collector who spoke with AE recently held a profitable auction of some of his books. He shopped many of the major auction houses and went with the one that gave him the best deal. "The well promoted well attended event doesn't just happen," he stressed. "You have to make it happen; you have to be on top of it."

As for the time frame - estimates varied but most took several years. "Take it in six month increments," he advised. "Plan what you're going to do. Know the value of what you have. Auctions aren't for everyone, but auction records are a pretty reliable indicator of value and scarcity."

In his view when the time comes to sell the collection or inventory that features a "collage" approach and includes books as well as many kinds of related materials such as photos, prints, maps, ephemera and other relevant items will bring a higher price and find a better home than the "books only" collection.

He also emphasized the need for a certain amount of critical detachment. "Many of the people I see," he said, "are not really dealers. They're collectors who got into selling as a way to fund their book buying habit. They have a hard time imagining a life without their books. They equate selling with dying. It's not surprising they put it off."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Princezna Hyacinta</i>, 1911. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b><br><i>Les Maîtres de l'Affiche</i>, 5 volumes, Paris, 1896-1900.<br>$35,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Job</i>, 1896.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Bleuze - Hadancourt Parfumeur</i>, circa 1899.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Lygie</i>, 1901. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Babylone d'Allemagne</i>, 1894.<br>$30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Zodiac / La Plume</i>, 1896. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>The Seasons</i>, 4 panels on silk, 1900.<br>$15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret</i>, 1893. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26: Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Monaco / Monte-Carlo</i>, 1897. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Medee / Sarah Bernhardt</i>, 1898. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jan 26:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Confetti</i>, 1894. $40,000 to $60,000.
  • <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Cassilly Adams, Civil War era watercolor on paper painting of the navy vessel upon which he was stationed: the U.S.S. Osage. $3,000 – 5,000
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Audubon, John James and John Bachman, <i>The Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: V.G. Audubon, 1854. 3 volumes. $2,400 – 3,400
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Roulstone, George. <i>LAWS OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE.</i> Printed and published by George Roulstone, Knoxville, (Tennessee), 1803. $2,000 – 3,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Heap, Gwin Harris. <i>CENTRAL ROUTE TO THE PACIFIC, FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSISSIPPI TO CALIFORNIA…</i> Philadelphia/London, 1854.<br>$1,800 – 2,200
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> FDR’s personal copy of <i>The Great Smoky Mountains"</i> by Laura Thornborough. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1937.<br>$1,500 – 1,800
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Latour, Arsene Lacarriere. <i>HISTORICAL MEMOIR OF THE WAR IN WEST FLORIDA AND LOUISIANA IN 1814 – 1815. WITH AN ATLAS.</i> Philadelphia, 1816.<br>$1,200 – 1,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> [Kennedy Autograph Signature] Kennedy, John F. <i>Profiles in Courage.</i> New York Harper & Brothers, (1956).<br>$1,200 – 1,500
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Sam Houston signed land document, granting Elias Riddle 100 acres in Bledsoe County, Tennessee "in the grassy cove…" dated February 22, 1828.<br>$1,000 – 1,200
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> "The State of Kentucky with Adjoining Territories" Map, by John Payne, engraved by John Scoles, published by John Low, New York, 1800. $500 – 700
    <b>Case Antiques: Winter Art and Antiques Auction. January 21, 2017</b>
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> Civil War era letter and 4 carte de visites, including Confederate Generals. $300 – 500
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> 12 Bank of East Tennessee Pre Civil War Bills. $350 – 450
    <b>Case Antiques Jan. 21:</b> 2 Early Homeopathy books by Alva Curtis. $300 – 400

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