Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2021 Issue

The Final Stretch for 2021: Projections & Implications

5-year 12-Month Moving Average of Sell Through Rate

This article serves to examine the 2021 rare book and print auction data in order to describe how and why, in itself, this year has been extraordinary. In addition, the article examines why and how there are indicators of something equally impressive that was underway prior to the COVID Lockdown in terms of rare book and print auction markets. The data used in the article was gathered through the Rare Book Hub ‘Charts and Analysis' section.

 

In previous articles for Rare Book Hub Monthly (see links below), I described scenarios I was experiencing with fair/print catalogue-centric collector clients requesting upcoming offers at auction in the ‘Bi-Monthly Reviews’ that I create for them. What was interesting in these instances was that it did not take long for these auction-skeptic clients to acclimatize to the auction mechanism and benefit from its publicly available results. During this same period, we all witnessed the adoption of auction platforms by private dealers such as Donald Heald and Second Story Books, to name a few. A transition, as I explored in my August 2021 article (https://rarebookhub.com/articles/3044), that has significant implications for a bookseller’s business model if they started as a brick-and-mortar, or click-and-mortar, operation. It also communicates a shift in collector/dealer relations with regards to deriving value.

 

With the commentary for the ‘Rare Book Hub Weekly’ from early September counting 700 auctions to be conducted and posted by December 30th, 2021, what will we likely witness with the close of 2021? Let’s step back and look at the numbers:

YEAR

LOTS OFFERED

LOTS SOLD

SELL THRU RATE (%) [STR]

STR Avg.

2013

358,662

257,290

72

 

Avg. STR = 73%

2014

413,503

304,544

74

2015

422,909

310,369

73

2016

406,738

296,578

73

2017

418,028

312,154

75

 

Avg. STR = 77.5%

2018

479,122

358,924

75

2019

517,145

395,690

77

2020

521,422

430,544

83

What is interesting about the above numbers? For starters, the increase of both the lots sold as well as sell thru rates indicates strength on the supply side (lots offered) and interest on the demand side (STR). From 2013 to 2020 there was a 67% increase in lots sold, however examining the STR over the same period reveals a 4.5% increase in average STR from 2013-2016 to 2017-2020.

 

Data analysis shows that every year since January of 2013 (nine years) on average, approximately 44% of lots sold at auction have sold in the first seven months of the calendar year.  This means that on average 56% of lots sold at auction sell in the final five months of the year. Using the actual 2021 sales for the first seven months of 2021 (289,157 lots sold) and running the sum against eight years of “first seven months” data it is possible to project the likely total sales at auction for 2021 with a fair degree of accuracy:

Low 2021 Projection –            505,784 lots =             17% growth over 2020

High 2021 Projection –           561,469 lots =             30% growth over 2020

Likely 2021 result –                 520,000 lots =             21% growth over 2020

 

To put 2021 in another light, lots sold at auction in the first six months of 2021 were approximately 86% of the eight (8) year historical average for total sales at auction in an entire year and two (May/June) of the seven data months (January-July) of 2021 had higher total sales at auction than the largest single month in each of the five prior years (2016-2020).

 

This clearly shows more offers and more activity. As a by-product, more publicly derived, comparable data concerning the value of material will be created. As mentioned, dealers have adapted to this market structure change by developing auction platforms or at least (and certainly not new) developing a dedicated ‘archive of sales’ page on their sites establish precedent for material offered and successfully sold. As mentioned in “Where Are We Going?”, buyer and seller opportunities will emerge through this transformation. What is certain is that ecosystems thrive and grow with the dissemination of high-quality market and pricing information from a myriad of sources.

There is a common lament within the Antiquarian Bookseller community that there are no longer any collectors. The data above as well as my own professional experience with clients runs contrary to this declaration. What there are less of are Collectors who rely on single sources to acquire material to build their collections.

 

This is not a call for the Trade to discount their inventory. The above analysis indicates net new participation in a market that, for the most part, lists its results and offers similar material with some frequency, which is better than nothing. With trusted information, (and more of it) those interested in starting to collect perceive less purchase risk and, as a result, start to engage in the market. An auction environment, at least, brings the process of value generation to the fore. More information leads to more value transparency. More transparency leads to fewer barriers, which will result in sustainable growth in collecting.

_ _ _

Previous articles on this topic by Spencer W. Stuart for Rare Book Hub

“Where are we?”

July 2021: https://rarebookhub.com/articles/3019

 

“Where are we going from here?: Dealers & the Online Era”

August 2021: https://rarebookhub.com/articles/3044

_ _ _

There are opportunities to attend talks delivered by Spencer W. Stuart in the month of October, where he will explore these dynamics specifically in relation to Collectors as well as Rare Booksellers. These sessions will not be recorded, however there will be opportunities in both 2021 and 2022 to attend events:

 

AUCTIONS & LOCKDOWN

Saturday, Oct. 2nd, 11am [PDT]/2pm [EDT]

Hosted by the John Russell Bartlett Society

Zoom LINK

 

RARE BOOK DEALERS & THE ONLINE AUCTION ERA

Hosted by the Texas Booksellers Association

Tuesday, Oct 5th, 5pm [PDT]/8pm [EDT]

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/96565903731?pwd=OUpmNWhLTjlPWlRwTHZnazYyVy9EZz09


Posted On: 2021-10-19 22:12
User Name: bjarnetokerud

New collectors or an upsurge of interest by preexisting collectors? Who and where are these new collectors? How old are they? What exactly are they buying? The trends are by their nature oblique as no auction house reveals buyers, nor who bought what. How much of the upsurge spending is "flash" money?

During the worst of the pandemic, booksellers posted photos of vast quantities and stacks of books going out the door. Dealers rarely revealed what was purchased. Where did the books go? What were the monetary values?

Without intelligible specifics there is little to bet on.


Posted On: 2021-10-25 10:35
User Name: jwrb

In the article by Spencer Stuart, he refers to a “charts & analysis” section of RBH. But what exactly is that? I don’t find any section by that name. Thanks.


Posted On: 2021-10-26 15:08
User Name: ae244155

Here is a link to that section: https://www.rarebookhub.com/auctions/chart_list

It can also be found under the Upcoming Auctions tab.


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