Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2007 Issue

What we can learn about value from history

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Finally, at the outset I excluded the ten most expensive lots and though they may share the streets of Manhattan during the day, at night they go home to penthouse apartments with views of four states. They are a world apart. If included they would dominate the statistics today just as they dominated the statistics in 1944. With them included the dollar weighted multiples would rise exponentially without changing the realizations of less expensive material.

For these ten highly valuable items, in the AED, we have 133 records and they are, with one exception, exceptional rarities. Their values are more difficult to ascertain as they come into the rooms infrequently, tend to be thoroughly researched and widely publicized, invariably attract interest and sell for ever higher multiples. Together they illustrate the increasing divide between the simply collectible and the highly coveted for their fate is far different than other material generally. Of these ten, the 10th item, "The Whitney Family of Connecticut" sold for an incomprehensible price. We know this because, while the other items sell today for more than 50 times their 1944 prices, this one can be bought for 9 times. The other irregularity is Pinckney's Observations on a Plan of Government. This copy lacks half its pages and is still offered for 12 times its 1944 realization. Said another way, this item is so attractive the seller believes half a copy is valuable.

In the world of the simply rare the emerging online universe of collectible material makes it possible to see ever more clearly the available copies, seller's expectations, the passage of time and the erosion of pricing certainty. For the exceptionally rare items, that are also highly important and coveted, the calculations are simply different. If listed in a dealer catalogue they sell. If posted on line they sell. If sent to auction they sell and increasingly they go into the rooms where the market determines their ever rising values. The great material will always find a buyer.

The broader market however is under siege. On the one side material relentlessly flows in, on the other a thousand alternatives for money and time compete for the collector's attention. Between these two realities the temperature of the market is measured in price and, as the numbers in this study generally show, we are at the solstice.

Click here to see the lots that brought the highest. Footnote files of AED records for each are attached.

The entire 1944 sale can be searched here:
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Search all records Search items recently available on Abe
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1) List of booksellers currently offering at least one of these items on Abe can be found here: Seller list
2) A spreadsheet of AED footnoted records of the top 10 items in the NYHS sale: click here

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Rare JFK Signed Check & Transmittal Letter During Campaign for 1956 VP Nomination, Both BAS Slabbed; Possibly A Unique Combo!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Daniel Boone Signed Receipt as VA Delegate; During His 1st of 3 Terms, Boone Was Kidnapped by British Forces Gunning for Gov. T. Jefferson & Other Legislators.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lincoln & His Civil War Cabinet: 8 Signatures, Beautifully Presented!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> G.A. Custer ALS from Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory to Capt. Yates, Who Also Died at Little Bighorn, Re: Acquiring “good horses” from Kentucky for 7th Cavalry.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lee Harvey Oswald Signed Letter: “if we finally get back to the states…maybe we’ll…settle in Texas,” Warren Commission Exhibit.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

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