Auction Update Review
Auctions have a rhythm and their patterns change. Over the past one hundred years the auction market for printed materials has closely followed the economic climate. In the ten year run-up to the depression the business in rare books was spectacular, when the bubble burst the decline long and painful. Books are an aphrodisiac whose appeal will not wane but their prices do adjust. As the auctions archived this week suggest buyers are hanging back a bit. Perhaps it is the uncertainty in Greece or the speculation in Washington that Tea Partiers will cause an American Government debt default by blocking an increase in the debt ceiling. Whatever the causes declining prices of collectible books are not the culprits. They are simply some of the hostages. In effect the purchasing power of money is increasing and this is visible in the free-for–all in the auction rooms. It’s taking fewer British pounds, Euros and dollars to buy desirable books. We are lucky for the clarity that auctions are providing.
This was Bub Kuyper week. Of the twelve sales recently archived half of them were Bub Kuyper’s sales. They are auctioneers of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings and are located in the Netherlands. They offered 5,695 lots and sold 3,572 of them. Over four consecutive days, May 24th to May 27th, they offered more material than the majority of auction houses post in a year. On the American side such large sales anymore are never encountered. In the United States auction houses invariably carefully parse the lots and descriptions and calibrate them to the limited attention span of the book collecting public. This approach tends to provide comfortable results but the spectrum on offer is deceptively narrow. The Bub Kuyper results, which cover an extensive range, should remind all that one of the crucial aspects of auctions is to broadly re-price material as taste and economic circumstances change.
By providing a broad cross-section, they afford the opportunity for an honest appraisal and it suggests the field continues to be in flux with a negative bias. If not for auction houses rendering this essential service the market could be seriously mislead by the prices posted on listing sites. Auctions adjust while for the most part listings on listing sites don’t and the difference is increasing.
We are in the midst of a significant shift that is quite visible in Europe. The ability and willingness of the American auction market to handle a comparable re-pricing of middle market material will be very important.
For the first time in a while there are no reported auctions this week that reached 100% of their aggregate high estimates.
For the week ahead the following sales are scheduled:
Monday June 20th Dorotheum. Books and Decorative Prints;
Tuesday June 21st Piasa. Manuscripts – Second Vacation;
Wednesday June 22nd Bloomsbury. Vintage Posters;
Bonhams. Fine Books and Manuscripts;
Bonhams. 20th Century Illustration Art;
Thursday June 23rd Antiquarian Auctions – ZA. Rare Books;
Christie’s. Books and Manuscripts;
Cowan’s Auctions. American History
Friday June 24th Ader. Music and Movie Pictures - 4th part;
Alde. Autographs and Manuscripts;
Galerie Koller. Modern Prints;
Saturday June 25th Heritage. 2011 June Dallas Signature Arms and Militaria Auction;
Neal Auction Company. Summer Estates Auction with an important collection of Natural History and Historical Prints and Maps – Day 1;
Sunday June 26th Bruun Rasmussen. Books;
Bruun Rasmussen. Hans Christian Anderson
National Book. Books and Ephemera – Illustrators, Children, Americana;
Neal Auction Company. Summer Estates Auction with an important collection of Natural History and Historical Prints and Maps – Day 2.
All in all a busy week ahead.