Collecting Modern Editions – An Expert Guide on Doing It Right

Embarking on an adventure in collecting something new and unfamiliar can be very exciting, but it can also be a bit overwhelming.

Case in point: turning a fascination for books into a passion for collecting them. The beauty of collecting books is that there’s a niche in the marketplace for just about everyone. The increase in modern edition books showing up in auctions – and in some cases fetching tidy sums – speaks to an opportunity that many are seizing as first-time collectors.

To gain a bit of perspective about the modern book market and gain a few tips for bibliophiles at any level of experience, we turned to Rebecca Rego Barry, author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places, and editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine.

What do you feel are some of the most intriguing aspects of collecting modern editions?

For collectors of modern firsts, there is probably an element of capturing the history one has lived through, or celebrating some part of that history. All collectors are trying to tell a story with their collections, and for collectors of modern firsts, that story is often very personal.

Also, for those who collect firsts—modern or not—part of the draw is to see and experience the book exactly as the author did.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape 1953, First Edition, Author’s Presentation copy, inscribed on front endpaper, marks the first appearance of the character James Bond, sold for $52,344 at Sotheby’s July 12, 2016 auction.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape 1953, First Edition, Author’s Presentation copy, inscribed on front endpaper, marks the first appearance of the character James Bond, sold for $52,344 at Sotheby’s July 12, 2016 auction.

How should the beginning collector proceed if they want to focus on modern editions but have a limited budget?

Slowly! Beginning collectors can and will make mistakes, so it’s best to take it slowly as you find your focus and educate yourself about book-collecting basics. I would advise new collectors to attend a few books fairs if they can, get the ‘lay of the land,’ so to speak, and talk to booksellers who specialize in the areas that pique your interest. Affordability doesn’t have to be an issue, unless you’re aiming for a collection of high spots (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Updike, etc.). If you secretly cherish some quirky or offbeat topic or author, that can be the perfect start for a unique and inexpensive collection.

Why do you think modern editions, like the Harry Potter series, are so attractive to collectors?

I think people are driven to collect books that are meaningful to them, so if the first book that truly appealed to you as a reader was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, maybe that’s the book that will launch your collection of modern firsts, or the works of J.K. Rowling, or every different edition of HP, or high points of children’s literature – who knows?!

Collectible modern firsts are typically in very good (or better) condition, so they also tend to look aesthetically pleasing on a shelf, as opposed to, say, flaking, sheepskin-bound medical books from the mid-nineteenth century. For some, that may be a consideration.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury 1997, First Edition, First Issue (With an error found on page 53 — duplicate listing for ‘1 wand’ in the list of Hogwarts school supplies), sold for $55,628 at a Nov. 9, 2016 auction at Bonhams. The final price was more than double the high estimate.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury 1997, First Edition, First Issue (With an error found on page 53 — duplicate listing for ‘1 wand’ in the list of Hogwarts school supplies), sold for $55,628 at a Nov. 9, 2016 auction at Bonhams. The final price was more than double the high estimate.

What are four things every collector should keep in mind when collecting modern editions?

  1. Can three of them be ‘condition?’ All joking aside, condition is perhaps the most important consideration in modern first editions.
  2. Because modern books are produced in quantity, they are rarely ‘rare,’ so their monetary value is often based on condition, both of the book and, sometimes even more importantly, the dust jacket.
  3. But to back up a little, first you’ll need to determine whether the book actually is a first edition, and that can be tricky, which is why there are guides to help, like McBride’s Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions. If you’re working with a bookseller you know and trust, you won’t have to puzzle it out yourself.
  4. While some may like their books pristine and untouched, collectible modern books are occasionally signed or inscribed—so authenticity is obviously an issue, but so is the quality of the inscription. The ‘best’ or most interesting inscribed modern firsts can tell a story about the author and the person he/she inscribed it to: e.g., a friend, a lover, someone involved in the book’s production, a fellow author.
PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II, Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill Book Company, inscribed and signed by JFK and all 10 surviving PT 109 crew members, sold for $13,750 at a Dec. 3, 2016 auction conducted by Heritage Auctions.

PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II, Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill Book Company, inscribed and signed by JFK and all 10 surviving PT 109 crew members, sold for $13,750 at a Dec. 3, 2016 auction conducted by Heritage Auctions.

What are some of the lesser-known places one can find rare modern issues?

I think church and library book sales are still viable book-hunting venues. Just in the past few years, I’ve found a couple of ‘sleepers’ in this way, one at a church jumble sale in Syracuse, New York, and one at a university library book sale, also in New York. My very best find happened at a church book sale in Massachusetts back in 1999. That was a first edition of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, in its jacket, no less.

Several people I interviewed for my book mentioned Goodwill and other charity shops as great places to find modern and ‘hypermodern’ firsts.

What is one of the best quotes you’ve ever come across regarding books?

Well, that one’s easy for me. The quote from Larry McMurtry’s novel, Cadillac Jack, which was the guiding light for my book – ‘Anything can be anywhere.’ And this is borne out almost on a weekly basis when some unknown or ‘missing’ manuscript, book, or piece of art is ‘found.’ It appeals to the treasure hunter in all of us.


Rebecca Rego BarryRebecca Rego Barry is the author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places (2015) and the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine. She also writes about books, history and auctions for The AwlSlate, and JSTOR Daily, and her chapter on the Warner sisters will appear in the forthcoming anthology From Page to Place: American Literary Tourism and the Afterlives of Authors (2017).

 

How to Determine the Value of Religious Icons

Antique religious Icons are an increasingly popular and important collector’s item. Regular auctions of these unique and special items engage collectors both new to the items and veteran collectors. To learn more about these items and the category, we turned to Maxwell Easter of Dennis Easter’s Russian Store.


The question I get the most in my field is what makes an Icon more valuable. What are the characteristics that make one Icon, maybe similar in appearance, sometimes cost thousands of dollars more? It’s true there is a big range in pricing, Icons can be priced anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple million dollars but why? To answer this, I have compiled a list of six criteria that influence price. This information will arm you with the knowledge needed to become an educated consumer in the great world of Icons.

Quality

One of the more obvious and most important is the quality of the Icon. How fine is the detail?
How bold are the pigments? How blended are the brush strokes?

Age

The age of the Icon plays an important role in its valuation. Naturally, an Icon from the 15th century will fetch a higher premium in comparison to an Icon from the 19th century, however, there are exceptions.

Rarity

Some scenes, like the classic Christ Pantocrator are more common than others like the Day of Judgement, an Icon I’ve seen only once in my career.

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker of Myra, icon painting village of Kholui, Russia, 12 in x 9 in (30 cm x 23 cm). Egg tempera and silvering on gessoed wood. $700. Dennis Easter image

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker of Myra, icon painting village of Kholui, Russia, 12 in x 9 in (30 cm x 23 cm). Egg tempera and silvering on gessoed wood. $700. Dennis Easter image

Desirability

Some pieces are just inherently more desirable than others. An image of Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of Russia, will be more valuable that an Icon of a random Metropolitan or other obscure subjects. Additionally, Icons that have decorative covers called oklads, made of gold and silver with precious and semi-precious stones, are typically worth more.

Condition

Like with anything, condition is important. The better an Icon’s condition the higher the price. This usually holds true but gets complicated based on the personal preference. Some collectors want a piece that has no restoration favoring a more naturally aged look while other collectors would rather have a piece restored to its original condition.

St. Nicholas of Myra with vita, the Evangelists and four border saints - S. Prince Michael, St. Gregory, St, Catherine and St. Justinia, ca. 1870s, icon painting village of Palekh, Russia. 20 1/2 in x 17 in (52 cm x 43 cm). Dennis Easter image

St. Nicholas of Myra with vita, the Evangelists and four border saints – S. Prince Michael, St. Gregory, St, Catherine and St. Justinia, ca. 1870s, icon painting village of Palekh, Russia. 20 1/2 in x 17 in (52 cm x 43 cm). $25,000. Dennis Easter image

Region

The finest Icons were produced by Iconographers from certain communities referred to as “schools.” Often monasteries, these centers for Iconography specialized in their own adopted styles. An Icon from the famous Palekh School will be much more expensive than an Icon from a small rural village.

Provenance

Finally, the history of the piece can play an important role in its valuation. If the Icon was from a particular collection, spent time in a museum and or once belonged to royalty, the piece can skyrocket in value.

For a beginning collector, understanding the value of an Icon can be bewildering. It’s better to start small. One would rather make a $300 mistake than a $30,000 mistake. Allow yourself time to find your own taste, explore the world of Icons, study the history and understand the value of an Icon through the application of these seven criteria listed. Most importantly, if it speaks to you buy it because no Icon is exactly alike and you might never find it again.

 

View this week’s Religious Icons auction and discover your new treasure.


Maxwell Easter is an expert in antique Russian icons and Catholic relics. He manages sales and public relations at Dennis Easter’s Russian Store out of West Palm Beach, Florida.

First Edition Books: What Every Book Collector Needs to Know

Nothing gets a book collector’s pulse racing faster than the discovery of a first edition – especially a rare one by a famous author. But how can you be sure that a book is, indeed, a first edition? Deciphering the clues can be perplexing, especially if you’re a novice bibliophile.

To learn more about first editions, we turned to book expert Bruce MacMakin, who is Senior Vice President of the San Francisco auction house PBA Galleries. PBA specializes in fine antiquarian and collectible books, autographed ephemera, and works on paper.

How does one identify a first edition?
Each publisher has its own way of identifying first editions of its publications, and even those are not always consistent, especially when taken over a span of years or decades. Many state “First Edition,” usually on the copyright page, which is generally the back of the title page. For some, such as Putnam, the absence of any indication of later printings means it is a first edition. Beginning in 1929, Scribner’s placed an “A” on the copyright page of first editions. If the date on the title page of Houghton Mifflin publications matched that on the copyright page, and there were no indications of later printings, that meant it was a first edition. And English publications generally would state “First Published in [year].” These do change over the years, and more recently publishers have become less mysterious in their modes of indicating a first edition.

 

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, published by George M. Hill Co., First Edition, Second state, 1900. PBA Galleries. Estimate: $700-$1,000

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum, published by George M. Hill Co., First Edition, Second state, 1900. PBA Galleries. Estimate: $700-$1,000

What can be learned from the printer’s key, and where is that found on a book?
The printer’s key, also known as the number line, is a line of text printed on the copyright page (the verso of the title page) of books. It is used to indicate the print run. Publishers started to use this convention around the middle of the 20th century. An example follows: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. After the first printing, the 1 would be removed, so the lowest number would be the 2, indicating a second printing, or print run, and so on. Sometimes there is a series of years, to indicate the year in which the book was printed. Note that Random House did not, for many years, use the 1, so if 2 was the lowest number on one of their books, it was a first printing.

What is the difference between a “first edition” and a “first edition, first impression,” and is there a great deal of difference in value between the two? Is a first impression identified as such in the front of a book?
A first edition may go through a number of impressions, or printings. The edition is the way the book is set up, with movable type in the days of letterpress, through photo typesetting for offset, and digital printing of today. The first printing, or impression, is the first print run from the original printing plates (regardless of their form or the mode of printing). Subsequent printings from substantially the same setting of type, even if there are minor typographical changes or variations, can still be considered first editions, but bibliographic honesty dictates that the fact of a later printing be noted. Later printings are often indicated, as in the number key, but there are also many cases where later printings are determined by more obscure means, varying by publisher or even individual book. There are usually substantial differences in value between first and later printings of a book.

Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," Scribners 1926, First Edition, Faux dust cover. Jasper52. Estimate: $300-$500

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” Scribners 1926, First Edition, Faux dust cover. Jasper52. Estimate: $300-$500

What are some of the most valuable first editions?
The value of modern first editions is closely tied to the presence of, and condition of, the dust jacket. Most books from the 20th century and thereafter originally came out with dust jackets, and some of the earlier examples can be quite scarce and valuable. As an extreme example, a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in dust jacket, has sold for as much as $310,000 at auction, whereas copies without the dust jacket usually go for around $2,000 to $3,000. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises can bring as much as $130,000 in dust jacket, but less than a thousand without. Books signed or inscribed by their authors also can bring a premium. One of the most notable examples is a fairly modern author, Thomas Pynchon, who is notoriously unwilling to sign books. An inscribed copy of Gravity’s Rainbow has brought $15,000 at auction, whereas copies not signed or inscribed top out at around $1,000, depending on condition, particularly of the dust jacket.

If you were a beginning collector and wanted to focus on modern first editions but didn’t have a great deal of money to spend, which titles or genres would you recommend to them?
There are many reasons and strategies collectors employ when acquiring modern first editions. Some collect the first books of many different authors, others seek books that have won Pulitzer Prizes or similar awards, and some focus on what are considered “high spots” of literature. But for a beginning collector, I would recommend collecting books by an author whose works you enjoy reading and which have meaning to you. One does not have to be wealthy, or even comfortably well off, to find collecting books an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating activity. Many collectors have begun by accumulating paperbacks and reading copies, then moving on to first editions and copies with dust jackets. Usually an author’s later books can be readily acquired at modest prices. As collectors progress, they will then work backwards towards the rarer, more expensive early books. Then there are inscribed and signed copies, uncorrected proofs, limited editions of some of the works, even the original manuscripts for the advanced and better-heeled collectors. ‘Completists’ can branch out to periodical appearances, illustrated editions, omnibus printings, fine press editions, and so on and so on. Finally, when satiated, one can move on to the next author of choice.


bruce-pba-galleriesBruce MacMakin is senior vice president of PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The son of a printer, MacMakin began his career in the book-auction trade at California Book Auction Galleries in 1978, fresh out of college. It was an unplanned diversion that has lasted 38 years and counting. In 1992, MacMakin became a founding member of Pacific Book Auction Galleries, now PBA Galleries. His areas of expertise range from early incunabula and rare manuscripts to hyper-modern fiction and The Wizard of Oz.

Getting Hooked on Rare Books: 3 Experts Share Their Stories

From the time you learn to read as a child, you are invited to explore new cultures and discover new worlds through books. This nostalgic root of reading is core to why antiquarian and rare books are eternally popular, even despite the rise of e-readers and the Internet. But how does one make the leap from book lover to rare book obsessor? We reached out to three rare book experts and asked them to answer our burning question: What was the first book that got you hooked on rare books and collecting?

Angel Webster, Specialist in the New Rare Books

By Source, Fair use

By Source, Fair use

I read Moby Dick in High School and then wrote an essay on it to help me get into a good college. I got an A and I moved on. And on and on. I couldn’t wait to leave my small town. The next thing I knew I was 40 and there it was one day in front of me…a First Edition of Moby Dick. The book that I used to get me into college. It was squat, battered and faded. It looked like a tired, useless, old, used book. Moby Dick — where all Americans are represented as afloat, isolated on the waters, in danger, working, struggling, suffering — but as one tireless unit. And it was complete, that love I had for it, how it, like me, had struggled to exist and be seen and read, against all odds.

The first book in my collection was “The Old Huntsman and Other Poems” by Siegfried Sassoon. Second American Printing, 1920. I discovered it in a corner section of books in a used furniture store. Books from that era are hard to spot but if you squint your eyes and look for bland, buckram spines, you sometimes get lucky.

Erik DuRon, Rare Book Expert

By Glenn Cravath - http://www.fullyarticulated.com/page30/page36/page35/page24/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49572764

By Glenn Cravath – http://www.fullyarticulated.com/page30/page36/page35/page24/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49572764

The first book I bought for myself, when I was 8, was an Ace paperback reprint of the novelization of the original King Kong film from the 1930s. I found it in a spinning rack at an old drugstore in Greenwich Village, the kind of place with a mosaic tile floor and glass jars on wooden shelves behind the counter. The dusty, slightly medicinal smell of the place is forever associated in my mind with books. I still have that paperback.

Jennifer Robertson, Book and Paper Conservator

Via @bookandpaperconservation on Instagram

Via @bookandpaperconservation on Instagram

I don’t know if there was one particular book I could trace to, but when I started a part-time job at a used book store that also dealt in antiquarian books, my world was changed.

At the time, I came from a fine art background, so I started working with prints, maps and ephemera. But they got me cataloguing some of the rare books as well, and the tactility of the materials – leather, cords, parchment, gold tooling, etc. – really captured my attention.

Working at that bookstore led me to a career in conservation, where I now specialize in the conservation and restoration of fine art on paper, archival materials and rare books. I work privately and treat items for a variety of museums, libraries and archives, as well as private collectors. So, I own very few rare books myself, but I feel that every time that passes through my studio is a little bit mine, for a short time.

One of my biggest thrills was when, during an internship position, I worked on a page from the Gutenberg Bible. Not many people in the world can say they’ve handled a piece of history like that!


What got you hooked on book collecting? Do you have a distinct memory of the first book you collected? Share your stories with us on Twitter @ByJasper52 – We can’t wait to hear and retweet our favorites.

How to Clean Antique Tin Toys

The cardinal rule when cleaning tin toys is to avoid paint loss at all costs. Why? Because a metal toy’s condition on the 1-to-10 scale is determined, first and foremost, by the amount of paint a toy has retained since its manufacture.

Carette Renault, c. 1906, lithographed sheet metal, original condition. Sold by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH for €12,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Carette Renault, c. 1906, lithographed sheet metal, original condition. Sold by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH for €12,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

We all want our toys to be in tip-top condition, preferably boxed, but the more rare a toy is, the more leeway a collector might allow with respect to condition when contemplating a purchase. In other words, if you were to come across a toy that you believe to be one of few known examples, you wouldn’t necessarily pass on it because it’s not a 10, an 8, or even a 6. You might be willing to overlook its paint loss, buy it at a reduced price and hope that at some point in the future you’d be able to upgrade to a better example.

There is a point of no return, however. If a tin toy has lost so much paint that the only way to make it presentable is to repaint it, then you’d probably be throwing your money away if you bought it for anything other than replacement parts.

Now for the good news: if a toy is simply dirty, there’s an excellent chance that its condition can be raised by one or even two points simply by giving it a proper cleaning.

There are various schools of thought as to how tin toys should be cleaned. Every collector has his or her own tricks of the trade.

Lehmann Echo with Box, lithographed tin, Germany. Sold by Bertoia Auctions for $9,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Lehmann Echo with Box, lithographed tin, Germany. Sold by Bertoia Auctions for $9,500. Image via LiveAuctioneers

Key toy-cleaning kit includes these staples:

  • Automotive paste wax. Rain Dance, is a good choice, but you might decide to choose a different brand that works well for you. Just make sure it has a moist consistency
  • WD-40 spray in a can
  • Armor-All Original Protectant in a spray bottle
  • Soft rags. Cotton diapers are best, if you can find them
  • Cotton swabs, like Q-Tips
  • Rounded toothpicks with pointed ends

There are two basic types of tin toys: 18th/early-19th-century hand-painted types, and lithographed tin toys, which came later.

Whether cleaning an early hand-painted Gunthermann wind-up or a 1950s mass-produced Disney wind-up, you must never attempt to clean a toy without first testing your cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous spot. This is especially important with hand-painted toys, because you can never predict how old paint will react. Many early toys were painted without the use of a primer. In such cases, the paint could come off quite easily. To test a toy’s paint, take a Q-Tip, lightly apply a tiny bit of paste wax to a spot and see if any of the color comes off or the Q-Tip has picked up a faint color stain. If that happens, you will know that the toy cannot be cleaned with commercial products, and you should never do anything except dust it off with a soft cloth, using a very light touch.

If a tin toy passes the initial test, you can feel confident about cleaning it. Here are the important steps to follow:

  1. Lightly wipe off surface dust with a soft cloth.
  2. If the clockwork mechanism is tight or even frozen, set the toy down on some newspapers topped with layered paper towels and spray some WD-40 into the keyhole, using the slim, red straw that comes attached to the product’s container. Don’t worry about over-spraying. WD-40 is a lubricant that frees metal parts that have seized up. It can only benefit your toy’s mechanism. After spraying, let the WD-40 drain over the paper towels. You might want to set the toy on its side to drain. If you’ve had to spray it more than, say, twice, it may have to sit overnight in that position so all of the product can drain out.
  3. Dry the toy all over to thoroughly remove any liquid residue.
  4. Now you’re ready to apply the paste wax in a small, circular motion. Use a light touch to begin with; then you can become more aggressive as you determine the hardiness of the paint. On small or odd-shaped parts, you can use a small dab of wax on a Q-Tip. Try to avoid getting wax on or around the tabs that connect the toy’s parts, as the wax can get stuck in the crevices.
  5. After the wax has dried, get a fresh, soft cloth and wipe off the wax.
  6. Next, spray some Armor-All onto a clean, soft cloth and wipe the toy off. Do not spray the product directly onto the toy; only spray it onto the cloth. Follow this by buffing the toy. It will shine!
  7. You may notice there’s still some visible wax residue in the toy’s crevices or tabs. That’s where the toothpicks come in handy. Cover a toothpick with one layer of soft cloth and carefully work the point of the toothpick into the places where wax remains.

You are now ready to admire your toy and the value your sweat equity has added to it. Discover and bid on antique toys in weekly Jasper52 toy auctions.

Got any toy cleaning tips of your own? Share them with us on Twitter.

How to Keep Your Collectible Books in Top Condition

To book collectors, it’s a common dilemma: to repair or not to repair. Conventional wisdom tells us that if a book has a tidy, attractive appearance, it’s likely to retain more of its value – but if you attempt to repair a book yourself and the job is botched? That could end up costing you, as your only course of action would be to pay an expert to reverse the damage you compounded – and that’s if it can be remedied at all.

In general, says Monika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, Virginia, the rule is “do a little, but don’t do a lot … You wouldn’t do your own appendectomy, so know what your limitations are. And don’t use Gorilla Glue.”

Many types of damage to books can be prevented simply by using the right maintenance methods. Schiavo advises these 6 tips for book maintenance repair:

  1. Always clean books with a soft brush or duster.
  2. Only use rubber bands to fasten together a book that’s in pieces. Scotch tape is a no-no.
  3. If you spot a bookworm or silverfish in one of your books, immediately remove it from your home as it could contaminate your other books.
    Take the affected book to an expert and make sure you warn them ahead of time that you’re coming. To book collectors, insect infestation is a huge issue, because if one book is affected, others may be, too. In such cases, Schiavo recommends calling in a pest control company.
  4. For your valuable books, invest in custom clamshell cases of the type used by libraries.
    A bookbinder or repairer may be able to make one for you, or you can order them from library supply firms like Brodart. Even an acid-free box that you can buy at Michael’s or similar chain hobby stores will protect your prized books.
  5. Water damage requires expert intervention.
    The best way to deal with water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place by storing your books in a safely contained environment. A Maryland library’s premier collection of rare Jane Austen editions was spared from the damage that might have been done by a roof leak because they were kept in custom-made clamshells. The clamshells got wet, but the books didn’t.
  6. Remember that leather is skin, and it does age.
    A tip Schiavo said she learned from rare book expert Dale Sorenson is to apply leather polish to book bindings, then buff them. There are types of leather polish made especially to restore and protect leather bindings. But whatever you do, don’t use harsh chemicals or household products of any type. If you wouldn’t use it to clean your own skin, you shouldn’t put it on leather bindings.

Let’s say you have a valuable book that has been damaged, and you know the repair is way beyond your own capability. How do you find the right professional to do the job for you? Schiavo recommends contacting a rare book auction house, book dealer or book society. They know who the experts are and will gladly share those contacts with you.


Monika_Schiavo_ImageMonika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books, a division of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., a Certificate in Appraisal Studies from New York University, and a Master of Arts degree from the Smithsonian’s History of Decorative Arts program. Schiavo provides free onsite evaluations and auction estimates for both buyers and consignors.

What Makes a Book Rare?

As a commodity books are abundant. They’ve been written on countless subjects, in every field of endeavor. Even as bookshops disappear, the Internet seems to make virtually any title readily available, and most can be had for a few dollars. In this day and age one might reasonably wonder, what makes a book rare?

The historian and bibliophile Paul Angle, quoted in John Carter’s indispensable reference ABC for Book Collectors, cites three sensible criteria for rarity: “important, desirable and hard to get.” Like Angle, I tend to think of rarity as a compound phenomenon, a series of discrete but related attributes that, when all present in one book, bestows a special quality, greater than the sum of its parts.

RELEVANCE

The first question one might ask about a book pertains to its relevance. Is it recognized? Has it stood out in some way, in its own field if not the wider culture?

There exist many books on arcane or abstruse subjects. Some of them may exist only in small numbers, but because they never rise to a level of general interest they are not sought after. Though scarce, they are not given the opportunity to be considered “rare.” More importantly, one should ask, is this book specifically of interest to me? It seems obvious, but collectors have been known to spend time and money in pursuit of books they think they ought to have rather than those they want to have.

IMPORTANCE & DESIRABILITY

This speaks to Angle’s first two conditions: importance and desirability. Next, one should consider a book’s bibliographic profile. Is it a first edition, i.e., from the earliest batch of copies to come off the printing press? And is it a first printing of the first edition?

Book collecting rests pretty solidly on the notion that the earlier the edition, the closer we come to the writer’s own world — to the standards of material production of the time, and the way in which first readers experienced the work. Failing a book’s being a first edition, one might ask if it’s an otherwise significant edition. Changes made within a text can be historically interesting in their own right. Charles Darwin kept making modifications to On the Origin of Species (1859), with each of the six editions published in his lifetime bearing his changes. A completist would want all six.

Book collecting rests pretty solidly on the notion that the earlier the edition, the closer we come to the writer’s own world

CONDITION

Another consideration is condition. Is the book complete, and without significant flaws? If it’s an older book, is it in the original binding? If not, is the replacement binding early and/or skillfully done?

Contemporary taste gives preference to authenticity, to a book being as close to its original state as possible. Interestingly, this wasn’t always so. In the 18th and 19th centuries many earlier books were rebound in sumptuous but period-inappropriate styles. This can make original or very early bindings harder to find. With regards to a modern book, is the original dust jacket present, and what is its condition? Dust jackets are crucial in the collecting of modern first editions, because they are the most fragile and ephemeral part of a book’s production. As such they can account for upwards of ninety percent of a book’s value.

Contemporary taste gives preference to authenticity, to a book being as close to its original state as possible.

SCARCITY

Scarcity is the final factor, what we think of as rarity in the most limited sense. How many copies of a given book were printed in the first place, and how many of those have survived? Further, how many are likely to be available at any given time?

Over the years universities and libraries have acquired many of the most desirable books. The folio and quarto editions of Shakespeare (that is, the earliest examples of the Bard’s works to have been printed), or Edgar Allan Poe’s notoriously rare first collection of poems Tamerlane (1827), or the first book printed in colonial America, the Bay Psalm Book (1640), of which only 11 known copies survive — such books seldom come to market.

Of course, scarcity is also a function of the first three factors: the most important and desirable books, in their earliest editions and in the best possible condition, are naturally sought after by the greatest number of collectors, and so they become ever harder to find. This may be discouraging to some, but I find that it presents beginning or adventurous collectors an opportunity.

The most important and desirable books, in their earliest editions and in the best possible condition, are naturally sought after by the greatest number of collectors, and so they become ever harder to find.

With so much generally available, there’s plenty of room outside of collecting orthodoxy for a fresh take. Collectors ultimately get to decide what’s of interest to them and, adhering to some sensible guidelines, which will be the rare books of the future.


Erik Duron copyErik DuRon has nearly 20 years of experience buying and selling rare books in all fields, first at Bauman Rare Books in New York City, and then independently. He has built collections for diverse clients, and collaborates with and consults for collectors, booksellers and auction houses. He lives in Brooklyn and can be reached at erikduron@msn.com.

Vintage Watches: How to make a statement

Wristwatches have become a staple in a man’s wardrobe, and the practice of collecting these unique items has exploded. While many vintage wristwatches hold sentimental to the owner and are passed down from generation to generation, the practice of collecting and trading vintage watches is quickly growing. Reyne Gauge shares everything you need to know about collecting vintage watches. Read on below.

IWC Stainless Steel White Dial Chronograph Watch and Chanel Stainless Steel Ceramic Automatic Wristwatch featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18, 2016

IWC Stainless Steel White Dial Chronograph Watch and Chanel Stainless Steel Ceramic Automatic Wristwatch featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18, 2016

Wristwatches date back to the late 1800s, a time when they were thought of as jewelry for women only. Originally, they were worn by a clasp on a woman’s lapel. Later, a silk cloth was wrapped around a pocket watch for ladies to wear on their wrists.

The wristwatch as we know it today was first designed by Patek Phillipe in 1868. It wasn’t until World War I that wristwatches became a timepiece for men. Pilots found it too difficult to reach into their  pocket to retrieve their pocket watches, therefore, wearing a timepiece on their wrist made more sense.

It wasn’t until World War I that wristwatches became a timepiece for men.

Ironically, what was once thought to be “women’s wear” is now predominately collected by men. Men often collect wristwatches because they offer more than just a way to tell time.

For the traveler, there are watches offering numerous time zones. For the athlete, chronographs are the preferred option. Divers must have watches that are waterproof.

Not only are there different mechanical options, but you can also collect by maker or time period; or, you can collect different types of movements, such as manual wind, automatic, or electric.

Girard Perregaux Stainless Steel Chronograph featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18 2016

Girard Perregaux Stainless Steel Chronograph featured in Jasper52 Auction on Sept. 18 2016

Watches are small, meaning you can accumulate many without requiring a lot of space to house them, and they also come in a variety of price ranges. Early manual-wind watches can be purchased for as little as $40-50. Asymmetrical Hamilton Electrics can be bought for a few hundred dollars.

It’s not just the lower-end brands that are affordable. If you’ve been eyeing the latest Rolex watch, chances are you can buy one for a lot less if it’s “pre-owned” or vintage. The current “DATEJUST” model in gold and stainless retails for about $4,500. However, a pre-owned model can be had for as little as $2,800.

Regardless of how much you invest in a watch, it’s an opportunity to make a statement about your unique sense of style while investing in a collectible that boasts both form and function.

Click to view the full catalog of this week’s Jasper52 auction of vintage and luxury watches.


Adapted from original piece by Reyne Gauge on Auction Central News.

5 Tips for the Beginner Book Collector

So many books, so little time. Getting into book collecting can be a very deep dive if you don’t establish a few basic guidelines, says Monika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, Virginia.

“The beginning collector can become overwhelmed and frustrated if they cast too wide a net,” Schiavo said. “It’s best to have a focus in mind before you start building a collection.”

Schiavo offers these tips to the beginning bibliophile:

Waverly-Rare-Books

14 Easton Press Titles, Gilt decorated full leather. Est $100-$150. Image courtesy of Waverly Rare Books/Quinn’s Auctions

1. Pick a specific area that interests you, then try to learn all about it.

Maybe your interest lies in English romantic literature, mysteries, author-signed children’s books, or just illustrated versions of books. Whatever it is, establish a thematic narrative before you start collecting.

2. Think outside the box.

Quirky is good – maybe try to collect what others haven’t embraced yet. You probably can’t afford a beautiful first edition of one of the best American books, but what about collecting the first Star Wars novels, autographed books, misprints, or books by women authors who use pseudonyms? By the same token, don’t be so esoteric in your collecting that you’re the only person who understands it.

Bonus Tip: A collecting category that is still in its infancy is LGBT literature.

3. Buy the best edition you can, then trade up.

It’s difficult to winnow as you go along. Release the less-desirable ones back into the book river and hold on to or acquire the more valuable, rare and unusual books.

4. Work with experts.

Consult with reputable dealers, librarians and auction houses. Join rare book societies and visit book exhibitions. Don’t pass up the vast storehouse of knowledge available to you in archived online-auction catalogs.

5. Keep your books safe and clean.

Books are prone to many types of damage, from moisture to insects to do-it-yourself repairs that do more damage than they do good. Try to keep your books stored in a cool, dry, climate-controlled room without direct exposure to sunlight. Be vigilant about how you open them, and never place newspaper clippings or pressed flowers inside them. When in doubt about how to store and protect your books, ask a professional. Most will gladly share their knowledge.


Monika_Schiavo_ImageMonika Schiavo, Director of Waverly Rare Books, a division of Quinn’s Auction Galleries, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., a Certificate in Appraisal Studies from New York University, and a Master of Arts degree from the Smithsonian’s History of Decorative Arts program. Schiavo provides free onsite evaluations and auction estimates for both buyers and consignors.

Intro to Collecting Japanese Woodblock Prints

An overview of beginning your Japanese Woodblock print collection and a preview of the upcoming Jasper52 auction on Saturday, September 10 at 4:00pm ET. Written by Dieuwke Eijer.

The word ‘collecting’ is often associated with ‘lots of money.’ As that may be correct in specific categories of collectables, some of the traditional collecting fields are offering us surprising opportunities. Luckily, within the Japanese woodblock prints we can find an amazing variety of high quality prints in good condition that do not break the bank, along with the blockbuster prints, such as the “Great Wave” by Hokusai.

Japanese woodblock prints can be divided into four broad categories:

  • Ukiyoe – traditional woodblock prints until roughly 1900
  • Shin-hanga – created from the late Meiji era until World War II, showing a mixture of traditional Japanese and modern western elements
  • Sosaku-hanga – avant-garde movement of the 1950s-1970s
  • Works by contemporary artists

Each category produced remarkable artists and subjects, to satisfy each possible angle of collecting prints. You can collect broadly, picking one print by each artist or school, from the beginning of ukiyoe until today. But there are also print collections narrowly focused on certain elements, such as on clocks, or firemen and their equipment, collections of works by Kawase Hasui and his peers (example below), or of complete series by a single ukiyoe artist – such as the B.W. Robinson collection of Kuniyoshi prints.

Kawase Hasui, Yakushi Temple, Nara, 1951. Est. $150-$200. Image from Jasper52

Kawase Hasui, Yakushi Temple, Nara, 1951. Est. $150-$200. Image from Jasper52

The group of prints offered in the September 10th Jasper52 auction, represents a broad array of artists from the ukiyoe school to the sosaku-hanga movement. Among the ukiyoe school prints, you will find works by Hiroshige from a variety of his series. Each of them is a very good impression and in remarkable color condition, giving us insight in some aspects of life in the city of Edo or along the road. The inside of an inn in Ishibe, a samurai train crossing the Oi River near Shimada, or people enjoying tea, a pipe and something to nosh at a tea stall near the Sanno Shrine.

Hiroshige Print - Jasper52

Utagawa Hiroshige, The Reservoir and the Sanno Shrine, 1854. Est $150-$200

In the late 19th century, Westerners started to travel to Japan, and the prints from that period reflect modern art concepts that led to the shin-hanga movement in the 20th century. Simultaneously, some Japanese artists chose to stick to traditional Japanese themes and turned their focus to nature. Examples of both can be found in this catalog. Eight works by the great observer of birds Ohara Koson are complemented by bird prints by some of his contemporaries, representing the artist group that turned to nature. On the other hand, great atmospheric evening views along the Sumida River in Tokyo by Kobayashi Kiyochika show us western influences. A canal with houses lined up in perspective; the silhouette of a man in western suit and hat among people dressed in kimono.

Kobayahshi Kiyochika Jasper52

Kobayashi Kiyochika, Night Scene at Sumida River, 1910’s. Est $200-$300

Shin-hanga artist Yoshida Hiroshi continued the landscape tradition of his great predecessors Hokusai and Hiroshige. At the occasion of the publication of his catalogue raisonné in 1987, a few of his masterworks were re-printed from the original blocks. Printed with the same care that Yoshida himself would have exercised, would he have lived, these posthumous works in amazing condition are affordable.

Hiroshi Yoshida, Spring in a Hot Spring. Originally published in 1927, this is a print from 1986. Est $200-$250

Hiroshi Yoshida, Spring in a Hot Spring. Originally published in 1927, this is a print from 1986. Est $200-$250

The prints are closed off by a few representatives of the sosaku-hanga movement and contemporary artists. Their names may be lesser known among the western collectors, but the quality of materials and degree of perfection are continued and can make the starting point of a wonderful collection.  

 


Dieuwke EijerDieuwke Eijer has over 20 years experience in Japanese traditional art. Before relocating to NYC, she led the Asian Art department at one of Europe’s oldest auction houses. She currently works with international buyers, auction houses, and gallerists to develop their collections, and is a member of the Japanese Society of Arts (Netherlands), the Japanese Art Society of America, and the International Netsuke Society.