Did I have fun this week!
I've been to auctions at my local auction rooms a number of times.
Always bittersweet... you see things that someone should love, cast to the uncertain fate of "will anyone even bid for this?"
And I know I really shouldn't be adding to the treasures in my home... but...
I "happened" to have a little extra time in town yesterday, and I "happened" to know that the lots for an upcoming auction were on view. It couldn't hurt to have a look, could it? AND I had finished a MAJOR (unwelcome) "must do" in my life... I deserved a treat, didn't I. And I didn't have to go to the auction and bid, just because I looked at the lots, did I?
I actually did very well, going around the auction room. Managed to resist (well, when looking) almost everything. Suppressed many nascent urges to thing "I'd like that in my home."
Then I came across a loose pile of old maps. Always check! You never know!
Most of them were indifferent. Poor quality. Bad condition. Probably reproductions, not really what they "looked like". And then I came to a folded map. What's this? The paper was promising. Clearly old. Heavy, luscious paper. Pretty good condition. A little darkened here and there, but no creases. No raggity corners.
Opened it up... it was a sheet about 40cm x 56cm, which had been folded just once. (Actually, it was folded along the join where the two pieces the map had been printed in were joined.)
And "Oh, yes!" this is why we pick through piles of dross. As I said... you never know.
Style... from the 1700s. Hand colored, in really gorgeous colors. Superb printing: Crisp lines, nice fonts, good design. And so on. What had I stumbled upon? I could tell it was of Majorca, or "Maiorque", as the map had it, and the two smaller Balearics. (Well, it was a map!) But I don't know my cartographic Shakespeares from the no-names. Map collecting isn't, I keep telling people, "my thing". (Maybe the fact I keep buying confuses them?)
Sorry for the poor... for now.. image. But I wanted to give you some idea.
The "real thing" looks MUCH nicer thatn this does, with its jpeg "issues". Paper color is nicer, too.
So, good old Google...
I put in some of the details I'd copied from the text on the map, and, bingo! A hit!
The nice people at www.swaen.com wrote up a lot of interesting information about the background of the map, the publishers, and the man it is dedicated to, a French nobleman. (Lived 1701-1781, "...held the position of Secretary to the Royal Household and Minister of Marine in the court of Louis XV." (Thank you Swaen.com... Apologies if you don't mind me quoting you.))
The date of the map isn't easy to pin down. Swaen say "Published in: Amsterdam, after 1740". And they had one for sale, mint condition, for sale. Now the one at the auction house wasn't in "mint" condition... but it was far from shabby. (The "mint" one also has the seam where the two sheets are joined. (The vertical "fold" line on the one in the auction being no worse than their "seam" line, as far as I can tell from online images.) The asking price for the mint one: $1700. Seems my "this is nice" judgement wasn't too far wrong!
Oh. And the coloring on the one in the auction lot was nicer, and more intricate.
I really wasn't suppose to be going to auctions on the day in question. For one thing, my heating system had broken down, and the engineers were coming to work on it. For another, auction day was Thursday, and Saturday morning, I was leaving home for a short holiday. Oh... and I'd only very recently got home from a different sort of trip. Not really a day for going to auctions....
I'd previously noticed, but not investigated, that my local auction rooms are signed up with The-Saleroom.com. You can bid for things online. Well... THAT needed investigating! And, long story short (!), the system is brilliant. You can watch (and listen to) a live feed from the auction room, and bid, from the comfort of your home!
The heating engineers finished their work half an hour before the auction started. The lot of maps was way down the list. I "played" with the site a bit, just to be sure I understood it. I bought a dreadful small collection of Victorian china that no one wanted, to be sure I had the details of bidding right. I bought one or two other (small!) things, as I now had to visit the auction rooms at some point anyway.
But what you can't do, via the internet, was watch the other bidders. You can't try to judge if the other bidder(s) is/are fellow "punters", or dealers who know what they are doing, and rarely pay the full value for something. How can they make a profit, if they do? There will always be some other genuine treasure, under appreciated by the small audience who happens to be at the auction on the day, if they don't get one that they've identified as being worth buying... if the price doesn't get bid up too far.
And there was a gap between where we were, and the maps lot. And I deserved a treat for getting the "must do" done. And yes, I went into town, to the auction.
Read my book for a bit. Only bid on one other thing, and that was to buy a present for a friend... something he would be interested in.
The bidding was opened at about £20 (c. $30). I got a little over-excited, and jumped in early on. (Should have stayed above the fray, during the early stages.) Eventually, as the price went up, and up, and up, I began to fear I'd get the "can't let them beat me" syndrome... or inspire it in another bidder. But by then, it was too late. I was "in".
...And eventually won it!
Remember: The same map, unless I've been fooled by a copy, which I very much doubt, was on sale at the time (6/14) for $1700. Let's say the seller would accept $1200. Let's say that the condition of mine cuts it's value to half that of the "mint" copy... I doubt the discount would be that bad, but let's say. $600.
But also remember: My map came with about a dozen others. Most are "nice enough", but, not, I wouldn't say, valuable. But then again, the other people in the auction room either overlooked my map, or thought it wasn't valuable. There are certainly two or three that are very nice, would look good on anyone's wall.
I got the whole lot for £360 (about $575).. including all those "wonderful" things like "buyer's premium" and tax on that. (No tax on the hammer price, at least, thankfully.)
So, I have a very nice new map for my collection. The main point. And I paid £360 for something that, very roughly, can be "valued"... conservatively?... at £400... but...
Those figures only apply if the other dozen or so maps are worthless
I was buying the lot for the one of the Balearics. Once the maps were mine, I looked at them a bit more closely. As I said, many are "nice", but not "special".... but then I noticed one that was a bit more than "nice". Not quite as special as the one of the Balearics... but nice enough to be online with an asking price of £125... for one in nice condition, but with a crease. Mine is in near mint condition, no creases. Who knows? Maybe I got the Balearics "for free"? The other nice one is also fun because I already have another map by the same map makers. The new one is a lovely map of Cornwall, colored, from 1835. From the description of the online seller's copy (thank you, www.trademaps.co.uk): "Shows canals and early railways servicing the mining and china clay industries as well as numerous barrows, standing stones, etc."
Not a bad day!
I didn't pay it for my copy of the other map by the people who did the Cornish map, but while I was researching the above, I came across someone asking... a lot... for "it".
Sadly, I should have quit while I was ahead! While trying to re-locate the details of the other map, I turned up the fact that mine is not the first state of that map. The very valuable one probably was, thus explaining the difference. Well, at least I can sleep nights without worrying that I've made the contents of my home too attractive to burglars.
P.S.: Subsequent investigations (help from a friend who is an expert) turned up one other little fact: The coloring of my copy of the map is not old. It is from perhaps 1970. Oops. But the good news is that the value of the other maps, taken together with the value in the one that is nice, but not as nice as I had hoped, is about what I paid for them.
And, bottom line: Regardless of the retail value of the maps, I like the one I bought the pile to obtain, and it will give me pleasure to have it hanging on my wall. If you can stick to the "don't buy it unless you like it that much" rule, you won't go far wrong. Whew.
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