Auction Update Review
The fall auction season, that began with concerns in September, ends in a few days amid mixed messages about the health of the collectible works on paper field. Along the way there have been high points and lows, sometimes in the same week.
Increasingly there are two views of the auctions: the rest of the world and mine. The general perception of auctions is as a channel, a level, a method that reverses the traditional book selling model of setting the price and letting the time vary. With auctions, the time of sale is set and the price varies. Often auctions try to have it both ways - setting both the time and the price. It sometimes works for the consignor but often fails for the buyer. It's a particularly ineffective practice in declining markets and is the reason that many houses have seen their sell-rates decline.
What I see is an emerging "event driven" approach to auctions. This is simply recognition that auctions are a group of people in pursuit of the same thing at the same time and that if you create an event you increase participation and bids. In 2010 we'll work with auction houses to create these events. They will help the market recover.
With four days to go in 2009 there is still one auction to be run. Take a good look. It's Dirk Solis's sale on December 29. [See the December calendar] Click on 12/29. Item 1. is a 1541 Lyon imprint that brought more than a $1,000 in 2007. Lot 3. is another early imprint: SEMINARIUM ET PLANTARIUM printed in 1540. A copy estimated at 500-800 Euros failed to sell in 2008. This copy is estimated $200-300. Between football games its worth a look.
Mike Stillman is preparing an article on the Top 500 books, manuscripts & ephemera lots at auction in 2009. Look for it in the January issue of AE Monthly.
December 27, 2009