Auction Update Review


Breaking for Home

The martini shakers and brandy snifters are out, feet are up on desks and reservations, long ago made, are now about to be cashed.  It is that moment once again to celebrate getting through the season and to escape for a few weeks the bang and din of combat.  This year the fight is more pitched than usual because forces, larger than the market, by chance and on purpose, turn auction lots into mineshaft canaries – anxiously observed as harbingers of the season coming.


The news is mostly good although rampant austerity now grips the land.  The effects of the decline in 2008 that many hoped were temporary now seem embedded in collective thinking.  The field perseveres on a diet of beer rather than champagne.


Inveterate collectors and institutions continue their steady pursuit while dealers buy less on speculation.  The material, at many levels, is superb but the eyes to see are sometimes clouded by the rat-ta-tat of increasing lot volume, the apparent tapering of sales on listing sites, the aging of collectors and the sundry personal uncertainties that economic downturns randomly expose.  It is difficult to pull the trigger at the very time greater visibility and research tools are bringing more exceptional material to light.


For the week twenty-two auctions were archived; eleven denominated in dollars, five in British Pounds, five in Euros and one in Swiss Francs.  Seven thousand nine hundred and forty-five lots were offered and five thousand three hundred and forty-four sold for a 67% success rate.  The sales, befitting a market peaking into the holiday shut down, were robust:  $18,594,981 against the aggregate high estimate of all lots offered:  $19,435,979 or 96%.  Sotheby’s as is their December tradition, dominated the results with two sales, together 512 lots, which raised $10,103,642.


For the week six sales reached or exceeded 100% of the total of their high estimates:


Ader.  Autographs and Manuscripts on December 13th:  207%

Alde.  Library of an Amateur from Lyon on December 14th:  203%

Dorotheum.  Autographs on December 9th:  167%

Ader.  Juidaica, Paintings, Sculptures, Liturgical Objects, Books:  135%

Sotheby’s.  Fine Books and Manuscripts on December 13th:  112%

Sotheby’s.  English Literature, History, Children’s Books on December 15th:  103%


The following sales reached or exceeded one million dollars in total receipts:


Sotheby’s.  Fine Books and Manuscripts on December 13th:  $7,403,638

Sotheby’s.  English Literature, History, and Children’s Books on December 15th:  $2,700,004

Galeries Koller.  Modern Prints on December 9th:  $1,443,511

Swann Galleries.  Photographs on December 13th:  $1,048,132


For the holiday shorted week 5 sales are scheduled


Monday December 19th       Artcurial Briest-Le Fur-Poulain-F. Tajan.  Photos and Graphics (17714) Christie’s.  Photographs (2495)
Christie’s.  Photographs (2542)
Cowan’s.  Online American History ending (243)


Wednesday December 21st Dorotheum.   Books and Decorative Prints (9169)


To all who have a holiday to celebrate or simply enjoy the time away from the bustle of daily life we wish you the very best for these fleeting moments and for the year ahead.


We ourselves will be away next week and will resume these weekly notes on January 1st.


Bruce McKinney


  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.