Auction Update Review

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Change in the Air, April 25th, 2010

This past week four sales were archived. Christie's conducted one sale in London and another in Paris. In America Bloomsbury and Swann completed events.

For the past year we have followed the auction market on a weekly basis and employed an approach that was both arbitrary and effective. We have captured the overall sales experience by providing statistics about the lots that sold, the total of their high and low estimates and total sales, along with a list of the ten highest by value lots. We excluded unsold lots and thereby left some readers with the impression that business in the auction rooms was stronger that it actually was.

We have for some time been looking to revise these reports and a recent email about the omission of unsold material is prompting a review. Such information can be prejudicial.

In the attachment with this email are the proposed changes. Auction houses that sell a high percentage of their lots but not the most valuable material would fare less well in this analysis. Houses that sell valuable material more easily than inexpensive would look better. As this analysis shows some houses are doing a better job getting both consignments and realistic estimates. Christie's Travel and Science sale achieved 93% of the high estimate for all lots offered even though they actually sold 77% of the lots. They did comparatively better with the expensive material.

Bloomsbury, by comparison, sold 62% of its lots on April 21st but achieved only 32% of the high estimate. Swann, on the other hand, did almost as well as Christies when, on the 22nd, it achieved 91% of the high estimate for its autographs sale.

Auction charts in the revised format are attached.

There is an ongoing debate about the role of auctions in the sale of material. I personally believe they are market makers rather than agents for sellers. We will see how readers respond to this information and finalize changes in a week or so.


Bruce McKinney
AE
April 25, 2010

  • <b>Christie’s London, Nov. 27:</b> [Peter I, Tsar]. <i>Simboly i emblemata ukazom i blagopovedenii imperatora Petra Alekseevicha [Symbola et emblemata jussu atque auspiciis Petri Alexeidis].</i> Amsterdam, 1705. £30,000 to £40,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Nov. 27:</b> Charlemagne, Adolf. Benefice d'Adieu de Madame Naptal. [St Petersburg: 16th February 1873]. £30,000 to £40,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Nov. 27:</b> [Military. Album.] [An album of drawings of weapons and their accessories, drawn from nature by the Second Cadets Corps.] St Petersburg, 1800. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Nov. 27:</b> Pushkin, Alexander. <i>Evgenii Onegin.</i> St Petersburg: Dep. of Public Education, 1825-1832. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Nov. 27:</b> Sumarokov, Pavel. <i>Dosugi krymskogo sud’i ili vtoroe puteshestvie v Tavridu. [The Leisure of a Crimean Judge or a Second Tour to Tauris].</i> St Petersburg: Imperial Press, 1803-5. £50,000 to £80,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>Dr. Seuss, pen, ink & watercolor, calendar illustration, Thomas D. Murphy Company, 1937. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Georges Lepape, <i>Sur la Terrasse,</i> gouache & pencil, cover for <i>Vogue,</i> 1930. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Dana Gibson, <i>The Coming Game, Yale vs. Vassar,</i> pen & ink, for <i>Life</i> magazine, 1895. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>H.A. Rey, color pencil, charcoal, watercolor & gouache, for <i>Rafi et les 9 singes,</i> 1939. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Ernest H. Shepard, pen & ink, for Kenneth Grahame’s <i>Bertie’s Escapade,</i> 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Schulz, <i>The Biggest Star Measured So Far,</i> ink & wash, original <i>Peanuts</i> cartoon, published 1961. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Saul Steinberg, <i>12 Biographies, A to B,</i> pen & ink with collage, final illustration in his book <i>The Labyrinth,</i> 1960. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b><br>Jo Mielziner, <i>A Streetcar Named Desire,</i> watercolor, graphite & gouache, first color study for the award-winning 1947 production. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Nevermore,</i> watercolor & ink, for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1973. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>I Should Worry,</i> watercolor, gouache & graphite, cover for <i>Judge</i> magazine, 1914. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Edward Gorey, <i>Swan Lake, Hunters/Siegfried, Van Rothbart,</i> watercolor, pen & ink, costume designs, 1975. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 10:</b> Ludwig Bemelmans, <i>Sketch for Madeline,</i> gouache & ink. $6,000 to $9,000.
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 25th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b> Fust-Schöffer-Bibel from Gutenberg-Press, 1462. Est: € 1,000,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>J. W. Weinmann, <i>Phytanthoza-Iconographia,</i> 1735-45. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>O. Kokoschka, <i>Die träumenden Knaben,</i> 1917. Est: € 10,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 25th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>Z. Lilius, <i>Orbis breviarium,</i> 1493. <br>Est: € 10,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b> <i>Gazette du Bon Ton,</i> 1912-22.<br>Est: € 14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>M. Chagall, <i>Daphnis & Chloé,</i> 1961. Est: € 100,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 25th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>C. Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographie,</i> 1513.<br>Est: € 100,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>E. L. Kirchner, <i>Umbra vitae,</i> 1924.<br>Est: € 6,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>J. Miró, <i>Midi le trèfle blanc,</i> 1968. Est: € 2,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 25th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b> Clemens V., <i>Constitutiones,</i> 1471.<br>Est: € 14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>C. Gesner, <i>Tierbuch, Vogelbuch, Fischbuch,</i> 1563-81. Est: € 5,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, November 25:</b><br>J. Itten, <i>Utopia,</i> 1921. Est: € 2,000