The ABAA Fair In San Francisco - a success
Opening day at the book fair
The ABAA, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, completed their 46th California Book Fair on February 17th and has now decamped for homes, offices and shops across the globe. They will next meet in New York in April for the New York Book Fair, their most important event in 2013. The San Francisco fair was well attended. According to Molly E. Glover of Winslow & Associates, agents for the ABAA, attendance was 4,303.
John Crichton, of Brick Row Book Shop, ABAA member and former president, as well as past president of the Book Club of California, when asked about the recent fair, was very upbeat.
“The show had a great feel. There were new faces and lots of institutions, people happy to be here. Access to rare books in shops anymore is almost non-existent. At this fair we see the audience that used to buy in shops come out. It’s gratifying. It’s where we meet the committed.”
Michael Hackenberg, Book Fair Chair for some dozen years, added “I was exceedingly happy. Feedback was very good, dealer to dealer sales brisk. I brought interesting material and much of it found new homes.”
This year for the first time exhibitors could obtain guaranteed locations for a 15% premium and all premium locations were taken.
The number of exhibitors was down, to about 220 this year versus 235 two years ago [this is an every other year event]. The difference was mainly in European participation.
James Bryant of Carpe Diem Fine Books, both a fair committee member and show participant said he had a great show. “From year to year you never know.” He also mentioned that the buying was very good. “With shops closed the fair has become a destination for sellers. They have fewer options. We saw a lot and purchased quite a bit.”
About the attending audience he offered, “we were pleased, very pleased, that we got a younger crowd. For the field to have a future we have to have new blood.”
In the same vein - John Howell, of Los Angeles, exhibited for the first time. He brought a mixture of Fine Press and Artist’s Books, Californiana, Books about Books, Miniature Books, and early printed leaves that reveal the history of book production. “Almost every category sold well, to both younger and older buyers. Sales to the public, institutions, and other dealers were brisk. I couldn’t be happier.”
The ABAA Fair In San Francisco - a success
A busy show at Barry Ruderman Antique Maps
Jeffrey Mancevice of Worcester, Massachusetts, also a long time ABAA member had this to add, “This was one of my best fairs as defined by sales to libraries and the trade. I had no retail sales but it was a very good fair nevertheless. California used to be one of the best for retail customers but many have died or become inactive.”
Marc Selvaggio [Books and Ephemera]called it a decent fair, consistent in sales, but changing in their nature and origin. “As with Pasadena last year, my sales to private people (eg., non-dealers/non-libraries) were 7%. Sales to dealers amounted to 65% of my gross while institutions accounted for 28% (almost all I would have sold to them directly whether at the fair or not). A LOT of people were in my booth during the fair (as they always are), spending A LOT of time pawing the ephemera bins-- I call these folks, "The Touchers"-- but very few actual sales to civilians. It will be interesting to see if the Ephemera Society show (at which I am exhibiting next month) is any different.
Barry Ruderman, the La Jolla antique map dealer summed up his show this way, “It was our best San Francisco Fair, both from a buying and selling perspective. The most exciting acquisitions were the second known example of a Baja California Fillibuster map and a fantastic set of RS Williamson 1849 Gold Rush letters, both coming from Ken Harrison, who never ceases to amaze. The amount of unique and/or "never before seen on the market" items in the fair was up dramatically over prior years. Prices have fallen to a point where the market feels invigorated again and we saw more new collectors with serious interests."
Many people mentioned the Nick Wilding talk on forgeries as something they enjoyed. A few attendees are thought to have used photocopied tickets.
The ABAA has hit upon a formula that works, exceptional dealers, and exceptional material and, over the weekend of February 15th to 17th, that rarest element in San Francisco, great weather.
In other years the organizing committee could announce that the fair would return in two years. This year it is not so easy. The Concourse Pavilion, the current venue, is not taking early reservations as development plans for the site, now under new ownership, have yet to be determined. This may mean no change in venue or it might mean a shift to Fort Mason in San Francisco, to the arena in Oakland or even to San Jose.
What we can say is that the Eagle will land. Too many people enjoy the event.
In the meantime Nancy Johnson of Nancy Johnson Events Management has announced that the next San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print & Paper Fair, this fair’s alter ego, will be held at the Fort Mason Center February 1st-2nd, 2014.
Link to the upcoming New York ABAA fair site: www.sanfordsmith.com/default.aspx?pageId=13
Link to 2014 San Francisco Print & Paper Fair: www.sfbookandpaperfair.com