Auction Update Review

Nopreview

The Doldrums Beckon, May 30, 2010

Nine auctions were archived this past week. Three denominated in dollars, two in pounds, four in Euros. Total sales were $4.8 million when converted into dollars. The emerging story is one of extremes. The recent introduction of a comparison between each sale's total and its total high estimate is providing a clearer picture of what's happening in the auction rooms.

Three auctions archived this past week achieved total sales greater than their total high estimates. Bloomsbury in London realized $2.4 million against their total high estimate of $2.3 [107%]; Samuel Freeman in Philadelphia $304,000 against $238,000 [127%]; Lyon and Turnbull in England $558,000 against $436,356 [128%]. At the other end PBA on May 27th realized only $165,912 or 21% of their $784,800 high estimate. It is difficult to understand how three auctions can surpass 100% of the high estimate and another achieve only one fifth of the high. For the other five auctions the typical percentage of total sales to total high estimate was 65%, not great but understandable when the world economy is uncertain and the definition of collectible in books, manuscripts and ephemera subject to downward revision.

For the sales whose total outcomes exceeded the high estimates there was sufficient interest to carry bidding up from the low estimates to beyond the highs. This in theory should always require at least two bidders as it is illegal in most countries for consignors to set reserves above the low estimate. Therefore, when an auction's total sales exceed the total estimate it confirms substantial interest. The consignor trusted the market and the auction house estimated the material reasonably enough to encourage bidding. Such outcomes help to establish market pricing.

By comparison material sold at or below the low estimate may require only one active bidder because the seller can impose [often undisclosed] reserves and have the house bid on their behalf until the reserve is met. Such outcomes are useful although not entirely reliable.

A factor that complicates our analysis is that we compare total sales [almost always less than 100% of the material offered] to total high estimate. If an auction house offers too many unappealing lots or estimates many lots too high the number of unsold lots will increase thereby reducing the percentage expressed in the formula "total sales divided by total high estimate". I believe that the seller, auction house and the market are in balance when this index is at 100%. In our analysis of this index the range can run from 15% to 500%. This week, for all sales, it is 84.37%.

Soon summer will be upon us.

Bruce McKinney
AE

May 30, 2010

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.