Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2003 Issue

An Interesting Americana Auction PBA Sale #264: Held May 29th

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By Bruce McKinney

Recently, (5/29/03), I attended an Americana Sale at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. It was an interesting experience. I was attracted by the large number of items in the field. In total there were 472 lots and perhaps 400 of them cleanly fit into the field. The estimates seemed about right. Books that on ABE might be selling for $80 to $250 were estimated $100 to $150. The bidding began at half the low estimate unless the consignor required a higher minimum and enough lots were sold at or close to half the low estimate to make it clear that the market rather than the consignors were determining the prices. Seventy-one percent of the lots sold.

As is often the case at auctions these days, many of the lots had condition problems. These issues were spelled out but it is nevertheless difficult to translate awareness of problems into decisions about whether to bid and then of course into specific bidding limits. Overall it was a very interesting and well described sale. Both the catalogue descriptions and the prices realized were ultimately consistent with the material offered.

This sale reflected the changing auction environment in the book trade. As with traditional book sales a catalogue was prepared. The descriptions were complete and in many cases extensive. For those who prefer to rely upon the written word, the catalogue was an effective guide.

The sale itself was conducted on four levels: in person, by order bid, by phone and on the internet. There weren’t many bidders present – by my count about seven. There were many order bids – that is, bids left on the book. Many of them, but not all, were relatively low. Then there were phone bids. Bidders, who had expressed interest in specific lots, were contacted ahead of these lots to give them the opportunity to bid. And finally, there was online real-time bidding that although it is still in its infancy looks to become a formidable power at auctions in the future.

Overall there was a good crowd. They just weren’t in the room.

This auction had the feeling I used to get walking into an arena an hour before the big game. Everything is ready. The staff is doing last minute stuff. There are already a few people sitting around. They’re taking the good seats now because they know the crowds will come. There is a sense of anticipation. If the future is now does not quite apply then the future is soon seems about right.

PBA also accepts credit card payments. They charge a 15% buyer’s premium but no additional charge for payment by credit card. This is a substantial concession to purchasers because it makes completion of the sale essentially automatic. For consignors it is also an advantage as it encourages bidding, thereby potentially increasing realizations.

PBA offers an in-house version of Æ’s Category and Keyword matching which, for buyers who only wish to buy at PBA, is useful. Æ employs these tools across the world to look at all auction houses. And we provide equal access to virtually all books on the net, in the belief that collectors collect books, libraries acquire copies and dealers build inventory and seek customers based on motivations that are larger than any single auction houses’ focus. Pacific Book Auctions is located in San Francisco at 133 Kearny Street. They maintain a website at www.pbagalleries.com

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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