Night Thoughts about the Auction (7)

The VN market is actually very young and very small—the demand of a few dozens of people (can any institutions afford the books?), at the most, chasing after a few fluttering dozens of supply. The marketplace has its distortions, hiccups, and surprises. Dmitri has, in a sense, a corner on his father’s lepidopterized books. But what does a corner mean in such a small market? I don’t know. And I don’t know an economist who can parse this out for me.

I don’t take the “high estimates” as marketplace valuations. They are simply a scheme by Dmitri and Christie’s to make the books attractive to the largest audience possible, to get people to bid, and to move as many of the books as possible. Dmitri has learned his lesson: He can’t ask, as he and his dealers have in the past, five figures minimum for each of the books. He may need the cash, wants to move the inventory (as does Christie’s; an unsold book nets them nothing) before he himself moves on. So he figures that he’ll let the books rise to their own values. This is what he did the second time he offered the index card manuscript of The Original of Laura at Christie’s in London last year. And lost about $100K compared to what it was bid up to in the first auction at Christie’s in 2009 before it stalled under the reserve and was bought in.

Lots 354/5 – Inconsistent description by Christie’s. A25b is as much a first edition as A25a. They are two variants, not issues.

I’m still studying the stuff and haven’t made any decisions yet on what I’m really interested in. But my initial criteria are: fill a hole; upgrade; something unusual, like one of those drawings (but no glasses, clocks, drawing sets, chess sets, or typewriters); an American first with a colorful butterfly dedicated to Vera. Of course all predicated on some budget I haven’t yet decided on.

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