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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Breaking Today and a Prediction for the Next Five Years

The game of  breaking up color plate books and atlases is over.  They have become so rare now that many of them are selling for much more complete and whole than the "break" value.  Unless there is a serious condition problem with the book that would disqualify it as a book for a sophisticated collector there is no profit in selling a book for the parts anymore.

The primary reason for this is that Arader Galleries has decided to sell these engravings, aquatints and lithographs from these books for less than anywhere else in the world.   On the web sites of AE, ABE, Allibris, Biblio, Artnet and ours there is now a firm company policy to sell for the lowest price on the planet.   Prices are now down at least 60% from 5 years ago.  That is putting most of the people that have PIGgy backed me for the last 40 years out of business and certainly in no mood to try to buy more books in this field.  So that supporting part of the market place for these books is gone hopefully forever.  Not even Frederico Fellini, George Lucas or Quentin Tarantino would have believed the cast of characters in this field.  It gives me a good feeling to see them slowly suffocating and then decomposing.

The owners of these books know this and have been reluctant to put color plate books up at auction for quite a while.  But that is going to change with a strong degree of violence immediately. Since the Summer of 2008 until now there have been 20% the number of really fine color plate books per annum than have come up at auction per annum than during all of the previous 10 years.  With only me as the buying dealer putting your color plate book up at auction was very risky.  That is now over because the recession is over and Benecke is filling the world with vast amounts of US dollars that are coming from no where but his printing press.  Because our military is stronger than the rest of the world combined we can make as much of these units of so called value as we wish.  But that free reign will not stop inflation - HUGE inflation - from occurring.  It is going to happen sooner rather than later.  In fact it is happening right now.  There is virtually no indicator in the world of luxury goods that is not increasing rapidly RIGHT NOW.

That being said the market is still incredibly thin no where near as strong or deep as stamps, coins or diamonds.   In a weak economy color plate books get very, very weak bids.  From Sept 08 until three months ago I sold maybe $1,000,000 in total.  Before that for a period of 10 years we were doing $500,000 a month!!!!  Now it is finally coming back with a vengeance but most of the book breaking dealers are gone.   It is going to be very interesting to see what happens.

At Koller in Zurich a Merian with fairly horrid new color (a book of botanical studies) sold for $250,000 last Friday which is four times what it would have sold for a year ago.   An idiot bought it not knowing or understanding that new color on these kinds of books is a sacrilege at best.  But there was also a fool for an under bidder as well.  There is no grading in this field and Europe is filled with nasty little people like Frits Muller who now has a factory coloring up books to order for idiots like Jay Walker.  It is shocking, odd and remarkable that Jay and a few others STILL have no idea that what they are encouraging and paying for is a horror that will be cursed as a travesty 500 years from now.  Poor Phil Pirages begged me to say something to Jay about this about three years ago to stop him.  Well Phil - your wish is granted.

Hopefully both of these Visigoths will sue me for saying this and get this issue out into the open.  My lawyer, Mike Foley, has already written up the rebuttal to your "claims."

What is even more depressing is that the books I saw in Walker's library had color that bore NO relation to the color of the original period.  They all had an oddly glowing palette from Frits' psychedelic imagination perhaps derived from some plant ingested by him in one of those third world countries where he was practicing free medicine (for so many years?????????????????????????)  Just ask him.

Inflation is here but the market is so thin that there is no way that you can say that buying these books would qualify as anything close to a safe investment.  But I don't give a damn.    They are incredibly appealing to me and at my age they are wonderful fun to own.   So you can be very sure that my buying budget of $2,000,000 a month is always going to be for these wonderful books created during the four great periods of color plate book publication - the late Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Neoclassical Period and the Victorian Era.

Kate Hunter, Lori Cohen, Caleb Kiffer are all available to bid for you for NO fee at any auction in the world and give you our best advice for no fee.  We have the only substantial stock of these books for sale in the world so coming to NYC to compare and contrast and really learn the difference on quality, condition and importance would seem to make pretty good sense. 

It is now fairly commonly known news that Shaikh al-Thani is now fully reinstated into the good graces of his country of Qatar.  So he is now a serious buying force again.  He paid insane prices for Redoute watercolors at the Hesketh sale buying ALL of them for 5 times the previous auction values.  And, yes, it was me he was bidding against on all but four.  So, it is time to commit me to the loony bin as well.  $450,000 for a Redoute watercolor painted for a hooker?!  Someday he is going to tell me why he finds crushing a fat, old Infidel at auction so exhilarating.

And there will certainly be others that will come into these fields.  If just a few like the Shaikh jump in prices will go up 500% in the next five years as opposed to the 400% return every ten years that has been the norm for the last 40 years.

It is going to be fun to watch to see what will push prices up next.

In the end these books of woodcuts, aquatints, engravings, lithographs and even watercolors are the Pride of Nations and the sign that you are from a cultured country with the UK, France, the Netherlands, the USA, Italy, Germany, Austria leading the way.    The Shaikh finally has placed his vast collection with Qatar and so that country now has a place among those great nations of the world because of him.  There is even a very slight chance that he actually was motivated by this thought during his spree of wild, passionate, erratic buying for a decade rather than a twisted scheme to rip off his Uncle who was ruling the country.

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