A Sale on the Morrow
For auction houses selling important books entire unreserved sales are rare and many auction houses never have even one. Such sales raise risks for both consignor and auction house and in the run-up to the sale brave intentions often give way to somber anxieties. But not this time. I see the world of collectible books like the unfolding petals of an iris opening to the sun. We have lived through the winter of book collecting and I believe spring is at hand. I say this based, not on hope but on the developing evidence presented by auction houses around the world as they offer material and knock down lots at the rate of almost a thousand a day. There is plenty of information to go by and I write about it every week for those who subscribe to our Weekly Auction Updates [subscribe here]. I see it first hand and believe.
For auction houses unreserved sales are complicated. They are caught between wanting to conduct great sales and avoiding great failures. This leads to the schizophrenic combination of aggressive efforts to obtain important sales and later creeping conservatism that is often present in after-commitment discussions via sighs and hesitations that remind the consignor there are no guarantees, only best efforts. I knew this going in and in any event Bonhams never got cold feet.
Now, eight months after reaching an agreement, the rubber is about to meet the road on an interesting, even important unreserved sale.
As Bonhams has done every month since summer they have prepared a video, this the fifth in a series about 'the making of a sale' based on their work creating the American Experience. This one details the recently concluded San Francisco preview where materials were on display and experts available to discuss specific items. The series, while of particular interest to collectors of printed Americana, will be useful to anyone who wishes to understand Bonhams' approach specifically and other auction houses' approaches generally. Every new auction is of course different - always a fresh four or five hundred piece puzzle to be organized, assembled and explained but the logic and rules for the creation of an auction are enduring.