Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2019 Issue

Rare Book Hub: Sweet 17


It seems like only yesterday we started the Americana Exchange but in fact it’s been 17 years.  We joined the information age for the rare book field in September 2002 when we began to digitize standard references for the rare book field.  As a collector I wanted quick, broad access to what was known.  In time this led to our providing broad auction coverage as the number of auction houses, events, and lots exploded.  Soon after, we developed a single search of all upcoming auction lots in the books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera fields.


Fast forward, the world now expects up-to-date information so the building of our transaction database, which began with 151,000 records and now includes more than nine million, simply fits with the market’s increasing requirement for confirmation.  In real life if we want to buy a house we find comparable properties to understand value.  For rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera it’s as necessary to understand value because every collection is, in time, sold, gifted, or donated.


Perhaps the biggest change in the field is related to the number of possibilities, be they multiple copies of an item or the random appearance of an otherwise undocumented example.  These days it’s possible to immediately access, with a couple clicks, rarity and significance that are essential to intelligent decision making. 


An unexpected effect of larger numbers is the inevitable instinct to narrow collecting focus, once it’s clear how much material is available – a realization that tends to create iconoclastic collectors who, in understanding their fields close up, develop radically different views than those lurking in the conventional wisdom.


Taken altogether, there has never been a better time to be a collector.  The possibilities are endless and the challenges right out of the Mensa handbook. 

Posted On: 2019-09-16 02:58
User Name: mairin

Happy 17th Birthday, Rare Book Hub, many happy returns ~ meaning, many more years of obvious success. Bruce, on some future occasion, tell us more about your use of the term "iconoclastic collectors" ~ that caught my attention. And the Mensa handbook reference, in your closing line, was a good analogy. All to say, appreciated the piece, many smart points, especially the role of hard data in "understanding value". I hope that you & the Rare Book Hub family marked the occasion joyfully.
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector.

Posted On: 2019-09-17 06:42
User Name: test2


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions