Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2008 Issue

Announcing The AE Top 500 Prices at Auction for 2007

Sotheby's auctions a Magna Carta (photo courtesy of Sotheby's).


By Michael Stillman

With the close of another year, it is time to look back at the highest priced books and related ephemera at auction last year. We have scoured the results at all of the major auction houses and a great many smaller ones to come up with the AE 500 top prices at auction for 2007.

Five items made it into the million-dollar category in 2007, down from seven the previous year. However, at the top, number one exceeded last year's top price of just over $5 million by fourfold. Particularly interesting was the price at the bottom of the list -- number 500. That figure was $72,000, almost a 20% increase from the $60,192 price of number 500 in 2006. That is a good sign that prices remain very strong at the top end of the book market.

Before running down the top 10, we will mention a few of the other interesting items which made it into the AE 500. A link to the complete Top 500 can be found at the end of this list.

Among those tied at #500 were a first edition King James Bible, the first printing of a portion of the Book of Mormon in the Reflector newspaper, and a Religious Discourse Delivered in the Synagogue in this City [New York]...26th November, 1789, supporting George Washington's call for a day of thanksgiving. Equal opportunity is provided all faiths. $72,000.

At 463 is a portrait of a very young (circa 1858) John D. Rockefeller, when he was working as a bookkeeper in Cleveland, before striking out on his own in the oil business. $77,350. Number 462 is a huge collection of 550 manuscript documents from the Bernard family of Louisiana from 1780-1880. The family patriarch first came to America to engage in the slave trade, and the next generations used slaves to operate their lumber mill as well as perform domestic duties. $77,675.

At 284 is a copy of the Shakespeare Second Folio, probably the only privately held one in Australia, though it made it there through the famed American bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1935. $128,150. Number 243 is an archive of items, including a lock of hair, from South American revolutionary Che Guevara, from the CIA agent who buried him. $119,500. For those who prefer Yankee imperialists, number 235 is a dual signed photograph of New York Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. $120,000.

Number 152 is one of only two manuscript letters from William Henry Harrison as President known to exist. There are so few because he died a month into office. $167,300. Tied at 142 are a protested lack of personal ambition in a letter by Oliver Cromwell to his son's father-in-law and an autographed letter from Calvin concerning an attempted suicide. $171,444. Number 118 is something of a pricing standard for Americana -- a first edition "Lewis and Clark" -- and it bodes well. $193,000. Another copy, number 72, sold for $288,000. Number 43 is Navigator Theodore Van Kirk's log from the Enola Gay as they flew over and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. $358,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000
  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

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