Heritage: Two Sales in Beverly Hills
Inside the numbers the material suggests a different tact from recent California auction experience. These sales are extensive, sometimes expensive and broad in their scale and presentation. The aggregate low estimate of the historical manuscripts & autographs auction is $767,150, the rare books auction $2.455 million. The cataloguing and photography are detailed, the presentation full color. The two catalogues weigh four pounds, coffee table material from the get-go.
In the face of declining sales over the past year many auction houses have become insistent that consignors accept lower reserves. Heritage seems to be employing the same logic, listing both estimated full values and starting bids which are low enough to let the market recalibrate value if the demand is not there. The starting bid, in the Heritage formula, is always the lowest price the consignor will accept. Employing such methodology roughly 70% + of lots change hands at auction.
Unsold lots are then posted as Post Auction Buys for two weeks at the starting bid and in some cases on a MAKE AN OFFER basis. In this way both Heritage, consignors and bidders have second chances to complete sales. So what's in the manuscript sale? There are photographs, signed documents, broadsides and ephemera. Some examples:
An early Constable Wyatt Earp autograph endorsement estimated $25,000 to $35,000. The bidding opens at $12,500.
The colonial Boston ledger of William Blair Townsend, a merchant, covering the period 1743 to 1774, hand copied letters containing perspective on the economic causes leading up to the Revolution. Estimated at $4,000 to $6,000 the bidding opens at $2,000.
A Mary Todd Lincoln autograph letter signed with carte de visite and a book by Elizabeth Keckley. Mrs. Lincoln, following the death of her husband, wrote a note attempting to intercede on behalf of her friend and helper Elizabeth Keckley. Such post-assassination letters, written while Mrs. Lincoln was still in the White House, are rare. Estimated $12,000 to $15,000, the bidding opens at $9,000.
As to what is in the book sale in the afternoon, here are a few examples -
Samuel Clemen's copy of The Navigator, the 1811 edition. A very nice association copy with a starting bid of $5,500;
A first edition of Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, a "superb, robust copy." The bidding starts at $1,250;
First issue of Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858,... Columbus, 1860, in fine condition. Starting bid $2,000;