Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skinner looking for consignments for the Fall 2011 Book Auction

I received an alert from Skinner that they are looking for consignments for the annual Fall Book Auction 2011.  This Skinner auction takes place around the time of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair in November and generates great excitement and news coverage.  The high concentration of rare book dealers, collectors and specialists in Boston for the Fair who visit the auction preview, attend the actual auction and buy (or sell) creates a vibrant marketplace.

While Skinner does a nice job of inviting consignments, I wonder how many people know that they have in their family library, books that would merit attention by Skinner?  Veteran collectors who have amassed a specialized book collection or rare book librarians seeking to sell some of their collection, usually know what they have, generally remember what they payed for it and often have some expectation of what they want to sell it for.  For everyone else, there is much to learn, much to understand, and much to wonder about, if you want to sell a rare or collectible book at auction.  The auction process itself is fairly simple.  The details are fairly complex. 

To sell a book via a Skinner auction, your book must first, be accepted by Skinner for auction.  Skinner invites anyone to send them an email with a basic description of a book along with a high resolution photograph.  Based on that information, they may, or may not, respond with a basic auction evaluation including an expected auction range.  From that basic evaluation the seller must then decide whether or not to take the next step and pursue a more detailed appraisal from Skinner of the actual physical object and after consideration of the results, whether or not to consign the item to Skinner for sale. 

Since Skinner is a traditional "for profit" business, it is in Skinner's interest to accept consignments for auction that will result in the largest amount of potential income to Skinner upon sale at auction.  The more high priced items Skinner sells at auction, the more money Skinner earns.  Your book must compete for attention and interest.  If your book can make Skinner money they will be responsive and more than happy to walk you through the consignment process.

Skinner's basic consignment schedule is to charge a 10% commission on sales more than $7,500,   15% commission on sales between $2,000 and $7,500 and 20% on sales less than $2000.  This basic structure may create immediate distrust in the potential auction house client, but it should not.  If I sell a book at a Skinner auction for $5,000, Skinner charges me a commission of  $750 and I take away $3750.  If my book had sold for $7,500 the commission would still be $750 (10%) and my net would be $6750.  Skinner would much rather sell every book with a 10% commission versus books in the 15% or 20% commission range.  If you have a very valuable book Skinner's 10% commission is fair and negotiable for "priceless" consignments.  If your book is expected to sell for less than $7,500 a 15% commission insures that Skinner has interest in aggressively promoting it to likely buyers.  If your book is expected to sell for less than $2,000, you can be assured that Skinner has, at least, an actual financial interest in selling it and your book benefits from the attention the entire auction catalog receives, thanks to the "high priced" items that generate the most buzz for the auction.

If you are following along without anxiety so far, you are probably confident enough to submit a potential book auction candidate to Skinner, hope for a response, and evaluate the potential sale based on Skinner's initial reply. 

If you are anxious and confused at this point, you are not alone.  I have no idea what the Skinner response rate is but I would imagine that most submissions never merit a response.  While that may mean that your treasured book is most likely a treasure with no monetary value, it may also mean that Skinner missed out on a treasure or that your book may be worth $1500 at auction but they have enough inventory at that price range.  As with any financial transaction it is best to either know what you are buying or selling before you begin the process or be educated and/or represented by someone who knows what you are buying or selling.  Stay tuned in 2011 for more detailed information on auctions, appraisals, cataloging, understanding rare book catalogs and much more about book collecting, especially buying and selling! 



   

1 comment: