Auction Update Review
This past week thirteen sales were archived. Together they raised $12,321,317. One sale, Christie's Prints & Multiples made most of the money: $7,952,813.
This week in AE Monthly we introduced a new measure of auction performance, a comparison of each sale's total proceeds divided by the aggregate high estimate of all items. In isolation the number doesn't mean much. Seen in comparison to concurrent sales and to other sales by the same house it provides important insight. For auctions archived this past week this number was 71.13. Christies had the highest index: 113.41, two sales were in the 40s, 5 others in the 50s. Just as there are stocks and stock markets there are items sold at auction that are part of an ever changing auction market. We are working to create a sense of comparative performance between auction houses in the same way we have tried to create a comparison between material on listing sites and at auction.
The news going forward isn't going to be bad, only different. Collectors will find exceptional values in the auction rooms in the year ahead so long as they are bidding in an open marketplace and not against undisclosed reserves. When they have to pay up let it be because the demand is there, not because a seller demands it. These new statistics will evolve into a clear picture of which houses are best able to balance consignor demands and market requirements. It's not easy but a healthy market depends on it. Given the opportunity, material will find its own level, and collectors bid if the process is credible.
In this spirit I'll send a second collection of material, Americana 1626-1850, to auction in December. Both estimates and reserves will be low; my sources, dates purchased and prices paid published in the lot descriptions.
This is not a world of rare books, manuscripts and ephemera your Grandfather would recognize. It's entirely new and reconstructing itself again and again. The world of collecting has never been more complex or more interesting.
May 2, 2010