AE Monthly

Articles - September - 2005 Issue

Pacific Book Auction - A good place to do business

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Auction Room at Pacific Book Auction.


By Karen Wright

Last month I attended my first Pacific Book Auction sale. I have bought from them online several times, making bids and either being elated that I won my prize book or deflated when I lost it. But this time, I went for the real thing, and it wasn't just an excuse to go to balmy San Francisco to escape our scorching desert heat, either. Oh, I've been to a few auctions...some books, some antiques, and I've generally bought too much for too much. This time, I went with reselling in mind and I bought much more carefully than I would have were I buying for myself. I still bought too much, but not for too, too much!

PBA Galleries is, according to Bruce MacMakin, the Senior Vice President of Consignments and Appraisals, the largest specialty book auction house in the United States. Devoted to works on paper and related arts, PBA conducts approximately twenty-five gallery auctions in a calendar year and continuous live online auctions of rare books, manuscripts, autographs, maps, atlases, prints, and photographs. But mostly, says Bruce, they just handle books. They receive some of their consignments from California, but many more come from all over the U.S. and other countries around the world. Their customer base comes from booksellers, book buyers and collectors from many countries. According to their website, "It is PBA Galleries' primary goal to maintain our high level of standards in the fine arts field and provide the best service to all who are interested in buying and selling at PBA Galleries." I certainly can't argue with that. The whole experience was very professional and the staff was gracious and widely knowledgeable.

As a bookseller, I wanted to know if they accepted consignments from many book stores that are going out of business. He replied that they usually don't, since by the time the bookseller gets around to eliminating the last of his or her inventory, s/he has already had half-price sales and all the really good, high-end books have been sold. I asked Mr. MacMakin what his ideal customer would be. "We get a lot of our consignments from estates, book scouts and collectors who are thinning their high quality collections. We have the three Ds; death, debt and divorces; those are our primary auction sources." Hey, that rhymes!

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