• <b>Sotheby’s: The Library of John & Suzanne Bonham. 26 September in London. Viewing 22-25 September</b>
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Churchill, Winston S. Two Typed Letters Signed, regarding the British North Greenland Expedition (1952-54). £3,000 to £4,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Bernatz, Johann Martin. <i> Scenes in Ethiopia</i>. London: F.G. Moon, 1852. First edition. £6,000 to £8,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates. Collection comprising (among other things): documents and pamphlets. £1,500 to £1,800
    <b>Sotheby’s: The Library of John & Suzanne Bonham. 26 September in London. Viewing 22-25 September</b>
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Darwin, Charles, and Philip Parker King, and Robert FitzRoy. <i> Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle Between the Years 1826 and 1836…</i> £15,000 to £20,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Spratt, Thomas A.B., and Edward Forbes. <i>Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis</i>. London: John Van Voorst, 1847. £800 to £1,200
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Richardson, John. <i>Arctic Searching Expedition: A Journal of a Boat-Voyage Through Rupert's Land and the Arctic Sea, In Search of Sir John Franklin</i>. £6,000 to £8,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cook in Tahiti. [Playbill]. [Germany, c.1840.] $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Roberts' Sketches in Egypt and Nubia. London, 1846-9. $20,000 - $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Breydenbach. Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Mainz, 1486. $100,000 - $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Dürer. Underweysung der messung [and two more]. Nuremberg, 1525-8. $150,000 - $200,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Whitman. Autograph Manuscript [in] The Complete Writings. One of 32 sets. $8,000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Columbus. De Insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis. Basel, 1494. $700,000 - $1,000,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> The Dr. Hendon M. Harris Jr. Korean Atlas Collection. [Korea; c.1700 to c.1890.] $35,000 - $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Aa, Pieter van der. Naaukeurige versameling der gedenk-waardigste zee en land-reysen. Leyden, 1706-8. $8000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Russian Kholod 5D67 HFL Rocket Engine. $25,000 - $40,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Neil Armstrong Apollo Era Training Glove. $8,000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Large Lunar Near Side Chart, Signed by 20th Century Surface Explorers. $20,000 - $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Annotated Photo Album Detailing Alexander Graham Bell's Experiments with Tetrahedral Kites. $50,000 - $80,000
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cook (Captain James).- Webber (John) and Marie Catherina Prestel. Four views in the South Seas [bound with] <i>Atlas to accompany Captain James Cook's account of his voyages...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Knight (Joseph). <i>On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae</i>, 1809. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> India & China.- Sonnerat (Pierre). <i>Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781</i>. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mongolia.- Pallas (Peter Simon). <i>Sammlungen Historischer Nachrichten uber die Mongolischen Volkerschaften.</i> £15,000 to £20,000 
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> America.- Warre (Henry). <i>Sketches in North America</i>, 1848. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Atlases.- <i>English Pilot (The). The Fourth Book. Describing The West-Indian Navigation, from Hudson's Bay to the River Amazones...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greece.- Lear (Edward). <i>Views of the Seven Ionian Isles</i>, signed presentation copy from the author to Evelyn Baring, 1863. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Lear (Edward).- [Gray (John Edward)]. <i>Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall</i>, 1846. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Historiae Coelestis</i>, first edition,1712. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Atlas Coelestis</i>, 1781. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Conjuring Posters.- The Steens, American Mystifiers: Originators of Silent Transmission. broadside poster, [probably 1890-1900]. £300 to £500
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Tyndale's Bible.- Bible, English. The newe Testament, Richard Jugge, 1552; sold not subject to return. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cook (Captain James).- Webber (John) and Marie Catherina Prestel. Four views in the South Seas [bound with] <i>Atlas to accompany Captain James Cook's account of his voyages to the Pacific Ocean in the years 1776-1780.</i>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Knight (Joseph). <i>On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae</i>, 1809. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> India & China.- Sonnerat (Pierre). <i>Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781</i>. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mongolia.- Pallas (Peter Simon). <i>Sammlungen Historischer Nachrichten uber die Mongolischen Volkerschaften.</i> £15,000 to £20,000 
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> America.- Warre (Henry). <i>Sketches in North America</i>, 1848. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Atlases.- <i>English Pilot (The). The Fourth Book. Describing The West-Indian Navigation, from Hudson's Bay to the River Amazones...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greece.- Lear (Edward). <i>Views of the Seven Ionian Isles</i>, signed presentation copy from the author to Evelyn Baring, 1863. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Lear (Edward).- [Gray (John Edward)]. <i>Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall</i>, 1846. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Historiae Coelestis</i>, first edition,1712. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Atlas Coelestis</i>, 1781. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Conjuring Posters.- The Steens, American Mystifiers: Originators of Silent Transmission. broadside poster, [probably 1890-1900]. £300 to £500
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Tyndale's Bible.- Bible, English. The newe Testament, Richard Jugge, 1552; sold not subject to return. £10,000 to £15,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2017 Issue

A $2 Million Theft? Maybe Not

F24ed838-eac4-405b-852a-00ff69f3a5ee

How one estimates the value of rare, even unique works is always a challenge. The correct formula is to determine the market price agreed upon by a willing buyer and willing seller, but the rarer the item, the harder that can be to determine. In the case of books, some are extremely rare, occasionally the only known copy. With manuscripts and ephemeral items, there often is only one of its kind.

 

If there is but one of a kind, there are generally two methods employed in valuing it. In the first, a skilled appraiser will search for known prices on comparable items, such as a similar document from the same person, or another person of comparable notoriety. Then there is the other method, whereby the estimator pulls some number out of thin air (or someplace else), often what the owner in his wildest dreams would like to obtain. If you have ever searched the listing sites or eBay, you will undoubtedly find some examples of each, even a few where the unknowing owner grossly underestimates the value (you won't see this as often as they don't last long).

 

This takes us to one of the more amusing cases we have seen lately, where the item was a piece of original art, but the principles are the same. The Abilene (Texas) Police Department recently issued the following report:

 

"A 60 year old Lubbock man who was passing through Abilene on his way to the Metroplex [i.e. Dallas-Forth Worth] alleges someone came into his motel room over the weekend and stole over $2 mil. in paintings, some clothing and a map. Ricky Denzler had rented a room at a motel located at 3417 South 1st in order to visit family. At some point over the weekend Denzler says someone came into his room and stole the 5 paintings, the clothing and a map.

 

"Denzler says he is the artist of the paintings and estimated their value at over $2 million dollars. Denzler did not provide any proof of the paintings. The Abilene Police Department is working this incident as a Burglary of a Habitation. The investigation continues."

 

There were five paintings, four of which Denzler estimated at $2,000, $2,500, $16,000 and $24,000. The fifth he estimated at over $2 million. It appears he used the latter of the two previous methods of estimating value mentioned earlier. Denzler is not a well-known artist. The only matches to his paintings that can be found in an internet search are those referring to this alleged theft. He is, perhaps, the next Michelangelo, but it does not appear that anyone else has recognized that yet. Only Mr. Denzler, who provided the police with the valuations, has so concluded as of this time. It is very unlikely he sought the advice of a licensed appraiser in reaching his estimates.

 

A few other details added to the suspicions. Mr. Denzler was staying in an older, inexpensive motel in a neighborhood of comparables. One usually doesn't leave a $2 million painting alone in the room of such a place. Press reports added further suspicion as the motel manager voiced suspicion based on the appearance of some of the people visiting Mr. Denzler. Abilene police later reported that they had received calls from Interpol and London when reports got out that a $2 million painting had been stolen in Abilene. Abilene police assured them that these were not the paintings they were seeking. They also indicated it was likely that they would close the case.

 

The message here is that for buyers and sellers, it is important to ascertain as closely as possible actual market valuations of collectibles. For buyers, it is imperative if one hopes to be able to sell the item at a future date without incurring a serious loss. For sellers, it is important if one hopes to actually sell their wares. Mr. Denzler may value his painting at $2 million, but he will never sell it until he determines what the fair market value is for his work. Safe to say, he needs to dramatically sharpen his paintbrush.

 

For lower priced items, listing sites such as AbeBooks, Biblio, and Amazon can provide some guidance, though these are only asking prices, not selling prices, and it is not clear how these asking prices are determined. One should look to the lower prices asked for guidance unless there is a discernible difference between those and the ones that are priced higher (condition, etc.). For more valuable books and works on paper, one should look for actual sales records, such as those available through the Rare Book Transaction History (subscription available on this website) or from a recognized appraiser. It is worth getting the numbers right.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Broadside proclaiming the end of the Revolutionary War, NH, 1783. $20,000 to $30,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Manuscript medical journal kept by physicians aboard Continental Navy vessels, 1777-88. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Manuscript notes on sermons heard at Boston's First Church & Old South Church, 1684-1703. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, MN, 1833-93. $30,000 to $40,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Captain's journal of a mutinous whaling journey, South Pacific, 1839-46. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> <i>McClees' Gallery of Photographic Portraits ... of the Thirty-Fifth Congress</i>,Washington, 1859. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Juan de Ugarte, manuscript report on first 16 months of California missions, Mexico, 1699. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Cyanotype albums depicting the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, New York City, 1897-1903. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Unrecorded broadside from occupied New York, 1778. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> <i>The Honolulu Merchants' Looking-Glass</i>, first edition, San Francisco, 1862. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Honorius Philoponus, <i>Nova Typis Transacta Navigatio</i>, first edition, Linz, 1621. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Consignments now invited<br>History of Science & Technology<br>December 12th, 2017</b>
    NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>Opticks</i>. London, 1704. Presentation copy to Edmund Halley. Sold for $1,330,000
    Apple Computer Contract & Dissolution of Contract, signed by Jobs, Wozniak, & Wayne. Sold for $1,594,500
    DARWIN, CHARLES. Autograph Manuscript page from the manuscript of <i>On the Origin of Species</i>. Sold for $250,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions