Two decades ago, as a collector of old and rare paper, I needed more information to collect safely. I wanted to be aggressive but needed to access valuation and rarity. The field was massive, dominated by dealers, spanning the globe, divided by categories, and marketed many ways. The field was thriving by many measures except for one: collectors too often weren’t getting their money back at the end of their collecting experience. I was prepared to spend some millions of dollars to build a series of collections if they made financial sense. Without that, I wouldn’t feel secure.
American Book Prices Current long provided a useful service to provide auction records but offered only American, selected, thinned and only sold lots. In the 1990’s I relied on them. But, as a collector of the New World I needed to know what was happening worldwide. The outcome was my decision twenty years ago to create Americana Exchange that in time would become Rare Book Hub.
That decision to capture the worldwide auction market for collectible paper assumed the market we would report on would essentially be the same one I was seeing since 1991. Abe of course changed that and it became apparent a similar one-world approach for auctions would be needed.
In the fullness of time I found older auction history also necessary to understand comparative rarity. That meant that our research database would need to grow. From 2002, when we opened on September 3rd, 2002 we started with 151,000 records, 2/3rds of them drawn from Sabin’s Bibliotheca Americana. Today as we begin our 21st year on September 1st we are now providing 12,305,532 full text records.
Over the past year we have been working on an alternative use for what we today call Transactions+, to use the scale we provide to invigorate the field. Simply stated, the field has relied on single searches and we’ll now soon provide moment to moment estimated valuation and probability of reappearance calculations on collections large and small. Imagine, being able to upload a list of collections of hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of items and get valuation calculations for each book and the entire collection in a matter of hours, even minutes. It will soon be possible, but it never could have happened had we not first spent the past 20 years compiling what is today 12+ million records.
We are committed to the future of collecting.