Lightning Strikes Twice at John's Western Gallery
By Bruce McKinney
The second sale of Glen Dawson's early Los Angeles [1874-1879] material was sold on September 29th at John's Western Gallery to a group of absentee and telephone bidders that paid $138,741 for the 101 lots. This auction was unreserved as was the first. The range in prices realized ran from an 1876 hand-colored map of the City of Los Angeles by H. J. Stevenson that brought $14,950 against a high estimate of $8,000 to two billheads dated 1876 that brought $5.75 each against estimates of $100-$150. For anyone who thinks "unreserved" is just "talk" this is your wake-up call. Two other Dawson sales will be held by 2008 and they will be well worth attending.
For this sale bidders in the room were noticeably absent. The primary bidders, tendering offers by phone, knew what they wanted and went for it. When an item was not on their list however they simply stood aside seemingly unmoved by opportunities to acquire less important material for virtually nothing. These bidders were focused. There were also absentee bidders [who left bids with the house] but they seemed, like the telephone bidders, to have concentrated their attention on higher value items. The absence of dealers in the room meant that bargains went uncovered. One bidder's representative who struggled with standard auction terminology and possibly with a language barrier brought the proceedings to a halt on several occasions as information about which lot, whose bid and what price occasionally required auctioneer Doug Johns to patiently slow the pace to ensure correct information reached the prospective buyer. In the room and on the phones everyone was very patient.
Whereas most sales on AE are book or primarily book sales this material was in the main early and elusive ephemera. To the casual observer such material can look disarmingly unimportant but in years to come such material will be the bedrock of three dimensional historical reconstructions that permit the observer/participant to plunge back in time, via the web, to neighborhoods, villages and places where family and connections are threaded through local history in all its many manifestations, many of them for early Los Angeles present in Glen Dawson's ephemera collections. The buyers of this material hence manifest a taste for future even as they indulge their passion for the past. Books tend to provide interpretation, ephemera the facts.