Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2024 Issue

Book and Collectible Paper Auction Sales Were Up and Down in 2023

Lots sold were up, but dollar volume was down.

Auction sales in the books and collectible paper field were a mixed bag in 2023. The number of lots offered and sold were up significantly, but the average sale price was down substantially. The result was the total sales in dollars decreased. This is the second year in a row that total sales dollars have fallen, though they remain substantially higher than in years prior to 2021.

 

Lots offered increased from 626,000 the prior year to 658,000 in 2023, an increase of 5%. Lots sold rose from 505,000 to 526,000, an increase of 4%. However, the average price dropped substantially, from $2,094 in 2022 to $1,863 in 2023. That represents a decrease of 11%. The median price also declined, from $312 to $293, down 6%. The result of it all was a decrease in total dollars spent, dropping under $1 billion after two years in ten figures. Total sales declined from $1,057,040,000 to $979,312,000, a decrease of 7.4%.

 

The sell through rate at auction also declined, but only by a very modest less than 1%. The percentage of lots offered that sold in 2022 was 80.6%, slipping to 79.8% in 2023.

 

Not surprisingly, considering the decrease in average price, the percentage of lots selling for under $100 increased from 18% to 20%. The percent selling for over $1,000 decreased from 23% to 22%. The very high end, $10,000+, remained the same at 3%.

 

Half of the lots offered sold over the auction houses' high estimates. The percentage that sold under the low estimate or not at all was 35%, while only 15% sold within the estimated range. Estimating is an inexact science.

 

The busiest quarter for sales was the last quarter of the year, October-December. That was when 27.7% of the auctions were held and 29.8% of the lots were offered. That represents a return to the norm after last year's exception when the second quarter was the busiest. The third quarter – summer – was, as usual, the slowest.

 

The auction house with the highest average order for houses that sold at least 100 lots in the field was Sothebys New York with an average price of $44,964. Second was Jewish book and paper specialist Genazym at $36,827. Genazym's median price of $14,880 was almost double the next highest median. The third highest average price was at Christies New York at $23,065, followed by Christies London King Street - $21,578, Sothebys London - $19,361, Aspire Art Auctions - $18,619, Arader Galleries - $14,788, Christies Paris - $13,713, Bonhams London - $11,046, and Sothbys Paris - $9,933.

 

The leader by far in terms of number of lots offered was Heritage Auctions. They offered 223,165 lots and sold 216,661 of them. The second highest number of lots offered came from Kiefer Buch with 20,881, followed by Forum Auctions – 13,128, Tessier & Sarrou – 12,871, PBA Galleries – 12,151, RR Auction – 12,056, Catawiki – 11,153, Holabird Western Americana – 10,850, Bubb Kuyper – 10,714, and Trillium – 9,749.

 

You can follow upcoming auctions on this site, either complete auctions through the auction calendar (www.rarebookhub.com/auctions/calendar) or search for individual items in the search bar found at the top of most pages. Select “Upcoming Auctions” for your search and enter your keywords.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: SIGNED. LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, photo-postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

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