• <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> CLEMENS, SAMUEL L. <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.</i> Hartford: The American Publishing Company, 1876. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> BATEMAN, JAMES. <i>The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.</i> London: J. Ridgway & Sons for the author, [1837]-1843. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> WHITMAN, WALT. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome,] 1855. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> LEE, HARPER. Three “Seckatary Hawkins”-related books inscribed and signed by Harper Lee. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> POE, EDGAR ALLAN. <i>The Raven.</i> New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. $120,000 to $180,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Currier & Ives, <i>The Mississippi in Time of Peace,</i> hand-colored lithograph, 1865. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Hartmann Schedel, <i>Liber Cronicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, 1493. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Claudius Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographicae Enarrationis Libri Octo,</i> Lyons, 1535. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Thomas Jefferys, <i>The American Atlas,</i> London, 1776-77. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Speed, <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> 20 miniature maps, London, 1665. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> <i>Biblia Das ist: Die Gantze Heilige Schrifft Durch D. Martin Luther Verteutscht,</i> illustrated cartographic Bible, Basel, 1665. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Early Hawaiian-language school geography, Lahainaluna Seminary, 1840. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Cornelis de Jode, <i>Africae Vera Forma, et Situs,</i> Antwerp, 1593. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Maria Vincenzo Coronelli, <i>America Settentrionale Colle Nuove Scoperte Sin All Anno,</i> Venice, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Christoph Volkamer, <i>Nürnbergische Hesperides,</i> Nuremberg, 1708-1714. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Bayer, <i>Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata...,</i> 51 celestial charts, c. 1603. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Manuscript map of Commodore Perry’s Black Ship squadron at Edo Bay, with manuscript sketchbook, ink & watercolor, Japan, c. 1853. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 17:</b> [EINSTEIN, ALBERT]; JOHN GRAUDENZ [PHOTOGRAPHER]. Photographic portrait of Albert Einstein by John Graudenz, taken circa 1928. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 17:</b> ENIGMA M4. A fully operational four-rotor ("M4") Kriegsmarine Enigma Cipher Machine. Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Germany, Heimsoeth und Rinke, 1942. $300,000 to $500,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 17:</b> FEYNMAN, RICHARD P. <i>“Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”. Adventures of a Curious Character.</i> New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 17:</b> An intact egg of the Aepyornis Maximus, or Elephant Bird. Pre-17th century, Madagascar. $35,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 17:</b> Palm frond with fish. Green River Formation, Wyoming, United States. <i>Sabalites sp.,</i> and <i>Diplomystus dentatus</i> Cenozoic, Eocene (53-33 million years ago). $60,000 to $70,000.
  • <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2019 Issue

Sotheby's Goes Private or Sotheby's Going Going Up

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Sotheby's: Sold!

Sotheby’s, a publicly traded company for 30 years, has been purchased by Patrick Drahi for $3.7 billion including debt.  In going private the firm joins the other major auction houses in the world, all of whom are private.  While no reasons were given in Sotheby’s releases the company appears to have experienced a disconnect between how public companies are evaluated and auction houses function.  Publicly traded companies must perform quarterly, report sales and earnings every 90 days and provide an essentially non-stop flow of positive releases to support their stock price.  Privately held companies have no such public obligations and can focus on developing multi-year strategies, long the standard approach for the leading auction houses.

 

Said another way, when private auction houses weigh in with news it’s invariably to enhance their position with consignors and bidders.  Sotheby’s by comparison also had to pay attention to how investors were responding.  So Sotheby’s will not miss the public financial reporting and will again be able to develop their already significant strengths without having to keep an eye on the stock ticker whose demands frequently are at odds with auction house strategy and market cycles.

 

This is not to say that it was never logical for Sotheby’s to be public.  I assume the reason the company went public was to achieve a higher public valuation as well as create a path to liquidity for the then principal owners.  It is wonderful to build large companies but the exits are few and far between and going public, an option for only a few, can be exceptionally rewarding.

 

Most companies achieve success for their ownership by producing consistent and progressively higher earnings.  In the auction field this is difficult for various reasons.

 

While a few auction houses control some of the material that comes into their rooms, most rely on consignments that are notoriously inconsistent.  When markets are hot the consignments arrange themselves but when skepticism is out and about it’s easier to get an owner to shoot their dog than get them to consign.   Actually a lot easier.

 

Owners of big things may want to sell but they are not willing to be humiliated by the public repudiation that is possible if their consignment is a little off, a little worn, or a little over estimated.  In reality there’s a very small difference between a complete failure and an outstanding success.  Sotheby’s has always had an exceptional touch but consignors do not always remember that.

 

As a public company, while they achieved liquidity for their owners, the price they have long paid is the loss of secrecy that every private auction house shrouds their plans and strategies in.  As a public company, with the obligation to report earnings and prospects every quarter they are constantly forced to release information that potentially weakens their negotiation positions.

 

To counter this they moved ever higher in their pursuit of the most coveted collectibles.  Today paintings occasionally bring $100 million but every house wants them and concessions to consignors are more the norm than the exception.  In the rare book field not so much.  In fact the next Gutenberg Bible, a symbol of humanism, enlightenment, and emerging literacy in spectacular condition, will probably open at half that amount.

 

As a private company Sotheby’s will have the flexibility the public company lacked and they will be, as they have long been, formidable.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Churchill (Winston) & Others. 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, 27 April 1944. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> First English edition, 1922. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Belzoni (Giovanni Battista). <i>Plates Illustrated of the Researches and Operations...in Egypt and Nubia,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1821-1822. £14,375 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Astor (John Jacob). A collection of rare letters, 9 January 1812- 4 September 1837. £26,000 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 1997. £27,500 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Royal Family. Photograph of Queen Elizabeth, George VI, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, signed, 1946. £3,640 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Collodi (Carlo). <i>Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1883. £8,401 inc Buyers Premium.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.

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