Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

A Positive Trend for Regional Auction Houses

$25 a word


By Bruce McKinney


Leslie Hindman Auctioneers of Chicago struck gold with 3,129 words which they sold for $79,300 or $25.34 each. These words were written in 1880 by Samuel Clemens in his hand, the manuscript document, chapter XLII of 'A Tramp Abroad.' One can only imagine what Twain would say about this today. Possibly nothing. Rather he might write a note saying something like. "I'm happy to hear the news. Please pay me $250." This note is of course ten words. Whether he would demand a premium for large words is unknown. In Chicago recently Leslie Hindman made no distinction. Sam would no doubt be happy just to know that he is remembered and that since he slipped off this mortal coil one hundred years ago his words continue to be valued.

That Twain's words are valuable will surprise no one. That they are rising in Chicago is encouraging and part of a trend that sees more important books going to auction in regional centers. The economic distinctions, for the auction business, between New York and London and other major cities in the United States and Europe is narrowing just a bit. In the evolving world that incorporates the internet into everyday experience material consigned locally is increasingly selling nationally. Consignments after all are physical and usually vetted locally. That such material then consigned locally can reach an international audience and achieve pricing parity with the major auction houses is something new and good news for Chicago and other auction venues.

Such was the case with this chapter of Mark Twain that was consigned by a regional estate to a Chicago auction house and sold to a private buyer in the northeast. Not so many years ago such items might have brought less outside of New York. By all reports, the price achieved in Chicago is a record.

According to Mary Williams, Director of Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman, while Hindman is a full service house selling all kinds of consignments in catalogued sales throughout the year they gather books and manuscripts into three specialist sales a year to intensify interest. In this way extensive cataloguing and promotion are possible. Recently they issued their first printed book catalogue with color. With the pricing differential between major and minor venues narrowing we can expect to see more regional catalogues. Ms. Williams indicated their threshold for cataloguing single owner sales is generally lower than New York houses.

For Chicago and mid-west consignors it's a very nice opportunity. Catalogued books usually obtain better outcomes.

For auction houses, consignors and bidders elsewhere it's an indication that the rules are changing. What is already working in Chicago, Boston [Skinner's] and New Orleans [Neal] can certainly work in Atlanta, St. Louis and Denver and across western Europe.

As with most things in life there's only one enduring rule: Change is inevitable. Machiavelli [1469-1527] said it this way, "Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times." It was true then. It is true now.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions