Posts

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.

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.