• <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> <i>The Negro Travelers' Green Book,</i> edited by Victor H. Green, New York, 1958. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Phillis Wheatley, <i>Poems on Various Subjects, Religious & Moral,</i> London, 1773. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> David Ruggles, <i>The Mirror of Liberty,</i> first issue of the first magazine edited by an African American, New York, 1838. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Lorraine Hansberry, <i>A Raisin in the Sun,</i> draft typescript, inscribed by the playwright, circa 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Pair of letterpress broadsides for Ira Aldridge’s historic first 2 performances at London’s Theatre Royal, 1833. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Archive of letters to John Augustine Washington III at Mount Vernon, many of which discuss the lives of enslaved persons, 1837-61. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Important archive of letters and photographs of Charles White and his spouse, Frances B. White, 1956-60. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Papers of educator Sister Makinya Sibeko-Kouate, one of the leading popularizers of Kwanzaa, 1940-1975. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Stock certificate of the Negro Factories Corporation, signed by Marcus Garvey, 1920. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Benjamin Banneker, <i>Bannaker’s Maryland . . . Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of our Lord 1796,</i> Baltimore, 1795. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> Frederick Douglass, previously unknown carte-de-visite by Samuel M. Fassett, Washington DC, 1878. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 28:</b> <i>First Annual Report of the New York Committee of Vigilance,</i> New York, 1837. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Arenberg Auctions: Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper. March 29 & 30, 2019</b>
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> QUAST, Pieter Jansz. - [A Quack doctor on a market square.] €3.500 to €4.500
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b><br>"Il Callotto resuscitato. Oder Ne¸ eingerichtes Zwerchen Cabinet." €6.000 to €7.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> MELLISS, Mrs. John Charles - 135 compositions of which 66 used to illustrate John Melliss' work on Saint Helena. €9.000 to €10.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions: Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper. March 29 & 30, 2019</b>
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> LUCA, Ghérasim. - <i>Apostroph' apocalypse. Eaux-fortes de Wifredo Lam.</i> €3.000 to €4.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> REDOUTÉ, Pierre-Joseph - <i>Les Roses. Décrites par C.A. Thory.</i> €3.000 to €4.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> CORONELLI, Vincenzo - A magnificent pair of globes, terrestrial and celestial. €175.000 to €250.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions: Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper. March 29 & 30, 2019</b>
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> BLAEU, Joan - <i>Le Grand Atlas, ou Cosmographie Blaviaene, en laquelle est exactement descritte la Terre, la Mer, et le Ciel.</i> €170.000 to €250.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> GOULD, John - A century of birds from the Himalaya mountains. €10.000 to €12.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> LEVAILLANT, François - Histoire naturelle des perroquets. €50.000 to €70.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions: Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, and Works on Paper. March 29 & 30, 2019</b>
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> MAXIMILIAN III JOSEPH - Patent of nobility. €800 to €1.000
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> Manuale parochiale sacerdotum. €800 to €1.200
    <b>Arenberg Auctions, Mar 29 & 30:</b> LONGUS - Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloé. €1.250 to €1.500
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Silver Binding.- [Torah], German 13 Loth silver binding, hinged clasp, 12mo, Sulzbach, 1805. £2,500 to £3,500.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Picasso (Pablo). Minotaure vaincu, plate 89 from La Suite Vollard, etching, dated 29 May 1933, pencil, plate 190 x 265 mm, Paris, A. Vollard, 1939. £5,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Dali (Salvador) & Alighieri (Dante). <i>La Divina Commedia,</i> 6 vols, NUMBER 478 of 2,900 copies, 100 numbered colour lithograph plates by Salvador Dalì, folio, Verona, 1963-1964. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Miniature Sepher Torah Nevi'im U'Kethuvim, prepared by Menachem M. Scholz, original cloth, housed within original gilt tooled metal case, with magnifying glass inset, 33x25 mm, Warsaw, c. 1880. £1,200 to £1,800.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Scarfe (Gerald). ‘Men of Snow’ [Tony Blair, William Hague & 'Robin' Cook], original ink, watercolour & gouache drawing, signed, 600 x 435 mm, n.d. with 2 others (3). £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Francklyn (Gilbert), Paine (Thomas). <i>Rights of Man…</i>, FIRST EDITION [and] <i>Rights of Man. Part the Second…,</i> Printed for J. S. Jordan, 1791-92, [and 1 other]. £700 to £1,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Chagall (Marc). Le Jeu des Acrobates (Acrobats at Play), HORS COMMERCE PROOF, lithograph, from The Lithographs of Chagall, 320 x 240 mm, André Sauret, 1963. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> [Harris (John)]. <i>The History of The Old Woman who had Three Sons Jerry, James, and John…,</i> 12mo, J. Harris, 1815. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Royal Binding.- Staël-Holstein (Germaine de). <i>De la littèrature considerée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales…,</i> 2 vols, second edition, Crapelet, Paris, [1801]. £400 to £600
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Ancient History.- La Baune (Jacques de). <i> Panegyrici Veteres,</i> Paris, 1676. [with] Wesseling (Petrus, ed.). <i> Vetera Romanorum itineraria…</i> £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Edward (Gibbon). <i> History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire…</i> Multiple editions and languages [English and French]. £300 to £400
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Curtis (William). <i> Flora Londinensis,</i> FIRST EDITION, 2 vols in 3. 119 hand-coloured plates of 454. £500 to £700
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2009 Issue

Book Prices Down 30% Year Over Year at Auction

Pricegraph03-09

Book prices at auction have been slipping.


By Michael Stillman

Book prices at auction showed a continuing sharp decline during the first two months of 2009. The median price at auction for the period was 31% lower than for the same period a year ago. This compares to a decline of 21% for all of last year compared to 2007.

While the smaller sampling available for two months versus a year leaves a greater margin of error, there is no mistaking that there has been a very substantial decline in book prices at auction. However, the implication that prices have slipped further in 2009 is not necessarily true. Last year's 21% decline included sales from the first half of the year, when the market was still relatively strong. The decline was likely steeper in the last half of the year. The current estimated 31% drop may reflect the level of decline already in place by the last half of 2008, rather than further deterioration of the market in 2009. It will take more time to determine whether book prices are continuing to fall or have begun to bottom out.

What has been happening to prices at the bookseller level is less clear since such sales are not conducted in a visible marketplace as are auctions. However, anecdotal observation does not indicate a decrease in listing prices of anything near the 30% level. Most sellers appear to be opting for reduced sales over reduced prices. In a challenging economic environment such as the current one, sellers have three choices: (1) lower asking prices, (2) maintain asking prices but discount and bargain more aggressively, or (3) maintain current prices and wait for recovery. While it is impossible to know what kind of dealing may be going on behind the scenes, anecdotal reports we have from booksellers indicate sales are down, implying that most are holding fairly closely to past pricing.

Reports we received from sellers at the recent California Book Fair would support the belief that sales, rather than prices, are down at the bookseller level. Sales between dealers in the pre-opening period were reportedly very slow, indicating a great reluctance on the part of sellers to purchase new inventory. When sellers are selling, they need to replenish inventory. This is a sign that most dealers appear to be in a wait-and-see mode, rather than aggressively discounting in an attempt to boost sales.

What booksellers will do, or should do, in the days ahead is far less clear. Decisions will be made based on the immediacy of a dealer's need for cash and his or her belief in how long it will take for the market to recover. Those dealers in a strong financial condition may choose to wait out the storm. Those who will need greater cash flow in the months ahead may be better advised to start developing new strategies sooner rather than later. Recovery will come, but it appears almost certain that the time frame will be years, not months. Those whose survival under current conditions will be limited to months need to make adjustments now before time further erodes their financial strength. A business model that depends on a market turnaround by summer appears almost certain to be destined for failure. Even the more optimistic of economic forecasters do not see a recovery beginning until late in the year, and that does not mean prices will suddenly rebound by 30%. That simply means a slow return to growth. Other forecasters believe it will be years before real recovery comes. We do not mean to sound pessimistic, or be the bearer of bad news, but auction prices are a firm reality check for the book business. We believe the bookseller armed with realistic, even if unpleasant data, has a better chance of surviving and succeeding than one who builds a business model based on wishful thinking.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Koller Auctions: Books & Autographs. March 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Jacques Gamelin. <i>Nouveau recueil d'osteologie et de myologie, dessine d'apres nature...</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., large folio, 82 copper plates. CHF 12,000 to 18,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Melchior Pfintzing. <i>Die geverlicheiten und einsteils geschichten des loblichen streytparen...</i> 118 woodcut engravings, first edition. CHF 30,000 to 50,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Book of hours. Handwritten Latin text on vellum. With 17 large miniatures, Flanders, c.1460. CHF 70,000 to 90,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Maria Sibylla Merian. <i> Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium,</i> 72 copper plates, Den Haag, 1726. CHF 60,000 to 90,000
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 7: John Blackbridge. <i>The Complete Poker Player.</i> New York, 1875. First Edition. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 14: Garrett Brown. <i>How to Beat the Game.</i> New York, 1903. $100 to $200.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 22: Anthony Comstock. <i>Frauds Exposed.</i> New York, 1880. $300 to $500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 35: S.W. Erdnase. <i>The Expert at the Card Table.</i> Chicago: Author, 1902. First edition. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 41: [Gerritt Evans] “A Retired Professional,” pseudo. <i>How Gamblers Win.</i> New York, ca. 1870s. $250 to $350.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 54: Jonathan Harrington Green. <i>An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling.</i> Cincinnati, 1843. First edition. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 277: Phil Farley. <i>Criminals Of America Illustrated.</i> New York, 1876. $50 to $100.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 228: <i>The English Rogue: Described in the Life of Meriton Latroon, a Witty Extravagant: Comprising the Most Eminent Cheats of Both Sexes.</i> London, 1666; 1671; 1680. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 219: Abraham De Moivre. <i>The Doctrine of Chances: or, a Method of Calculating the Probabilities of Events in Play.</i> London, 1718. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 95: Barabbas Whitefeather, pseudo. <i>The Handbook of Swindling.</i> London, 1839. Presentation copy, inscribed. $900 to $1,300.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 134: <i>Poker Chips: A Monthly Magazine Devoted to Stories of the Great American Game.</i> New York, 1896. Five issues. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Mar 30:</b><br>Lot 87: Harry Houdini. <i>The Right Way to Do Wrong.</i> Boston, 1906. $150 to $250.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Greco (Gioachino). <i>Primo modo del gioco de Partito…</i> Manuscript, France, 1624 or 1625. A collection of partiti, or 'chess problems' by one of the most important figures in the history of chess. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Herodotus. <i>Historiae,</i> translated into Latin by Lorenzo Valla and edited by Antonio Mancinelli. Venice, 1494. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Darwin (Charles). Autograph Letter signed to his cousin Reginald Darwin, Down, Beckenham, Kent, 27th March 1879. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Nicolay (Nicolas de). <i>The Navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie,</i> first edition in English, Imprinted at London by Thomas Dawson, 1585. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Saint-Exupéry (Antoine de). <i>The Little Prince,</i> number 66 of 525 copies signed by the author, 1943. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Catlin (George, 1796-1872). Tuch-ee, A Celebrated War Chief of the Cherokees, watercolour, [circa 1834]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Genetics.- A collection of c.300 pamphlets on genetics comprising many of the major contributions from the first half of the 20th century. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> India.- Rajasthan.- Kota School (probably late 18th c.). Elephant in a landscape with chains around his feet, brush and black ink with opaque pigments. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Commelin (Caspar). <i>Horti medici Amstelaedamensis plantae rariores et exoticae,</i> first edition, 48 finely hand-coloured engraved plates, Leiden, F.Haringh, 1706. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Plague-water and cookery & medical recipes.- Jackson (Mrs Sarah). Medical and cookery recipes, manuscript in several hands, title and 134pp., 1688-1755. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Vernet (<i>After</i> Joseph, 1714-1789). <i>[Vues des ports de France],</i> sixteen plates (of 18), etchings and engravings by Charles Nicolas Cochin fils and Jacques Philippe Le Bas, [c.1760-1780]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Detmold (Edward Julius, 1883-1957). Parrots and Butterflies, watercolour. £2,500 to £3,500.

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