Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

California Rescinds Application of Hated Autograph Law to Booksellers

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California Assemblyman Todd Gloria, author of the repeal of the autograph law as applied to booksellers.

Good news for booksellers – California has repealed its hated new autograph law, at least as it applies to booksellers. The onerous requirements, which also could have affected out-of-state booksellers selling to California residents and participants in California trade shows, will no longer apply to those in the book trade. The same applies to those selling manuscripts, numbered prints and other forms of autographed ephemera not pertaining to the sports or entertainment media industries.

 

The old law, which took effect on January 1 of this year, was never meant to apply to booksellers. It was intended to reach various memorabilia sellers, particularly in sports and entertainment, who regularly sell forged material. It is an industry by itself. According to the California Assembly's discussion of the bill, 94% of all Beatles' memorabilia is forged, 76% for Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, the wording of the law did not make this point clear. As written, it sounded like the law would apply to booksellers selling autographed books and others as well.

 

What made this so upsetting to booksellers were the draconian requirements. Selling an autographed book might have required presenting the buyer with a Certificate of Authenticity with all sorts of information, some possibly hard to come by. Included in the detailed information were a description of the item, purchase price, an express warranty, size of edition if it is part of a limited edition, whether it was signed in the dealer's presence and the name of a witness to the signing, and if purchased from a third party the name and address of the person from whom it was purchased. Various warning notices had to be posted in bookshops and trade shows, and specific records had to be kept. Dealers specializing in signed editions or hosting author signing events would have been particularly hard hit by the requirements.

 

The terms were so demanding on booksellers that the author of the bill wrote a letter saying it was not intended to apply to booksellers. Unfortunately, that is not good enough. Only the law is the law, and her letter was not a part of the law. Under the letter of the law, it could readily be interpreted as applying to booksellers.

 

The new law makes numerous changes to the old legislation, such as increasing the minimum value of the item qualifying as a (autographed) collectible from the absurd $5 to $50. However, rather than looking at the adjustments, we will get straight to the new part that is targeted specifically to booksellers. The new law has some exceptions as to what is considered an autographed collectible. The previous law only said, sometimes in general terms, what was. Here is the key new section – "autographed collectibles" do not include, "signed books, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media." That is quite clear when it comes to books, and to much of the other material booksellers often handle. Another exception covers "works of fine art," including "numbered multiples," which will cover many artistic prints.

 

What is still in? Well, this revised definition now limits what is a collectible for purposes of the statute to just two areas, sports and entertainment media (music, television, and film). So now, we are limited to two subjects of collectibles, and with various formats such as books and original art in any subjects removed.

 

Is there anything that booksellers might handle which still could cause a problem? There are a few signed ephemeral items within the works on paper category one might have. Baseball programs, tickets, or cards are specifically listed. So are pictures and photographs related to films, along with tickets and playbills. These do show up occasionally in a dealer's inventory, so it is wise to be mindful here. You don't have to sell too many of them to be subject to the requirements. Just three of these valued at $50 or more over a 12-month period will subject you to the requirements. Be careful if you are a California dealer or selling into California. The statute also makes clear that auctions selling such non-exempt material must also comply with the revised rules.

 

 

Update:  As of October 3, the bill had not yet been signed by Gov. Brown. Unless the Governor vetoes it, it will become law on his signature or on October 15 if he neither signs nor vetoes the bill. It is expected the bill will be approved by the Governor.

 

Further Update:  The legislation has now been signed by Gov. Brown and is now law.


Posted On: 2017-10-01 14:18
User Name: robert.kearley06@gmail.com

Bravo for California Lawmakers! I wish all States would enact this legislation and focus on the many, many so-called Auction Houses that are simply in operation to turn a profit and would not stand up to the scrutiny of this Law.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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