Energy in the Auction Rooms
Bidders felt good at this sale. The value of their inventory was confirmed.
By Bruce McKinney
On February 10th, 16th and 18th interesting book auctions were held in New York at Swann, and in San Francisco by Dorothy Sloan and at John's Western Gallery. Both the Swann and Sloan sales did well while the Gilchriese presentation at John's found buying interest to be as narrow as the Gilchriese collecting focus: Wyatt Earp manuscript and memorabilia. At Swann the material was the remainder of a large Americana consignment and at Sloan it was actually two sales. The first was No. 14, Americana with an Emphasis on Borderlands, Texas, California, Mexico & Central America. The second, No. 15, was the Daniel G. Volkmann, Jr. collection of Californiana. In these sales a substantial portion of the lots sold: clear evidence of broad strength in the marketplace.
At Swann the material was mainly mid-market. It was a combination of lesser known items combined with better known material with occasional condition problems. The estimates were relatively low and almost everything sold. Of 358 lots 324 sold. There has been plenty of talk that the market for important, essentially perfect material is almost unlimited while the middle-market is less certain. At Swann's on the 10th there were plenty of buyers to bid and almost everything, at a price, sold. In the mid-market the variable isn't interest. It's price. The total hammer price was $227,460 and the average lot realization an affordable $702.
Susannah Carter's Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook brought $9,775 against an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000. The engraving on silk of the Declaration of Independence  brought $21,850 against the estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. And for the person who purchased the 1753 Poor Richard's Almanack they won't need to wait for Poor Richard's predictions of book prices. Against an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000 it brought $19,550.
In the first Sloan sale [No. 14] there were 64 lots of which 48 sold at the auction. During the following two days several more were sold at the low estimate plus 15% commission. Several bidders, who left order bids that failed to win, later converted their unspent funds into purchases of unsold lots. Twelve lots sold at the low estimate and another 12 remain unsold but available. The average hammer price was $4,870.
Energy in the Auction Rooms
Even between sales the back row looked ready to bid.
A few of the important items, both of which sold at the reserve, were the William Heartsill which brought $30,000 and the David Woodman which brought $15,000. Here are how they were described:
28. HEARTSILL, W. W. Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days in the Confederate Army.... [Marshall: Privately printed, 1876]. 61 original albumen photographs (portraits, including Heartsill in his leopard-skin britches). 8vo, original black cloth with silver lettering and ruling on spine. First edition, limited edition (100 copies). Basic Texas Books 89: "The rarest and most coveted book on the American Civil War... One of the most vivid and intimate accounts of Civil War battle-life that has survived." Howes H380. ($30,000-50,000)
64. WOODMAN, David. Guide to Texas Emigrants. Boston, 1835. Copper-engraved plate, folding copper-engraved map with original hand-coloring. 12mo, modern three-quarter morocco over marbled boards. First edition. Fifty Texas Rarities 12. Graff 4737. Howes W647. Phillips, Sporting Books, p. 413. Sabin 105111. Streeter 1177. Vandale 197. ($15,000-30,000)
The second Sloan sale, No. 15, was 225 lots of Californiana, the collection of Dan Volkmann of San Francisco. Two hundred and five lots sold at auction and in the following few days. The aggregate hammer price was $914,335 and the average lot realization $4,460. Lot 132, an unsold lot from the Volkmann Zamorano sale two years ago again failed to find a buyer at the $225,000 reserve which Ms. Sloan acknowledged after the sale, was set by the consignor, not by the auction house and was linked to what he paid rather than to the current market value. Even as the lot went unsold, Ms. Sloan asked for offers from the floor. None were forthcoming although three offers, after the sale, have since been reported. Mr. Volkmann will apparently continue to own this item. An example of this map is featured in Schwartz and Ehrenberg's "The Mapping of America" on page 277 [1980 edition].
Ms. Sloan, veteran auctioneer and book dealer, expressed satisfaction. "We sold 89% of the lots in both sales. This suggests our estimates and the market are in sync." In 2004, on average among the almost 400 auctions AE covered, 75% of lots offered in book sales sold.
Energy in the Auction Rooms
John's Western Gallery Catalogue 12 Lot 7
At John's Western Gallery on Friday the 18th the sale of premium Wyatt Earp material failed to reach critical mass. The catalogue presentation was attractive and complete but of the 121 lots only 57, with an aggregate hammer price of $60,915, found new homes. Rick Wilkinson of John's said "This is great material but of primary interest only to very focused collectors. For those who bid it was a chance to buy exceptional material at very fair prices." Most of the money was in one item, diagram of a shoot-out in Tombstone, Arizona [October 26th, 1881] - Wyatt Earp's 1926 sketch of this gun-fight in which he was a famous participant. This piece of history sold for $40,000. The other lots brought an average of $373. Here is the description of the Earp sketch.
EARP, Wyatt. Holograph pencil diagram of the Tombstone city block bounded by Fourth Street, Allen Street, Third Street, and Fremont Street...
...delineating the locations of Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton when Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, accompanied by "Doc" Holliday, arrived at the street fight. "Doc" is in Fremont Street, where he will remain, but Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan are just off the street in the vacant lot between the Harwood house and Fly's Boarding House & Gallery. Two-ring 10 1/2" x 7 3/4" graph paper with Earp diagram on recto and John H. Flood, Jr. notes on verso. [Los Angeles], Friday evening, April 4, 1924.
Complete in detail to inclusion of dots representing where Frank & Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton lay at the end of the fight. Locations at the outset are labeled "X" with first names. Dots are not labeled but are, of course identifiable as it is well known that Tom McLaury died at the foot of the two-span telegraph pole on the corner of Fremont & Third Streets and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton are indicated lying in Fremont Street. The 1926 diagram of this fight that sold in June of 2004 was drawn by Flood at Earp's direction, with marks indicating participants inserted by Wyatt himself. This diagram is all in the hand of Wyatt Earp. Paper is very lightly darkened; otherwise all near fine. WEM Inventory #117.
Unsold material and many other related items are being sold on their website: http://johnswesterngallery.com
Overall it was a good week.