Auction Update Review
Once or twice a year there are no auctions to archive. This is one of those weeks. Two sales were conducted but their realized prices have yet to be confirmed. The quiet masks what may be one of the most important auction seasons in decades upcoming this fall.
Prices rose to unsustainable levels over the past five years and are now returning to earth. The hope is that the 100,000 or so lots to be offered by Christmas will confirm that the bottom is in. I personally believe that is the case.
Once auction realizations stabilize it will then be the task of listing sites and those listing on these sites to figure out how to bring asking prices into line. Historically, auction realizations have run at a 7-10 ratio. Recently that ratio has been 5-10. If it takes years for listing prices to adjust the auction market may gain an advantage. Today only about 10% of book, manuscript and ephemera sales pass through the auction rooms. That percentage could increase. For booksellers a lot is at stake.
The hope of many this fall is that prices at auction firm. That could obviate the need to adjust online listing prices. While a small percentage of material passes through the rooms these transactions provide transparency on current valuation and imply valuations for the entire field.
Several important collections will test the market this fall. We'll know soon enough.
August 16, 2009