Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2013 Issue

Slow Auction

More reasons to be online. A Clipart illustration

For many reasons books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera get sold.  In the collectible field we tend to think of single items but there are reasons for selling larger quantities too.  It can be someone who is narrowing his or her focus or a dealer preparing to retire.  For collectors it’s the material personally appreciated but outside the current collecting scope or already passed over as other items have been sold or been consigned, in other words; the residue.  For material in all these categories and, inevitably others I simply haven’t thought of, there comes a time when the need to dispose becomes pressing, even necessary.

Such material isn’t necessarily unimportant but it probably has become difficult to sell.  There’s money in it but no liquidity.  As an example many, and I assume most, dealers have material they acquired for a song or perhaps for real money with the expectation it would sell but simply hasn’t.  The best dealers look ahead buying the next big thing that sometimes never becomes the next big opportunity.  Sometimes it becomes the forgotten thing.  Eventually such material will be sold or given away.

The same is true for the collector who sold his high points easily and has been left with the residue he still believes has value.  Libraries too have material that never make it into the stacks and now won’t.  Such material too needs a path to the exit, one providing a fair prospect for an adequate price and a high probability of sale.

My suggestion to achieve this is a process called Slow Auction.

Auctions are events, the material selected, described and advertised.  This is what auction houses believe will sell.  In selecting 500 items they considered thousands of others.  They use rules and experience and make, because they have to, categorical judgments.  This leaves interesting, if sometimes a bit too common or marginal, material out.   These rejected things stay on the shelves or are placed in boxes, their day will come but never did.

In a Slow Auction they will have their chance.  Here is how it works.

Most dealers have their inventory on line.  For those that do they simply select what they propose to sell.  It’s already priced.  Let’s say they select 1000 items to post.

The entire sale will take 63 days and the timing is important.  Auctions are intense events built around well-researched and illustrated catalogues and plenty of advertising.  Slow sales lack most of these attributes but they do have two things regular auctions don’t, a long time for interest to build and software that captures buyer interest [and bids] in a convenient way.  Here is what the auction schedule looks like -

Day 1 to day 7:                      $100 [the listed price]

Day 8 to Day 15                    $  80  [less 20% discount if still unsold]

Day 16 to day 21                  $  60  [less 40% discount]

Day 22 to day 28                  $  40  [less 60% discount ]

Day 29 to day 35                  $  20 [less 80% discount]

Day 36 to 42                          $  10 [less 90% discount]

Day 43 to 49                          $    5  [less 95% discount]

Day 50 to day 56                  $    1

57 to 63                                 Free to a good home

Each item has a “I’d like to follow this item” link as well as a “submit my offer if this item becomes available at $--.”  Thereafter, whenever there is a change, be it a sale or price reduction, the person following receives an email or instant message updating the status.

I think there should be various statistics for each item:

1.     the number of times an item has been seen;

2.     the number of people following;

3.     the number of bids pending

4.     the history of the listing from first posting through to any announcements of outcomes such as “Lot 341, Lefevre’s History of New Paltz, second edition.  Sold for $60, initial price $100, sold on the 22nd  day.

If hosted on AE there would be a nominal starting fee.  If the outcome is reported, half the listing fee would be credited against further listings.  The listing fee would be a percentage of the starting price so those posting may feel a desire to start lower.
          

Such a service can be provided on any listing site.  I’m describing what I believe has become necessary to help the field clear the accumulating millions of books.  Any site can do it.

If you have a response, questions or suggestions post them to this story.  I, and other readers, will read your comments and respond.

And personally, I can’t wait.


Posted On: 2013-07-01 00:00
User Name: Gene

Bruce, this is a terrific idea. I'm 70, still selling via catalogue & on standard internet sites; also still buying when I find interesting material --


Posted On: 2013-07-01 00:00
User Name: tweney

Some years ago, we had a small bookstore in a small town. We used a similar schedule, starting at 80%, moving to "free to a good home" over the course


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
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    & Collectors’ Sale
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    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
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    & Collectors’ Sale
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    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
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    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.

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