Three or four months ago we received an inquiry from the La Gatta Trust of Reno, Nevada about material they wanted to sell. We receive such inquiries every week and have a straightforward response. “Prepare a spreadsheet of what you feel might be valuable.” In most cases, and in this case, the motivated party is willing to do the work.
On receipt, often including images, it’s possible for us to quickly establish a “scale of value.” And in most cases I have to say, “hold on to your day job.” But not always and we provide this often free service on the off-chance there’s a gem in the mix. And it does happen.
They who contact us fall into two categories:  those that hope and  those that know what they have but not how to sell it.
Many are certain their books are valuable because their books are almost as old as they are. But age is a ripsaw that cuts two ways. “Old” for people and “old” for books are quite different and many people don’t know this. And of course, importance, condition, version and completeness also count.
There are of course those that know their material is valuable but cannot figure out to whom and for how much to sell it. They have often already scanned Abebooks.com and seen high asking prices. Wow, this is easy! Unfortunately, listing sites are lists of books that have not sold. And as the listings are evergreen, that is, always looking fresh, you have no idea if they have been posted for sale for a week or ten years. Fifteen years ago I recall stories of phantom listings at outrageous prices that a seller’s accomplice posted as evidence the listing they were selling was quite reasonable.
This is why auction records are important. These are transactions, not listings and these are the prices you can expect to receive after consignment fees.
So it’s very satisfying when one of these random calls leads to success.
For the LaGatta 1990 Trust that is handling the sale of an artist’s estate of material by and relating to John LaGatta, a 20th century illustrator, the clouds cleared recently when, Bonhams sent a representative to view the material, and came away with a consignment of some 250 items.
During the process the Trust became an RB member but only after we confirmed they had significant material. I expect they will be with us for a while. I believe some of their material will be in the auction rooms by summer.