Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2018 Issue

Auction Prices for Books and Paper Dipped by 1% in 2017

A42e1385-d500-44e4-9ccd-dd6aff3f2384

Prices at auction for lots in the books and paper field took a modest dip in 2017. The median price slipped from $270 to $267, or 1.1%. It nearly wiped out last year's almost as modest 1.5% increase. On the other hand, the average price dropped more sharply, from $2,011 to $1,859, but this is not a very meaningful figure. It takes only one or two books at several millions to greatly skew the average price, and 2017 was a year without any blockbuster sales.

 

The number of lots sold at auction increased by 5.8% last year. There were 312,154 lots we tracked sold in 2017, vs. 295,143 in 2016. That is an increase of about 17,000 lots sold. Around 12,000 more lots were offered, indicating an increase in the sell-through rate as well. The sales rate for 2017 was 74.7%, vs. 72.7% the previous year. A 2% increase in the sell-through rate is substantial, and perhaps the small decrease in the median price reflects a willingness to take a little less to make a sale.

 

The percentage of books sold by price range was identical to 2016. Once again, 24% of the lots were priced below $100, 79% below $1,000. At the other end, 21% were above $1,000, 6% above $5,000, and 3% above $10,000.

 

The ratio of lots sold over the high estimate to lots sold below the low estimate was almost unchanged. A total of 58% of the lots sold went for more than the high estimate, while only 24% sold for under the low estimate. However, if you add lots unsold to the ones sold below the low estimate, the numbers are virtually identical. There were 179,958 lots that sold either below the low estimate or not at all, and 179,920 that sold above the high estimate. That is 44% of all lots offered for each, leaving 12% that were priced correctly!

 

The fourth quarter of the year has traditionally been the busiest time of year, though in 2016, the second quarter matched the fourth in terms of lots offered. In 2017, the auction houses reverted to form, with 34.3% of all lots offered in the fourth quarter vs. 28.9% in the second quarter. That was just as well as the sell-through rate was 74.9% for the fourth quarter vs. only 70.8% for the second quarter. As is usually the case, November was the busiest month. There were 56,656 lots offered, or 13.6% of the lots offered for the year. Sell-through was a robust 77%. August was again the slowest month, with just 17,676 lots offered, or only 4.2% of the total. However, the sell-through rate for August was the highest of the year at 80%. That is a surprise considering most people are expected to be on vacation.

 

Again following form, the highest median prices were achieved at the various branches of Sotheby's and Christie's. Highest overall, at an even $10,000, was the New York branch of Sotheby's. However, if prices at that level are a bit rich for the average buyer, there were 11 auction houses that offered more than 1,000 lots where the median was under $100. For the lowest of the low, check out the sales at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. They won't break your budget, with a median of $12. In other words, half of their sold items went for less than $12. 98% sold for under $100. As for volume of lots sold, the runaway leader is Heritage Auctions' Dallas location. They sold 92,718 lots. The distant runner up was Kiefer Buch of Germany with 10,459.

 

Last month, we reported on the top 500 most expensive lots sold at auction in 2017. That report can be found by clicking here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions