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>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <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
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <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
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <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.
    <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <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
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <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
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <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
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <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
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin, France, mid-15th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b><br><i>Die Ernsthaffte Christenpflicht,</i> earliest known edition of the first complete Mennonite prayer book, 1708. $300 to $500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Georg Agricola, <i>De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib V.,</i> first edition, Basel, 1546. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Frederick Ruysch, <i>Icon durae matris in concava [convexa] superficie visae,</i> with 2 mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral, first edition, Amsterdam, 1737. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, <i>Eine Neue Art von Strahlen,</i> Würzburg, 1895. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pietro Carrera, <i>Il Gioco de gli Scacchi,</i> first edition, Militello, 1617. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> William Lithgow, <i>The Totall Discourse, of the Rare Adventures</i> [etc.], London, 1632. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <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.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Hrabanus Maurus, <i>De laudibus sancte crucis opus,</i> Pforzheim, 1503. $1,000 to $2,000.

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