Revising Appraisals due to the Coronavirus

- by Bruce E. McKinney

Valuation in uncertain times

A  recent inquiry from a dealer-appraiser raised a pertinent question; with significant changes in the world over the past year, have rare book, manuscript, and map appraisals issued in the mid-2019s ought/should they be revised?


There are two answers.


Valuation is generally determined on long term trends but when there are tectonic shifts and if auction prices hew high and low, should appraisals reflect short term reality?


Research members have access to tools on the brown toolbar under Upcoming Auctions.  Here are the choices:


Auction Home

Auction Calendar

Auction House List

Recent Auction Update[s]

Recent Reported Auction Results

Trends in Book Auction Prices

Charts and Analyses

Rare Book Top 500 Auctions


Charts and Analyses is a link to a series of year by year charts accessible while signed in as a paid member:


Chart 1 - Auction House Results, Including Sell-through Rates, Sales Above and Below Estimates.

Chart 2 - Auction House Results, Sell-through Rates, Sales Above and Below Estimates, by Month.

Chart 3 - Auction House Sales by Price, Including Medians and Averages, in U.S. Dollars.

Chart 4 - Auction House Sales by Price in Original Currencies.

Chart 5 - Auction Prices by Month, Including Medians and Averages, in U.S. Dollars.

Chart 6 - Auction Prices by Month, Including Medians and Averages, in Original Currencies.

Chart 7 - Percentage of Lots Sold, and Sold Above and Below Estimates, by Month.


Using these charts it’s possible to examine 2019 month by month to compare the first 4 months [soon 5 months] of 2020 whether the market is holding firm.


And the answers are yes, yes, and not quite.


The pace of auction lots are holding, that said, the year over year norm has been that that number increases about 3.5% a year.  So, because there is no current gain that’s a bit unusual.


The percentage of lots sold is also vital and it is a reasonable conjecture that the percentage of lots sold would be declining given the Covid crisis.  This year the sell through rate has actually inched up from 80.4% in 2019 to 82.4% in 2020.  This has been unexpected and frequently commented on in the Weekly Auction Updates.


And now for the not quite – and this may be meaningful.  The median lot price is running soft.  This is unsurprising because auction houses world-wide carefully manage low estimates to ensure success for all parties.  So it’s logical that in this Covid period estimates are trending down.  And said another way, when/if estimates begin to trend higher this will be a forward indicator that the auction market is believing the worst is behind us.  Fingers crossed!


And a reminder that research members can also chart market expectations for any material in the Transaction Database.  To do this run your search, select relevant records by marking them, then run the Get Current Estimate for a custom prepared report in 15 seconds.


Our best to you all.