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

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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pseudo-Methodius, <i>De revelatione facta . . . beato Methodio,</i> Basel, 1504. $2,500 to $3,500.
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