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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 4, January 25, 2009, Article 4

DOUGLAS SAVILLE ON THE JANUARY 10TH 2009 KOLBE LITERATURE SALES

Douglas Saville submitted the following report on George Kolbe's recent numismatic literature sales in New York. Thanks! -Editor
Kolbe Sale #108 The Bassoli library was formed over many years, by a knowledgeable Italian collector. George Kolbe was commissioned to sell the library at auction and the sale was held at the NYINC on January 10.

I travelled to New York from London on January 8, and viewed the books on Friday. The lots were neatly arranged on tables in the rather aptly-named Carnegie Suite of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. More than 95% of the lots had been shipped from California. Considering the viewing was located just yards from the main Bourse areas, I was surprised, perhaps even relieved, that relatively few dealers and collectors turned up to view the books.

Kolbe Sale #107 The US library - the “Twinleaf” sale - was considerably less interesting to me, having always been “confused” by US numismatic literature. Having said that, I was the disappointed under-bidder on the outstanding Jonathan Swift “Defence of the People of Ireland” a rare work on Wood’s coinage (Lot 94), that realized $12,000 on a $5000 estimate. I really felt it should have returned to the UK…….. The Twinleaf library seemed to sell reasonably well, with few lots remaining unsold. It did not auger well for my chances of buying many lots in the Bassoli library, to be sold shortly after.

After a short interval, the Bassoli library sale started with lot 101. I would say there were some 30 people in the room, with perhaps a further 7 or 8 telephone bidders- some no doubt from Europe.

In general, prices hovered around estimate, with, perhaps 15% of the lots remaining unsold. I suspect the owner may have insisted on too-high reserves on some of those lots.

Unquestionably, the outstanding lot of the sale, the Du Choul (Lot 150) in a superb contemporary full morocco gilt binding, sold for $12,000 on an estimate of 10,000, whilst Lot 193 a very fine and un-mutilated Le Pois, also in a contemporary (Eve) disappointed at $6750, a bargain, I would say, and with a less-than-excessive estimate of $7500.

Overall, there appeared to be no real surprises. However, lot 114, Barbarigo’s beautifully printed, and rather rare work, appeared a bargain at $3750, whilst Duby’s foundation work on Obsidional coins, even with Louis XVI’s Arms, would seem less of a bargain at $4000 on an estimate of $1750. Lot 162, a really charming, and rare, Fulvio, did poorly, I thought, at $4000, and the estimate appeared to be more than reasonable at $4500. The diminutive volume had been acquired from a Drury catalogue in 1983, where it had been listed for sale at £1000, yes, pounds! And I remember having tried to buy it at the time, only to be told it had already been sold “to Italy”.

A really beautiful two-volume set of Gaetani’s magnificent Museum Mazzuchellianum, the catalogue of a magnificent collection of medals, in a contemporary pasteboard binding, sold surprisingly slightly under estimate at $3000.

I would suspect many of these books “went home”, as it were, to Europe, some to Italy, but many, I know, will stay in the US, and a few, I am pleased to say, will go back to the UK, via me.

No doubt, the current economic conditions worldwide affected the prices realized for these beautiful books, the relatively low attendance by floor bidders at the sale of such a major library must have been disappointing for the owner, and the auctioneer. I have no doubt also that had the sale been held a year earlier, the owner might have been somewhat more satisfied. I am sure many collectors will look back at this sale and regret they were not more aggressive in their bids, and I am sure that I will not be an exception.



Wayne Homren, Editor

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