A Discussion of Book Auctions with PBA's Justine Berkeley
That's amazing; wow! Speaking as a book appraiser, I can testify that it takes a lot of time to properly research and catalogue a rare book!
Justine helped set up the relatively new online auction system at PBA and is often to be seen with her headset on taking phone bids during the auctions. She just recently had a chance to do her first auctioneering. She told us that she really gets into this aspect of the auction. "When a customer loses a book they want, I'm as sad as they are, but when they get one they really want, I'm as overjoyed as the customer. It can be really nerve wracking, but it's also really exciting."
We asked what she thought about the future of the book auction business. She noted that book and art auctions were, she believed, the first types of formal public auctions, beginning about the end of the 18th Century.
"It's an old business. It's been going on for a long time. The more upscale auction houses [such as PBA] are frequented by collectors, book lovers, and antiquarian booksellers. They buy based on scarcity and condition. There will always be collectors, though the types of books, documents, photographs, archives, and maps collected may change. Cartography is huge right now. It's a cross market; they may buy because of the history involved in the map, or some buy just because they are pretty, or both."
Before we knew it, Justine's lunch hour was over and we all scurried back to PBA, including Ginger, our pooch. She was much admired by staff and most interested in the older Lassie books. Justine had an auction the next day, so we bid her adieu, inviting her and her partner to come to Nevada and see what a bookstore on the side of a 6000 foot mountain is like. "And you can bring your dog, too," we said as we pushed the button on the elevator.
When we travel, which is as frequently as possible, we try to meet new people involved in some aspect of the book business. At AEMonthly we frequently read about books, but I also like to read about book folk. So, I'd like to do a few biographical articles this year about interesting people who aren't necessarily book sellers, but are still heavily involved in the book business. If there is someone special you think would be an interesting person for me to interview, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or call me at 775-847-9518.