Bringing a major sale successfully into the rooms is an accomplishment in every era and during the Covid years, unusually risky. Christie’s pursued the Reese sales and it seemed likely they would handle it but still had to get the commitment, and then deliver. On May 25-26 the consignors and Christies achieved all that was possible. Many higher echelon collectors and dealer-collectors ultimately exit at auction and, no doubt, many will be studying the Reese model. We’ll see it again. It was perfect.
What made Bill’s sales so interesting was the tricky combination of superb material, auction house, cataloguing, timing and promotion. The timing was flickering yellow while the stock market was swooning but then the market reversed after a six week slide just as the auction was to open. Wow!
Bill was a canny dealer, creating a superb business, the Reese Company. Among the thousands of dealers who join the field, few emerge eminent and Bill reached the pinnacle. For that he’ll be remembered and his connection to the examples sold at his sales will add value when they resell in the future. His WSR Ex Libris will be money in the bank.
Among Bill’s personal holdings, the materials at auction were eclectic. Neither place, subject, nor period were consistent while rarity, association and relative quality are. It turns out he practiced what he preached. He often said, buy the best copy you can and when you can find a better one and afford it, trade up. As a dealer, trading up was natural. For collectors it’s always been difficult to do efficiently.
For those who purchased at the sale, know your decisions will be rewarded. And for those dealers who purchased for stock, when that becomes apparent, ask for Bill’s copies with his WSR Ex Libris.
As to the sales themselves:
On May 25-26 there were two sales, Part l and Part ll, between them 382 lots. Part III, of less expensive material, was completed a few days later.
Part I included 100 lots bringing $8,216,292 against the aggregate high estimate of $6,892,400.
Part II included 274 lots bringing $7,913,052 against the aggregate high estimate of $4,569,700.
Part III included 111 lots bringing $496,188.00 against the aggregate high estimate of $512,100.
Between them they brought $16,625,532.
To the many who bid and to the select group that brought home books and documents with the Reese commemorative bookplate we offer heartfelt congratulations. Those purchases will be appreciated over the decades ahead.
To review these sales use this link and then scroll through recent events. To begin click on View Current Auction Reports, continue clicking until you reach the Reese sales.
Bill’s renowned collection of Herman Melville will be auctioned in September.