Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2018 Issue

LiveAuctioneers Rapid Growth - A Sign of the Times

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Some of the books and related paper sold this year by LiveAuctioneers.

LiveAuctioneers reported record sales and substantial growth during the first half of 2018. LiveAuctioneers conducts online bidding for almost 5,000 auction houses, galleries, and dealers in the field of art, antiques and collectibles. Among the items regularly appearing in their sales are books and related collectible paper, including manuscripts, posters, photographs and prints. What we are seeing in the auction field is reminiscent of what we saw in fixed-price sales two decades ago, when aggregators such as AbeBooks, Amazon, Alibris and Biblio quickly became the major marketplace for antiquarian and collectible books.

 

LiveAuctioneers, along with others such as Invaluable and BidSquare, have staked out a position in the auction field similar to the book aggregators in the late 1990s. The numbers achieved by LiveAuctioneers are impressive. According to a news release issued by the firm a few days ago, "The first half of the year comparisons on a year-over-year basis include:

 

• An increase of 37% more bids.

• An industry-leading average sell-through rate of 24.7%.

• An increase of more than 50,000 new bidders, on average, every month.

• Web and mobile traffic of over 23 million visits, up 34%.

• Over 133,000 consignments directed, an increase of more than 27%."

 

LiveAuctioneers also reported delivering winning bids on over 300,000 items in the first half of 2018, and processing bids (both winning bids and underbids) in the amount of billions of dollars.

 

Naturally, books are not the largest part of these billions of dollars in bids. We should only be so lucky. They sold works of art that ran into six figures. Still, books and paper sold on their platform went into five figures. As the accompanying illustration shows, a signed letter from Grand Duchess Anastasia (is she still alive?) sold for $85,000. One we all could have bought a few years ago if we were more prescient, a first edition, first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, took in over $40,000. Other double-digit items included a letter from George Washington to Chief Justice John Marshall, a letter from Tchaikovsky, and a first edition of Gulliver's Travels.

 

LiveAuctioneers also reported that they will be using their past success to grow services to help their clients better market and sell their items. One recent addition was adding the ability to accept payment in cryptocurrency, something it is unlikely most houses, particularly smaller ones, are equipped to do by themselves.

 

LiveAuctioneers success is the latest step in markets constantly reinventing themselves. We saw local bookstores replaced by chains, which in turn were replaced by large bookstores that sold coffee and food and provided live entertainment, in turn replaced with internet listing sites that aggregated sellers from around the world. Meanwhile, Amazon learned how to sell books and everything else in huge quantities online. The antiquarian field was somewhat shielded from change compared to those who sold new books, but not all that much. Then came the equalizing, everyone-can-be-an-auctioneer provided by eBay for primarily lower priced items. Now we see LiveAuctioneers aggregated 5,000 auction sellers. Some may see it as less personal than the old ways of selling, and perhaps it is, but in a world where people no longer have much free time available, efficiency and cost matter. The customer is always right, so of course, they are once again making the right choices.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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