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News and Comments - Index

News and Comments - 2003

With Volume 18, the Antique Map Price Record returns to an annual publication schedule. This is the second volume to be released in CD-ROM format.  As with the Volume 17 CD, Volume 18 contains all of the historical record, including everything from Volume 1 onwards.  Jon and Bernice Rosenthal took over publication of the Price Record in 1993.  This is the first volume since that time produced without their effort and guidance.  Their stewardship of the publication set a high standard for care and accuracy, and I will do my best to maintain this level of quality.  It was a pleasure collaborating with the Rosenthals for the two years during which the initial CD-ROM project took place, and I greatly appreciate Jon's continuing willingness to answer my periodic questions about various aspects of the Price Record and its history.

New Features

It is inevitable that the first version of anything - whether it be a map, a text book or a reference work on CD-ROM - will have room for improvement.  Feedback from users of Volume 17 has given me an opportunity to make some changes, in an effort to improve the Price Record CD.  The changes are mostly minor, but, taken together, I think they definitely enhance the CD.  Here are the new features:

The Help system for the CD has been updated, and these changes are described more fully there.

Coverage

The Antique Map Price Record began including auction results in the 1997-98 volume. Jon Rosenthal discussed the decision to do this and presented some careful warnings to users in the News and Comments for that year.  Roughly 21% of the entries for that volume came from auction results.  The percentage increased somewhat in the following years.  For new entries in the current volume, 35.7% of the items come from auction results.  My goal, going forward, is to keep the representation from auctions to at least this level.  As long as readers keep clearly in mind the distinction between dealer list prices and auction results (as discussed in the 1997/98 News and Comments), I think it is clearly useful to continue to include auction results in the Price Record.  As several people have pointed out, an auction result represents what somebody actually was willing to pay for a particular map, whereas a dealer listing represents a price that a dealer hopes to receive.  There is no guarantee that a dealer sold a listed map at the listed price, or, indeed, that the particular map sold at all. On the other hand, dealer prices tend to be more stable, and not to be subject to the occasional extreme price variations (both low and high) that can occur at auction. Consequently, there are good reason for having available both auction and dealer price information, but in a way that the user always knows which kind of listing a given price represents. 

On the subject of auction results, there is one change from the prior two volumes: No results from eBay auctions are included in the new Volume 18 material.  (Obviously the eBay results from Volumes 16 & 17 are included, since the CD includes all past records.)  The question, whether to include or exclude eBay results, wasn't a simple one to answer; there are good arguments on both sides.  There were two factors that eventually caused me to make the decision to exclude eBay results:

People have made the case that eBay has become a very important element in the antiquarian map marketplace, and I won't disagree with that.  Bert Johnson's excellent article in the Winter 2002/03 issue of The Portolan presents a very thorough overview of both the importance and the limitations of eBay as a sales medium for old maps. But even granting eBay's importance (based on nothing other than the sheer volume of antique maps listed there), I am not convinced that the information gleaned from eBay's listings provides more value to the Antique Map Price Record database than taking an equivalent number of entries from dealer and auction house catalogues.  Constraints of time force the Price Record to be selective: Roughly 5,000 new entries are added each year.  I think that the database quality is improved by drawing those entries entirely from the knowledgeable listings of dealers and auction houses.

Another aspect of coverage regards where the dealers and auction houses are located from which material is drawn.  The Price Record has always been published in the United States, and it has always been noticeably weighted towards dealers from English speaking countries, and, in particular, from the United States.  I would like to see the Price Record become more balanced geographically.  Drawing from dealers throughout the world also helps to ensure that maps of all parts of the world are more likely to be represented.  (It wouldn't be much of a suprise if it turned out that Australian map dealers don't tend to list a lot of maps of Scandinavia in their catalogues.)  Here's a picture of how the geographic disribution (where dealers and auction houses are located) compares between prior years's entries and the current year's entries:

So, some headway is being made toward greater inclusiveness of catalogues from dealers in non-English speaking countries, and I will try to continue this trend.

Browsing the Data

The Antique Map Price Record's editors seem to have a history of trying to turn the collected data into statistical information. In the first two volumes of the Price Record, David Jolly included statistical tables, showing various price statistics for major map-makers, and tables which correlated the age of maps with their prices.  In the third volume he discontinued these tables, saying that he was omitting this statistical data "since there was no user comment whatever [in response to this information in the previous volumes] ... If no one wants the information, I say good riddance."  In the 1994 edition, Jon Rosenthal computed statistics for the the frequently-listed folio-sized Typus Orbis Terrarum world map of Ortelius, showing how the prices had changed over time.  He also introduced tables which did finer, year-by-year, breakdowns of the frequency distribution of entries by every listed map-maker.

As I prepared the second CD edition of the Price Record, I found myself wanting to take a similar look: What interesting information can be gleaned by looking in the aggregate at this database, which now contains over 86,000 entries?  I may eventually conclude, as David Jolly did, that nobody wants this information, and that there are better ways to spend my time.  But I thought it worthwhile to take one shot at it.

What I have done is created a set of graphical views into the data, "statistical maps", if you will, of the Price Record database.  I leave it to the reader to decide whether any of these views are informative or amusing.

The 20-year history of map prices (general view)
The 20-year history of map prices (detailed view)
The 20-year history of  prices of expensive (>$10,000) maps
The most frequently represented map-makers (top 50)
Prices, over time, for maps of the top 50 map-makers
Age vs price, over 20 years
Does size matter?

Other Topics

My predecessor editors included in their News and Comments sections bits of information about changes in the antiquarian map world, or the world at large.  David Jolly liked to note the passing of geographical names.  He no doubt would have had something to say about the the recent disappearance of the name "Yugoslavia".  Changes in the sources of available information for those interested in antiquarian maps was often listed, such as new Internet sites. The many well-published Internet sites for information about antiquarian maps doesn't need another pointer here.  You can look in the previous years's News and Comments sections for pointers to such sites as Oddens's Bookmarks. Other than the Internet, as I write this, the MapHist list has been discussing the apparent demise of Mercator's World, after the untimely death of its editor, Gary Turley.  It remains to be seen if the economics of producing a glossy printed magazine for such a small market make sense any more.  But the growth of Internet sites devoted to old maps, the continuing publication of high quality cartobibliographies, the large number of active map societies (both at the international level and at the local level, see http://www.csuohio.edu/CUT/MapSoc), the MapHist and MapTrade discussion lists, the advent of a trade association for antiquarian map dealers (http://www.antiquemapdealers.com), increasing numbers of map exhibitions and antiquarian map fairs - all of these help to ensure that the community interested in old maps is well provided with sources of information.

Jeremy Pool - 2003

<< Previous (2001-2002)
News and Comments - Index


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