AE Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

A Sale on the Morrow

Auction1

Lot 180 - Kotzebue


By Bruce McKinney

The human brain is in constant flux, caught between emotion and reason. On the day last spring I consigned my collection of the American Experience to auction at Bonhams for sale tomorrow, December 2nd, in New York, 'reason' was in charge. As the day, hour and minute approach it turns out that consignor emotions will be heard. They are now informing me that they weren't consulted and are now in an uproar. Oh well. Every consignor to auction faces a moment when the market will judge the material, house, timing, offer, estimates and reserves and if pleased leap to its feet paddles raised or if not amused, curl the catalogue tightly to swat flies and competitors. In the blink of an eye a verdict is rendered. Who knew? Book collecting as a contact sport.

You might not know this from what an auction house tells you. Consignors bring their own issues, often a mess of anxieties that require soothing and consolation and this is just to get to the point of consignment. Converting hopes and ambitions into printed descriptions will later become tricky but on signing day that's all in the future. In time the cataloguers become the ones who tell you "it's a skillful copy and unfortunately not real." Of course they don't tell you it's a tacky copy because they are used to delivering bad news and know, possibly from experience, that 'tacky copy' doesn't go down well. In any event, as Bonhams has prepared my sale, the news has been good. The only uncertainty, now resolved, concerned estimates and reserves.

From the outset I raised the possibility that the sale would be unreserved and heading into the final proofing, and setting of estimates, confirmed it. Christina Geiger who has been point-woman [or is it point-person] for Bonhams on the sale asked for a night to consult and came back to say "we think it will be fine." We've been on the same page from the outset. The estimates are just that - estimates. Valuation will be established by bidding.

AE Monthly


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