Thursday, December 02, 2010

Auction Report: "The American Experience" - Bonhams

Today saw the sale at Bonhams New York of Bruce McKinney's collection, The American Experience, 1630-1890. The sale was carried out with no reserve prices, and the auction catalog included information on McKinney's acquisition of the books and the prices he paid. In the December Americana Exchange Monthly (out yesterday), McKinney comments on his feelings just before the auction got underway, and I must also point out the very interesting series of short films Bonhams has made about the auction process using this sale as an example (start at the bottom).

Because the auction lots were not bound by reserves all lots sold (full results here), and generally the estimate ranges proved fairly accurate, with most lots making or exceeding the reserves. As for McKinney's original purchase prices, I'm sure he'll have a full analysis of all this over at Americana Exchange, but from my brief glance through the data it looked as though at least most of the high-end lots more than repaid his investment (though just how it all balances out I'll leave for someone else to figure).

Two lots tied for the top price: Lot 14, the Streeter-Sieber copy of John Lederer's Discoveries (1672), which McKinney purchased at the Sieber sale in 1999 for $134,500, was estimated today at $40,000-60,000 and made $158,000. Fetching the same price was Lot 165, the first definitive account of Lewis and Clark's travels (1814), est. $70,000-90,000. This was purchased in 1999 for $72,500.

The copy of the Treaty of Paris (1783), acquired in 2001 for $41,000 and estimated today at $40,000-60,000, also surpassed expectations, selling for $134,000. Collot's Voyage (1827) also made $134,000. Bernard Romans' Concise Natural History of East and West Florida (1775), also acquired at the Seiber sale for $63,000 (today estimated at $50,000-70,000), fetched $122,000. John Graves Simcoe's Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers (1787) sold for $115,900.

Prices for the other lots I previewed:
- John Smith's Advertisements for the unexperienced planters of New-England (1631) - $67,100; Thomas James' Strange and Dangerous Voyage (1633) - $91,500; Wood's New England's Prospect (1635) - $51,240; third edition of Catesby (1771, with plates and map watermarked 1815-16) - $91,500; the ; and early issues of McKenney and Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1838-1844) - $91,500.

As I noted above I'm sure Mr. McKinney will chime in with his thoughts on the auction over at AE, so when he does I'll make sure to pass it along.