Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2015 Issue

Changing Valuations

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Euro/dollar diverging recently

Over the past year we have seen substantial changes in auction outcomes as expressed in US dollars.  Auctions of course are priced in local currencies, the dollar, pound [-5%] and euro [-12.5] predominate but there are also sales in Mexican pesos, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars [-27.5% ] Swiss francs and occasionally a few others.  We always convert to dollars to make comparison easier.  This said, this past year has seen dramatic shifts in currency values that are affecting the overall market by creating larger differences in outcome by region.

 

Of course, in a perfect world, prices would seamlessly adjust day-to-day and place-to-place to reflect exchange differences but that is not always happening.  We can tell because, while the number of auction lots in Europe continued to increase in the first half of 2015, the continent, which has wrestled both with the “Greek problem” and resistance to the monetary easing that has been employed in the United States, have seen outcomes reported in euros weaken.  These differences have made the euro particularly unstable and for the first time in memory suggest, we think mistakenly, that the long-term trend toward a worldwide auction market is losing steam.  It is not but it is a reminder that the euro is an incomplete experiment.

 

Auction sales, by dollars and units, do not always increase.  We see periodic declines because of uncertainty, be it war, recession or depression.  We know that sellers, when they feel this uncertainty, waxing prudent, withhold material and or impose higher reserves to protect themselves against momentary bidding collapses.  And auction houses by and large reflect this reality by not disclosing reserves [which can and do get quietly adjusted] based on market conditions and consignor cold feet.  After all, from seller commitment to the banging down of the auctioneer’s hammer, it often takes six months and not uncommonly a year.  And in that time a lot can happen.

 

Beyond all consideration for life’s uncertainties the introduction of dramatic shifts in exchange rates presents opportunities and risks not seen since the 1970s, the last time that auctions were essentially local and often not accessible to distant bidders.  Theoretically, an item should be worth the same in London, Paris and New York and the Rare Book Hub Transaction Database assumes this to be the case.  But this spring’s results suggest that local prices do not so effortlessly adjust.

 

Such shifts are as often political as they are economic.  China recently devalued the Yuan to keep their factories operating at full capacity.  They did so because they felt the need to maintain a 7% growth rate, a rate that is the envy of the developed world.   But the underlying story is that as the general population shifts from county to city more people need jobs and in a Communist country the government is expected to provide them.  Keeping people on the farm so to speak is fine for some but for many others the challenge and economic advantages of the city lead to unrest if the need is not met.  In other words, China devalued to maintain social order.

 

In Europe the euro is the outcome of a social system that also manages economic integration.  The European union is clearly more a social than economic alliance and perhaps their deepest motivation is to avoid war.  They have their history and it is a bloody one.  Through economic alliance they hope to minimize conflict.  And they are succeeding.  But they are also packaging Germany and Greece in the same currency package and it’s an untested idea being tested for the first time.

 

The United States, before they were united, was a short-lived confederation that quickly gave way to the subjugation of states rights to a unified central government.  Today’s EU is the equivalent of America’s confederation and many expect the United States of Europe to become the logical long-term outcome.

 

While the EU labors on the euro will continue to be periodically unstable, for itself and by extension, casting instability among other currencies.  One outcome will be unusually significant differences in European auction results when translated into US dollars, numbers that on their face suggest weakness this spring but that, when examined more closely, simply reflect Europe’s social, political and economic transformation from a group of counties to a group of states.

 

Finally another way to look at the data is to set aside the assumption that auction results should be uniformly expressed in dollars.  When all results are converted into euros rather than dollars the first six months of 2015 show a 2% gain rather than an 18% decline.  The world is changing and we will adjust our methodology as/when needed.

 

The following analysis compares the past eight years’ January-June auction sales expressed in both dollars and euros. 

 

January-June Sales from 2008-2015

     
               
 

In US Dollar Terms

Average FX Rate

In Euro Terms

 

 

$mm

% Growth

EUR/USD

% Growth

€mm

% Growth

 

1H 2008

$247

 

1.56

 

€ 159

   

1H 2009

$135

(45%)

1.35

(13%)

€ 100

(37%)

 

1H 2010

$169

25%

1.31

(3%)

€ 129

29%

 

1H 2011

$190

12%

1.43

9%

€ 133

3%

 

1H 2012

$307

62%

1.30

(9%)

€ 236

78%

 

1H 2013

$322

5%

1.31

1%

€ 246

4%

 

1H 2014

$345

7%

1.37

5%

€ 251

2%

 

1H 2015

$283

(18%)

1.11

(19%)

€ 256

2%

 

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Pushkin, Alexander. <i>Evgenii Onegin. A novel in verse.</i> A first edition of the most important work in Russian literature in its original parts, 1825–32. £120,000 to £160,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Gogol, Nikolai. <i>Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka.</i> A rare first edition of Gogol's first masterpiece, 1831–32. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Darwin, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> First edition, owned and read by two contemporaries of Darwin. London: John Murray, 1859. £140,000 to £200,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Galilei, Galileo. <i>Sidereus Nuncius.</i> First edition, announcing the first astronomical discoveries made with the telescope. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, [March] 1610. £300,000 to £500,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> The seal of Wulfric. England, first half 11th century. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Bible, <i>Ezechiel</i> in Latin. [Northern Italy, 5th century]. £120,000 to £180,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Blaeu, Jan and Willem Blaeu. <i>Grooten Atlas [Atlas Major]</i>. Amsterdam: Johannes Blaeu, 1664. £450,000 to £650,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Petites Heures of Charles VIII use of Paris, in Latin. An exquisite Hours illuminated by the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse. [Paris, 1490s]. £300,000 to £500,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930

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