Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2008 Issue

An Extraordinary Americana Auction at Bloomsbury Nov. 19

Ship

Lot 208. A Thomas Birch image


By Bruce McKinney

The upcoming November 19th single owner sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in New York of the Jay T. Snider collection of early and important Americana with a strong emphasis on Philadelphia will provide an important test of market interest and financial capability at a time when the United States and Europe are experiencing the most significant economic downturn in a generation. The market is divided between those who see deflation or inflation ahead. Ultra premium collectibles will soar in an inflationary environment and fair poorly in deflation. For committed collectors however the tough timing may be less important that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire spectacular material. For much of this material there may be no second chances.

Bloomsbury has spared no effort or expense to create both an exceptional printed catalogue and online presentation. See the links at the end of this article to access the catalogue. To the extent that emotion plays a role in bidding the lights have been turned low and the orchestra is playing "Smoke gets in your Eyes." Long gone are the days when buyers were almost exclusively dealers who knew more than the auction houses. Today collectors, often represented by dealers, dominate the bidding. The transition from books [intellectual] to images [emotional] is also in evidence. Mr. Snider's exceptional collection of Philadelphia images he acquired in part from Martin Snyder in 1997 is included.

In broadest outline this is a sale of works on paper and can be characterized as manuscripts, printed books, maps, prints and plate books. Much of the material is exceedingly rare. According to Jeremy Markowitz, who catalogued it, the estimates are reasonable and the reserves relatively low. In prior sales Mr. Markowitz has achieved a 90% sell-through while the field on average has completed 74%. This suggests that in the complex alchemy of presentation and estimate Mr. Markowitz is a particularly astute judge. The uncertain economy however is simply an unquantifiable factor. The highly important Frank Streeter book auction, that brought $16 million in 2007 for Christies in New York, had significant European support at a time when the dollar was tanking. The Euro is now collapsing and the material, in any event, lacks a European focus so this time the market will depend more exclusively on American interest. The aggregate low and high estimates are $2.8 and $3.9.

Here are some of the highlights:

Lot 51. Bound volume of Partly-printed Pennsylvania General Loan Office Mortgage Forms issued for the Paper Money Act of 1729. Click here.

Lot 87. An East Prospect of the City of Philadelphia; taken by George Heap from the Jersey Shore, under the direction of Nicholas Scull... c.1756. Click here.

Lot 96. To the Honourable Thomas Penn and Richard Penn Esqrs. True & absolute Proprietaries & Governours of the Province of Pennsylvania & Counties of New-Castle Kent & Sussex on Delaware This Map of the improved Part of the Province of Pennsylvania. Is humbly Dedicated by Nicholas Scull. 1759. Click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions