Fall is almost upon us, and this is the busiest time of year for auctions in the books and paper field. Over the next four months, we can expect to match or exceed last year's total of 165,000 lots offered. There will be many bargains, and there will also be occasions when a couple of competing bidders get carried away. Some very rare items will appear that you will never see again. As the season progresses, there will be times when as many as a dozen auctions take place on a single day. It is busy and exciting, but how do you find what you want amidst all the noise?
That's where the Rare Book Hub comes in. If you look at the top of this and most pages on this site, you will see a search box. Chances are, it says "Upcoming Auctions" to the left. If not, click the little arrow next to it and it will let you select "Upcoming Auctions" for the search.
Next, simply enter one or more keywords in the box and click "search." That's it! The more keywords you enter, the more targeted your search will be. If you want to see all lots pertaining to Mark Twain, entering "Twain" will suffice. If you only want Twain items pertaining to Huckleberry Finn, enter "Twain" and "Huckleberry" (or "Finn"). The search engine will find all listings that contain both of those words somewhere in the lot description, be it author, title, description, or other field. Use the minimum number of terms possible (one if you can) so you don't miss lots where a title has been shortened, or the auction house abbreviated some words.
The search takes only a fraction of a second to complete. You will be taken to a page that shows you all matches (click the image above to see one). It also provides a brief summary of key information about each lot, including author, title, year published, auction house, sale date and estimated price. You can then click the book's title to see the complete lot description. Alternatively, you can click the small rectangle after the title if you want to bring up the complete description in a separate tab/window. This way you can keep multiple lots open on your screen at the same time. If you see a small camera icon next to the title, it means that this listing contains an image.
What the Rare Book Hub search does is to search lots currently offered at over 150 auction houses around the world. Naturally, only some have auctions running at any given time, but that many houses offer books and paper at various times. To bid on an item, you will need to go to the individual auction house's website, and links are provided with each lot description. Virtually all auction houses now offer online and/or telephone bidding. The Rare Book Hub works like a Google search – helps you find what is available and then provides the link to take you there.
Once you have conducted an auction search, you will see two blue "records found" numbers just below the search box. One is for the Rare Book Transaction History, the other for Books for Sale. While looking for auction listings, the site is conducting two other searches in the background. These links will lead you to those results. Books for Sale is a database of listings from booksellers, matched by the same search criteria. Check them out. You may well find items more on target for what you seek being offered by a bookseller. The other is a link to listings in the Rare Book Transaction History, a database of over 5.8 million records, mostly priced auction records from the recent and distant past. Access to the transaction history requires a paid membership (at any level). Click the "Become a Member" link near the top right of the page to sign up. Access to the Upcoming Auctions and Books for Sale databases do not require membership. Access is free.
One other feature you will see, just above the list of matches, is a tab that says "Track this Record." This is an electronic notepad that lets you keep track of listings of interest. Select the items you want to remember (click the little box along the left edge of the listing) and click "Track this Record." The listing is saved. If it is an auction listing, the selling price will be posted to your saved record once the results are in. The little "?" (question mark) to the right of the "Track this Record" button tells you where to find these records. Since this is saving information specifically for you, naturally you will need to have an account and be logged in. However, there is no charge for this service either, so you can sign up for a free account as well as a paid one to use "Track this Record."
One final thought – come back here often to look for new listings. New ones will pop up most days of the week. Some auction houses only post lots a few days before a sale, so if you wait too long to return, you may miss the lot you have been seeking for years. You can expect momentum to rise through September and then continue at a very high pace until the middle of December, when most houses slow down for the holidays.