Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2019 Issue

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers Acquires Cowans of Cincinnati

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Thomas Galbraith CEO, Leslie Hindman and Wes Cowan

We have, for years, seen more and more auction houses appearing online.  Some are new, others long established but only recently embracing the internet.  And so overall, year after year, the number of auction houses joining the world-wide auction market has increased.  Inevitably, some houses would combine.  Sotheby’s famously acquired Parke-Bernet in 1964 and more recently, eBay jettisoned their support of traditional auctions and have since struggled to establish a marketplace for the high-volume, lower-priced material that overhangs the market today.  None of these moves were made exclusively to ensure or preserve the rare book component.  This category, in all such marriages and maneuvers, sits in the backseat if not the trunk.  Books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera matter but the sales of furniture, jewelry, art and cars [to name a few categories] is where the money seems to be today.

 

At the same time, the internet has made it easier to identify and understand interesting material wherever it shows up.  On Rare Book Hub we cover over three hundred houses and see 2 or 3 new ones join our services every quarter. This  has made it possible to see relevant material world-wide in a single search, a frankly revolutionary development, that continues to intensify.

 

The logic of combination is a function of money, fatigue and marketing.  In the auction field additional volume tends to improve the bottom line before accounting for the costs of acquisition so the logic is apparent.  However, it’s never certain that the acquirers will be able to hold onto the many relationships on which such business depends.  Stated simply, it’s complicated.

 

Perhaps the driving force for combination is the way these business are elaborating.  Today, some firms have many locations that seem to be more for securing consignments than holding sales.  Perhaps that’s a good strategy.  Consignors certainly look every day for firms to consign to so having nearby places to visit will increase contacts.  The problem of course is the extraordinary number of tire-kickers who think anything old must be very valuable.  I doubt the auction houses want those contacts.

 

What will be a clear win for auction house mergers will be the reduced costs of online presentation.  Every house, to be effective, has to substantially invest online to make a good impression.  Joining forces both saves money and increases possibilities for that component of the auction house presentation that is the public interface.  The quality of such interfaces range widely and no doubt affect bidder participation.  And there is another factor.

 

The net is not static.  It is in constant motion, and in good years and bad, relentlessly necessary to keep all aspects of the presentation up-to-date.  And this is a tall order.

 

So net-net, I imagine that the Hindman-Cowan transaction will prove beneficial but I see it as a relay race and this simply one of the inevitable handoffs that must be handled perfectly but will not, of itself, insure  success.  For that, it will take continued artful handling of the internet challenges.  And I’m convinced both parties know this.  So, I look forward to see what they do.  Both have done very well and I expect now, as they merge, they’ll do ever better.

 

It’s a bold step.

 

Link:  The acquisition announcement by Leslie Hindman

 

Link:  to the Cowan announcement         

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <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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