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News and Comments - Index

News and Comments - 1999-2000

This "millenium" edition includes over 6,000 entries - more than any previous volume of the Price Record - representing almost 900 different map-makers or generic categories. The offerings of twenty-eight map dealers are represented in forty-nine catalogues.  Prices realized for 1,276 items at nineteen auctions held at ten conventional auction establishments are included.  Finally, something new: reports of the results of over 900 consignments to an Internet auction.

The sum total of the asking and sales prices is just a bit over $9,500,000, or a mean of about $1,578 per item (as compared with $1,160 two years ago and $870 four years ago.)  The current median price was a more modest and affordable $330 per item.  As in the past, the upward skew is a consequence of including "big ticket" offerings which topped out at a high of $180,000, with twenty-five other items listed at $50,000 or more.  (The low entry was $8.00, rounded up from $7.50).  Of the six thousand entries, 897 have the "same title" which means that comparisons can be made in the quality and price of these items.  Undoubtedly, the trend in antiquarian map prices is upward, but this should hardly come as a surprise.  The economy in major market areas has been healthy if not booming; supply is limited; interest is broadening, propelled in some measure by the explosion in electronic information.

Once again we need to emphasize that Antique Map Price Record & Handbook is not a price guide!  The information in this book is compiled from published sources and reported as accurately as possible in a standard form to facilitate interpretation of the data by the individual user.

Map Dealers and Auctions Are Not Alike

Two years ago, with Volume 15, we began sampling prices realized at auction (including any premiums) along with dealer offerings.  This was done with some trepidation since it was a bit like thinking of apples and oranges as the same.  We felt that the benefits to the reader far outweighed the risk that the information would be misinterpreted.  The reason for presenting what some may regard as disparate information in a single context is that dealers and auctions are both sources of antique maps and atlases for collectors, institutions and other dealers as well. Nevertheless, the data should be approached with the caveat that map dealers and auctioneers of maps are functionally different even though they handle a similar product.

As previously, the catalogue code for an auction sale is always prefixed with an "A", such as [A20 ].  The differences between dealers and auctioneers were presented in Volume 15, page viii, in a section entitled "Notice to All Readers".  Some points need to be emphasized, however, and bear repetition.

Dealers maintain an inventory that is available over time.  The objective of an auctioneer is to liquidate a stock of merchandise at a point in time.  In general, the buyer is able to contemplate his purchase from a dealer in a more relaxed manner than in the competitive atmosphere of an auction which can demand quick decisions.

There are numerous instances in which a price realized at auction is less than a dealer's asking price.  Yet the reverse is often the case, as is recorded in the current volume.  What this demonstrates is that both markets are imperfect. Furthermore, the information is imperfect.  Dealer's asking prices may not reflect an actual sale, but neither do auction prices realized include "passed" lots or where the bidding ceased.  To have missed a "good buy" at auction may only mean that the would-be purchaser was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and simply not in the market that day.

Both dealers and auction houses may produce catalogues that vary in the degree of comprehensiveness and accuracy in describing the item for sale.  With both, transactions may occur at a distance by mail, phone, fax or e-mail, with no opportunity for personal inspection.  What the purchaser buys is dependent on the accuracy of the description, which may be supplemented with illustrations.  Return privileges to auction houses are usually limited to misrepresentation of the merchandise; many map dealers allow returns for any reason, which can be taken to include buyer's remorse.  Most dealers guarantee the authenticity of their wares.

Readers are warned that asking prices and auction prices realized may not be comparable.  Conclusions should be drawn with caution and questioned.

The Internet

Just when we thought we understood almost everything, along comes the age of popular electronic communication.  For those with an interest in antique maps, the Internet is manifest in several ways.  First, all sorts of information and graphics are available.  Second, map dealers are marketing their wares on the World Wide Web.  Third, auction sites have been created which offer an entirely new experience.  The implications are so profound that we have felt compelled to reflect the presence of the net in Antique Map Price Record & Handbook.

A major addition in this volume is the inclusion of the results of auctions of antique maps and atlases that have appeared on eBay™  (www.ebay.com).  Within the framework and mechanism, registered consignors prepare their own descriptions and establish the opening bids and reserve prices, if desired.  Buyers have from three to ten days to place their bids - in other words, there is no need for panic.  Feedback devices are in place to collect information from participants in regard to their satisfaction.  Although the "handles" used may be cryptic, it is apparent that many established antique map dealers as well as rank amateurs are auctioning material on the Internet.  As might be expected, descriptions run the gamut from sketchy to elaborate and often lack an accurate attribution.  Fortunately, the frequent color pictures can be quite revealing.  The result is that the price realized can be "off the wall" in either direction.  Often there are no bids or the reserve is not met.  We repeat the warning offered by eBay™ - caveat emptor.

Map dealers are turning to the Internet.  We have located and provided 168 web site addresses, representing 47% of the 360 dealers and auction houses listed in the directory. Undoubtedly we have missed some and others will be added weekly.  A few of these sites are merely electronic billboards.  Others include full blown catalogues with search capability based on multiple criteria, full of color digital photographs.  Concurrently, the catalogue on a CD (compact disk) is making its debut in the map trade and can include thousands of items at little cost.  There is clearly a trend toward the replacement of print in the functioning of the trade.  Whether the electronic medium can replace a store where the goods are on display is another question.

Resources on the Web

In the "References" section, we have taken the liberty of including Ashley Baynton-Williams' Map Forum (www.mapforum.com).  So far, it remains an Internet periodical, but there is an uncanny resemblance to The Map Collector.  There is a  similarity to that erstwhile magazine: editorials, feature articles, usually a biographical sketch, collations and checklists, a calendar of events, and auction report, and even advertisements.  Our one worry in considering Map Forum as a reference is the ephemeral sense that electrons still convey.  Perhaps a print copy or a CD would allay these fears.

Oddens Bookmarks at (http://oddens.geog.uu.nl/index.html) remains the "mother lode" of the global "cartography" web, claiming links to over ten thousand sites, with "hits" nearing a million a month.  Here we were able to locate many, but not all, of the web sites listed in the Directory of Dealers.  Map sellers, however, were but one of many categories that are featured.  For any cartography question, start here.

MapHist is an e-mail discussion group, open to subscribers, focusing on the history of cartography.  Seemingly, Peter van der Krogt at Utrect and David Cobb at Harvard have joint responsibility for the site. Information is obtainable (www. maphist.nl).  A CD is available with the cumulative commentary from many leading lights on a wide range of subjects.

Since MapHist frowns on the use of the forum for commercial purposes, it was only natural that MapTrade should come into existence under the auspices of Barry Ruderman.  Contact maptrade@raremaps.com for information.

The History of Cartography site which is compiled and maintained weekly by Tony Campbell, Map Librarian, British Library can be found at (http://ihr.sas.ac.uk/maps/).

Imago Mundi, the International Journal for the History of Cartography has a web site at (http://ihr.sas.ac.uk/ maps/imago.html).  A link takes one to the cumulative index from 1935 forward.

Those with patience should not miss the David Rumsey Collection of cartographic America at (www.davidrumsey.com).  Scalable images of scanned maps fill the screen with incredible color and detail so that even the flaws are recognizable.  We found that the system did not work an all browsers, however.  Slow loading of images will cause many to look for a cable Internet service provider at first opportunity.

Need to insure your collection or inventory?  There was a time when few agents understood the problem and were loathe to underwrite such a policy. The Collectibles Insurance Agency at (www.collectinsure.com) has come to our attention.  We have no basis on which to judge the efficacy of their services, however.

References are reorganized

A multitude of books are being published on a variety of cartographic topics every year.   These new volumes are no longer being reviewed in Antique Map Price Record & Handbook due to limitations of space and time, however such commentary is found in periodicals like Mercator's World.

Previous volumes of the Price Record included reference books and journal articles in various sections, including "Cartographic References", "Book Reviews" with a cumulative listing of past book reviews, "Recommended References", and "References Cited".  These have all been consolidated under the section "References" following the "Price Listing" on Page 357.  The date of a review in previous volumes of Antique Map Price Record is noted.  Many of the "specialized references" are indexed by subject.

The compilation of the 445 references in print was based on selections from the earlier volumes, new references cited in catalogues used in this volume and offerings by publishers and booksellers.  We have attempted to provide sufficient information - the author's name, title and date - so that the reader can find the reference one way or another.   In assembling the compilation we have relied on several sources that we recommend.  First and foremost is the Library of Congress on-line catalogue (www.loc.gov/catalog) which lists 12 million publications with full library information.   A search by author can locate other works on similar topics.  If the reader wishes to purchase a reference that is in print, there are the usual suspects: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Border - all of them on-line.  Amazon provides feedback devices whereby a reader can leave comments on books they have bought and there is a pointer to other books purchased by buyers of a given volume.  These global firms provide a search service for out-of-print books.

While these are interesting public services from mega-companies, we recommend an approach that favors the small firms that actually constitute the trade in antiquarian maps.  Many map dealers sell reference books.  They come up at auction, including copies and runs of Antique Map Price Record & Handbook.  It is easier than ever to find a wanted book from dealers who post on the web.  Several sites post the listings for thousands of booksellers who collectively handle millions of books.  These include ABE (www. abe.com),  BiblioFind.com (www.bibliofind.com), and BookFinders.com (www.bookfinder.com) which seems to monitor both of the others.  To support the small establishments that are capable of providing personalized service, we cannot emphasize these maxims sufficiently: Buy Locally; and if that's not possible, think Small is Beautiful.  Use them or lose them!

Dealer information is a moving target.

New enterprises emerge. Some go out of business. Some dealers die; some die but the business survives.  Some change character or the nature of their business or their modus operandi.  Changing area codes are a silent curse placed on those who depend on the telephone network.  Zip codes change from time to time, especially the 9-digit variety when someone moves around the corner.  But none of this compares to the fluidity in e-mail addresses and web sites.  Gradual stability may be expected as more dealers secure their own rational "dot com" domain name and e-mail to go with it.  If a web site turns out to have been abandoned, it's successor can often be found through diligent use of a search engine like Yahoo or Northern Light Search, for once having taken the plunge, a web savvy enterprise will take steps to make itself easy to find.

Describing Condition

In describing items consigned to auction on the Internet, the condition criteria developed by Old World Auctions was erroneously attributed to the authors of this publication.  While we appreciate the recognition for raising the issue, the credit belongs with the Griggs of Old World Auctions.  Their categories have been slightly revised and now omits references to color.  Insofar as others may wish to utilize their systematic approach, we are republishing their revised condition codes with the hope that credit is given where credit is due.
 

(A+) Fine Condition.  Clean and bright, with crisp engraved lines. On sound paper with wide margins.  Any minor restoration has been accomplished professionally. 
(A) Very good condition.  Clean and bright, with crisp engraved lines.  On sound paper with no noticeable imperfections in the image.  Light age toning of image.  Small tears or minor discoloration in the margins only. 
(B) Good condition.  No significant imperfections.  Minor spotting, foxing, short separations on centerfold with no image loss, or overall age toning may be present.  May have narrow margins, but paper is still sound.
(C) Fair Condition.  Noticeable imperfections.  Scattered foxing or spotting.  Long separations on centerfold or tears entering image which can be easily repaired.
(D) Poor condition.  Needs significant repair and cleaning.  Paper may be highly acid and brittle. 

Here is another one that appeared on the Internet from Cartographic Associates in Fulton, Maryland which is less specific, but at least attempts to define the terms in use:
 

Excellent Minor flaws in the paper texture, considering the age of the document.
Very Good Some minor flaws noted in border areas only. 
Good Most areas of concern are in average condition. 
Poor Document contains major defects in the paper, etc. 

We still encounter terms such as immaculate, mint, pristine, superb, excellent, very fine, fine, very good, good, fair, only fair and poor.  Because the same example may be cited as "good" by one dealer and "excellent" by another, it is important for the terms to be defined.

The Future

The electronic revolution shows no signs of slowing.  We recognized that there are some things that electronics can do much better than print.  One thing is ferreting out specific information at great distances.  It is our intention to begin to provide some of the resources in Antique Map Price Record & Handbook on the Internet.  Before the end of the year 2000, we will be posting and maintaining the "Directory of Dealers" on the web.  We will also place on the web all information about "References" that has been published since 1983, including "Book Reviews", as they were written.  We will be making available many sections that have been dropped due to lack of space and new articles for which there has been no room.  Look for the link at (www. amherst-maps.com).

Finally, we are contemplating issuance of a compact disk that will include information from the 76,000 entries "Price Listing" starting with Volume 1 (1983) to the current edition.  This will not be an immediate release, however, because there remains an extensive editorial task to assure that information is accurate and consistent over the years.

For those who collect and enjoy printed paper, such as antiquarian maps, we believe that there will always be a place for the printed page.  We will be looking for ways to embrace the revolution in information, however.  It will be a while before electronics can provide the comprehensible density of information and even the speed with which it can be accessed from a book that provides comfort between two covers.

Jon K. Rosenthal
Appeared in Volume 16 (1999-2000).
 

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