An Exceptional Auction December 3rd
By Bruce McKinney
On December 3rd, in New York, Christie's pays homage to the changing logic of the books, manuscripts and ephemera auction field with a two part sale that seeks to and succeeds at bridging the trapeze leap between the highly interesting and exceptionally valuable. In this sale both are present and collectors should take note.
The auction business has been ever attracted to more expensive lots. It's understandable. There's more money in it. But most people learn to drive a Ford before they acquire their Rolls and this auction allows the up and coming auction buyer a place in the auction rooms during the same sales where iconic material will change hands at significant prices. Adding an edge to the sales, the estimates are attractive.
The auction is in two parts: 250 lots of Printed and Manuscript Americana followed by 330 more of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts. The average high and low estimates are $9,575 and $6,706, the total of the high estimates $5.55 million. Fifty-four of the lots have high estimates of $1,000 or less. The consignors include the Anderson Family YMCA, the Collection of Mark Wooley, the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, Justin and Margaret Krasnoff, the Estate of Mrs. Charles W. Englehard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Springfield Museums, and two anonymous.
In the first session Americana in many forms is offered: books, signed copies, books with maps, newspapers, ephemera, photographs, blueprints, drawings and color swatches. The very definition of Americana that Christies employs broadens to conform to changing tastes. In the second session an array of material is offered that includes both the ancient and the scientific and then fiction; firsts and signed copies, illustrated books, and correspondence. The unifying concept is "collectible."
Lot 242 is "an archive of drawings and blue prints from Davenport Co., and McKim, Mead & White, 1902." These are plans and drawings for the 1902 renovation of the White House, by A. H. Davenport. Theodore Roosevelt, who would put his stamp on the 20th century, first put his imprint on the presidential residence. The material is described as lots 213 to 247. It will be offered as a single lot with an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 and also offered as individual lots if it fails to sell as a collection.
Lot 209 is a collection of 529 albumin photographs of Arizona and California taken by Carleton Watkins in the 1870s. Words explain but images transport. To anyone who has asked or will ever ask why a collector reconstructs a period these images provide eloquent explanation. It's estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.
If you have had a good year you may want to add lot 152, a signed photograph of A. Lincoln, taken 9 August 1863, to your valued possessions. In the collecting world the market increasingly divides between the iconic and the merely collectible. Within the world of icons there is of course a pecking order. Here you are face to face on the top wrung. It's estimated $70,000 to $90,000.