Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2005 Issue

2004 Auction Overview

Overall

Over 114,000 book-related lots sold at auction in 2004.


By Mike Stillman

Last month, we had the opportunity to look at the top 350 prices paid at book auctions in 2004 See: AE Top 350. This month we have a chance to dig more deeply into what happened. Auctions provide the critical data needed for understanding the book market because this is where sales are taking place in the open market. Prices on the bookselling sites like Abebooks and Alibris may be interesting, but books may sit there for years without selling. In some cases they are discounted when sold. As these sites' listings continue to grow at rates far outstripping sales, it's clear that many of these prices represent dreams, not reality. Auction prices are reality.

Getting an overall picture of book auction results has been extremely difficult because the information is scattered in catalogues and on websites all over the world. However, over a year ago, the Americana Exchange began compiling listings and results from auctions for its AE Database of books. While the intent was to make thousands of individual auction records available to Database subscribers, it has enabled us to take those records and sort them in numerous ways to create a picture of the overall market. That picture is most interesting. We now present those results to our readers as we think you will be as intrigued as we were.

In 2004 we covered 276 auctions, mostly in North America and Europe, offering over 114,000 lots. Currencies were usually U.S. Dollars, Euros, or British pounds. In some cases, we have used the selling currencies, in others, converted them to equivalent dollar amounts to make comparisons clearer. In the article that follows, we'll mention some of the things we found, and provide a few overall charts. To see more detailed charts, including results from specific auction houses, follow the instructions in the box below. They are easy, fast, and free.

See Detailed Charts from 2004 Book Auctions

If you are already an AE member, the above link will take you directly to the charts. If not, it will take you to a simple free sign up form. It takes only a moment. We will immediately email you your log in name and password. Then, you can click here or "2004 Auction Results" on the left side menu (under "Free Services") to see the charts.


First we'll take a look at what percentage of lots actually sold, and how many exceeded or fell short of the estimated price range. Many people think that virtually everything that is put up for auction is sold. Not so. As the following chart reveals, roughly 24% of the lots offered last year were not sold. That doesn't mean no one wants them. More likely, the reserve was too high for the market. That leads to the question of what becomes of these books. That depends on whether the auction house purchased the books or is simply auctioning them on behalf of someone else. What it does mean is someone is still holding onto a lot of books, tens of thousands by our count, that they really wanted to sell.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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