AE Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

A Book Still Worth Reading:  Anatomy of an Auction

Rings were not outlawed in the United Kingdom until 1928.  What these dealers did was legal as well as obviously unethical.  We know they understood this very well because they went to great lengths to cover it up. That they screwed a seller so completely would, if widely known, certainly have damaged their reputations and jeopardized their appointments, those that had them, as sellers to the King.   The story nevertheless leached out over the next few years because of disagreements among ring members.   In time, detailed records of one of the participants came to light forming the basis for this book.

In the final analysis the final prices paid in the re-auctions appear to have been appropriate.  Had the consignor received these proceeds the outcome would have been fair.  That dealers pocketed two thirds of the auction proceeds is unconscionable. 

Every day persons in pursuit of books seize every legitimate advantage to acquire them.  A sharp-eyed observer will legitimately acquire an inaccurately described or significantly undervalued book.  This is simply fair play.  In fact, the reading of catalogues is often pursued exclusively for detecting such material.   But if buyers band together for the purpose of denying the consignor fair value then a line is crossed.  The ringers in cahoots in the Ruxley Ridge sale knew the practice to be unsavory and went to great lengths to hide it and when outed, simply claimed it was not illegal, the faintest of fig coverings.  The publicity attendant to the sale led directly to laws in 1927 that elevated the reprehensible behavior from the immoral to the illegal.

The behavior is now illegal.  The impulse to engage in such undertakings no doubt lives on.  The book should be republished.

Copies of this book are hard to come by.  There were recently a dozen copies listed for sale on the Americana Exchange, Amazon, eBay and Abebooks

In 2007 material relating to this sale was sold by Bloomsbury.  




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