Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

PBA:   New Ownership

Pba-5

Sharon Gee CEO, shown with Bruce MacMakin, Executive Vice President

On January 1st Sharon Gee acquired PBA Galleries in San Francisco.  PBA has a long history of service to the book, manuscript, map and ephemera trade, as well as to collectors and institutions.  Its presence on the West Coast in San Francisco has provided regional liquidity for more than fifty years.  In 2012 the firm offered approximately 10,000 lots in 25 sales and is one of the busiest auction houses in the field.

In making calls for reactions I encountered the opinion that “new ownership will be a strong positive for PBA,” a view offered by two long time observers both of whom added “but the road has not always been smooth.”  A decade ago Roger Wagner of San Diego acquired the firm, providing the financial resources and steadying hand that saved the company when it was going through a difficult period.  Today it is Ms. Gee who will see the company through to its next iteration.

The auction business has always been challenging.  During the Wagner years the firm rebuilt its position at the confluence of buyers and sellers by developing a broader market via the Internet.  “San Francisco is a book city and California a book state but we live in a book world.  Mr. Wagner gave us the support and resources to become a firm that sells around the world,” according to Bruce MacMakin, the firm’s Executive Vice President.

John Creighton of nearby Brick Row Books added, “it took a few years but the problems of a decade ago are gone, and in my view forgotten.  It’s great to have a serious auction house in downtown San Francisco.”

The firm has a long and storied history.  Maurice Powers organized the firm in 1955 as California Book Auction Galleries.  Over the next 35 years it moved within the city from Sutter to McAllister, on to Golden Gate Avenue and eventually to Mission Street where, on the steps of the bankruptcy court, Butterfield’s purchased the name and mailing list while leaving the nucleus of the firm intact.  Within months most of the original team had resurrected the Lazarus-like firm under its new name – Pacific Book Auction Galleries.  Today the lone survivor of this transition, Bruce MacMakin, is its Executive Vice President.

In 2008 the firm experienced, as did the entire auction field, the serious economic downturn brought on by the Wall Street meltdown, but the firm survived the challenging period and emerged as strong as ever. Under the new ownership Ms. Gee, whose background is in marketing, confirms the firm is continuing to concentrate on obtaining important consignments, provide expert descriptions and bring sales to the attention of bidders worldwide.  “The firm has a remarkable past but I understand we will be measured by how we advance.”

George Fox, the firm’s grey-haired rainmaker, sitting in his office and behind a mountain of yet-to-be-solds, spreads his arms to encompass the many treasures he’s brought in that are stacked up and waiting for consideration, “soon enough they’ll be in the rooms and on their way to collectors.” As a benediction he adds although its already obvious, “we all enjoy working here.”     



Posted On: 2013-02-01 00:00
User Name: baltobook

Dang - pictures of me and Bruce MacMakin on the same website at the same time! What a coup - two of the most photo-reluctant folks in the biz


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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