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Archive for the ‘Collectors & Collecting’ Category

header1Mastro Auctions, responsible for the sale of over $250 million in sales since its inception in 1996, has ceased operations. 

“The suburban Chicago company’s assets have been taken over by a newly formed sports and Americana auction house, headed by former Mastro President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Allen, Vice President Ron Oser and Logistics and Auction Manager Mark Theotikos. The new company will be called Legendary Auctions. 

“Long-time collector/dealer Bill Mastro, who started Mastro Auctions in 1996 and served as Chairman and CEO, is leaving the hobby, according to a press release issued Tuesday night on behalf of Legendary Auctions. 

“‘Circumstances make it clear to me that the business needs to move in a different direction at this time,’ Mastro stated in the release. ‘Legendary Auctions is a positive step that allows everyone to be taken care of, especially our customers who have been so loyal. I am looking forward to taking some time off for now, and wish Legendary Auctions only the best as they move forward.'” (more @ Sports Collectors Daily)

Legendary Auction‘s Press Release announcing the acquisition of Mastro Auctions can be found here.

RelatedIs the Sports Collectibles Industry (or Mastro Auctions) on the Ropes?

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sportsstuff“The sports collectibles industry looks like it is going to take a big hit because of the souring economy, and there’s lots of speculation that the hobby’s biggest auction house, Mastro Auctions, won’t be around much longer. The Illinois company – the nation’s largest sports memorabilia auction house – is the target of a federal investigation into shill bidding and fraud, and [last month], the Daily News reported that it has problems paying consigners.” (via NY Daily News)

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[Until a few years ago, and for more than a decade, I was a prominent and respected member of the sports collectibles industry. Early on, I ran a mail order business specializing in historic and rare sports programs and tickets; and for several years after that, I ran a catalog auction, Sloate & Smolin, in partnership with Barry Sloate, a specialist in early cards and memorabilia; I also ran my own online memorabilia auction, About Time Auctions. So when I say that the sports collectibles industry has never been a place for the faint of heart, I speak from experience.

Bill Mastro, the founder and president of Mastro Auctions, has a long and complicated history with the “hobby” – Mastro is one of the people most responsible for transforming a one-time hobby into a major industry and for making a fair number of people, himself especially, quite wealthy along the way. But there are low moments in the Mastro story as well, some of which are reported by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson in their 2007 exposé, The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card.

As for the broader concerns of the hobby-industry, a “crash” in the hobby market has been anticipated for years — since before I became a full-time dealer in the early 1990s — but never materialized. But this time might be different – facing the one-two punch of a sinking world economy and the possible demise of one of the industry’s leading auction houses, the hobby this time really might be going down for the count.]

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ghandi“Indians are expressing outrage over a New York auction that is set to sell some of the most personal belongings of India’s great independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi — the gaunt, bare-chested man whose ascetic life defied materialism.

“The auction is a travesty for many Indians, for whom Gandhi is a godlike figure, and some in India’s Parliament have called for the government to either stop the auction or put in the highest bid to get back the nation’s iconic mementos.

“The bidding for Gandhi’s distinctive metal-rimmed round spectacles, his leather sandals, a 1910 sterling Zenith pocket watch, and a brass bowl and plate is scheduled for March 5 and 6 in New York.” (via The Washington Post)

Antiquorum Auctioneers, in their press release for the March sale, estimate the value of the c. 1901-1915 pocket watch at $20,000-$30,000 and note that Ghandi “gave it to his grandniece, Abha Gandhi, his assistant of six years, and in whose arms he died.”

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From today’s New York Times, Allison Arieff on San Francisco bookseller, collector and architectural book publisher William Stout and the old-fashioned pleasures of hunting in the stacks:

“Stores like Stout’s (not to mention people like Stout!) are a rare breed these days: there are two floors bursting with over 200,000 books on everything from the sustainable houses of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt to Czech graphic designer Vitezslav Nezval’s ‘Alphabet’ from 1926 to the last sketchbook of Jackson Pollock to William Wegman’s whimsical ‘Dogs on Rocks.’ Some books are shelved in an orderly fashion, others are piled high, begging for the serendipity of accidental discovery. . . .

“I love the tangents an afternoon spent searching the Internet can generate: a search for this leads to a blog on that which might lead to a book I’d not heard of or a film I want to see. But I realize as well that it’s contributing to a sort of collective ADD that makes ambling through aisles of a place like Stout Books feel that much more special, requiring an altogether different commitment of time, care and attention.”

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kahn-catalog“We’ve all gotten pretty used to looking for books electronically . . . with the result that most dealers, for one reason or another, but usually because of the considerable production costs involved, have moved away from the printed catalogs, which is a shame, because there is still nothing like getting a lively new list of offerings in the mail, and going through it with the kind of leisured approach such an exercise demands.” (via Fine Books & Collections)

[As a long-time collector of modern American literature, my collecting interests, if not my spending power, share much in common with Bruce Kahn’s. The sale by Ken Lopez and Tom Congalton of Kahn’s collection of signed first editions, including so many literary “high spots,” is a rare event in the book collecting world. As such, the just-issued sale catalog is, and will remain, an essential reference for collectors in this field. A copy can be obtained from Ken Lopez, a respected “Americanist” who continues to publish first-rate sales catalogs of modern American literature.]

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morgan-cartoonWith the stir over the New York Post’s economic stimulus cartoon unlikely to die down any time soon (unlike the stimulus bill-writing chimp), there may be no better time to visit the ongoing exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, “On the Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker From the Melvin R. Seiden Collection.”

“Celebrating the art of the cartoonist, On the Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker features approximately eighty original drawings by some of The New Yorker’s most talented and beloved artists who have tackled the theme of money and the many ways in which it defines us. . . .

“The works are drawn entirely from the collection of Melvin R. Seiden, a longtime supporter of the Morgan, who has assembled one of the largest and most representative private selections of this art form which spans the history of The New Yorker. The Seiden collection of New Yorker cartoons, numbering nearly 1,500 sheets, complements the Morgan’s holdings in the history of satire and humor, which range from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. . . .

“Since 1925 The New Yorker magazine has served as the leading forum for American cartoonists to reflect and comment on the nation’s social and cultural environment.”

The exhibition runs through May 24th.

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“Some insightful, primarily web-based record labels have found success in the rediscovering and re-issuing of lost vinyl classics, and in the process, they’ve resurrected some of the finest music ever forgotten. Forgoing major label methodology—mediocre “best of” anthologies and remastered big hits—these labels have instead done what true vinyl junkies have been doing for decades: They’ve sought out the unknowns, those songs and artists that somehow got caught and lost in the cracks.” (via GOOD)

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“Is bibliophilia a religious impulse? You can’t walk into Sotheby’s exhibition space in Manhattan right now and not sense the devotion or be swept up in its passions and particularities. The 2,400-square-foot opening gallery is lined with shelves — 10 high — reaching to the ceiling, not packed tight, but with occasional books open to view. Each shelf is labeled, not with a subject, but with a city or town of origin: Amsterdam, Paris, Leiden, Izmir, Bombay, Cochin, Cremona, Jerusalem, Ferrara, Calcutta, Mantua, Shanghai, Alexandria, Baghdad and on and on.

“These 13,000 books and manuscripts were primarily collected by one man, Jack V. Lunzer, who was born in Antwerp in 1924, lives in London and made his fortune as a merchant of industrial diamonds. . . . But this endeavor is not just an exercise in bibliophilia. These are all books written in Hebrew or using Hebrew script, many of them rare or even unique. Most come from the earliest centuries of Hebrew printing in their places of origins and thus map out a history of the flourishing of Jewish communities around the world. . . .

“The collection, named after the Italian town that Mr. Lunzer’s family has long been associated with, is known as the Valmadonna Trust Library. Sotheby’s has put it on sale as a single collection. Through next Thursday it is being handsomely displayed to the public, while luring the large institutional libraries and collectors who might be prepared to pay at least $40 million for what Sotheby’s, echoing scholars in the field, describes as ‘the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world.'” (more @ NY Times)

A video tour of The Valmadonna Trust Library can be viewed here.

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ca-rr-posterFour San Francisco-based institutions — the California Historical Society; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society; the San Francisco Public Library; and the Society of California Pioneers — have received a Mellon Foundation grant of nearly $250,000 to help create the California Ephemera Project, a searchable, online catalogue featuring the ephemera of all four collections.

“The collections to be catalogued are comprised of materials that were created to be short-lived or discarded, such as brochures, catalogs, menus, billheads, mining certificates, theater programs, bylaws, political flyers, travel guides, wine labels, and more, but whose content and graphic richness are a historical and cultural resource for researchers. There is overlap in topics between the collections of the four institutions, yet many of the items themselves are unique. Often the only existing documentation for some topics, the material is relevant for research into 19th- and 20th-century California history.”

(via SFPL Online)

(Railroad Poster via California State Railroad Museum)

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Last month in London, multi-millionaire businessman and author Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, a Harvard- and MIT-educated American citizen of Iranian descent and the former head of the Iranian Heritage Foundation, was sentenced after pleading guilty in May, 2008, to “10 counts of theft at the British Library (with 20 additional counts taken under consideration) and four at the Bodleian, but he is believed to have defaced or destroyed as many as 150 books at both institutions by using a scalpel to remove maps and illustrations in order to ‘improve’ his own copies of the books. . . .

“The 10 items Hakimzadeh admitted to stealing from the British Library are estimated to be worth £71,000 ($104,689), but the library estimated that total costs for repairs to the damaged volumes will be much higher, and the losses of the still-missing materials have been called ‘incalculable.'”

‘“You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess,” offered British judge Peter Ader as he sentenced Hakimzadeh. (more @ Fine Books & Collections)

More recently, “A book dealer who plundered rare books valued at more than £230,000 from the private library of the Rothschild family was jailed [last week] for 28 months. David Slade, 59, admitted taking more than 30 books belonging to Sir Evelyn de Rothschild after he was hired to catalogue the family’s collection. Aylesbury crown court heard Slade stole the volumes over a four-year period from the Rothschilds’ Ascott House estate, near Wing, Buckinghamshire. He then sold them at auction.” (more @ The Guardian)

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guttman-space“You may feel as if you’d stepped into a quirky 19th-century museum, but that’s not how Mr. [Peter] Guttman, a travel photographer, sees the densely packed four walls, floor and ceiling of his family’s living room. His meticulously organized collection of rare folk art and handmade tools, toys, weapons, textiles, baskets, ceramics, etc., dedicated to the memory of extinct or nearly-so ways of life and assembled as snugly as a jigsaw puzzle, is ‘a mirror of my personal life,’ he said, ‘a diary of global travels.'” (Audio Slide Show) (via NY Times)

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“[Walker] Evans is foremost a giant of 20th-century photography, the instigator of a lean, elegant documentary style that was as unvarnished as it was ennobling. He immortalized gaunt sharecroppers, dilapidated plantations and bone-dry country stores in the South; worker housing and grimy factories in the industrial North; and (with a hidden camera) the unguarded expressions of New York subway riders.

“But before he was anything else, Evans was an obsessed collector of postcards. This exhibition reveals them as the through line, the wellspring of his art.”

At the end of her review of the just-opened exhibition, “Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard,” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Roberta Smith notes the broader cultural significance of early 20th-century picture postcards and laments the slashing of financial support for public school art programs:

“Without diminishing his achievement, this show reverberates beyond Evans. The postcards celebrate America at the beginning of the last century. They also confirm the vigor of this country’s often anonymous grass-roots art forms and the importance of popular culture to so-called high art. More sadly, in a time when schools across the country are slashing their art programs, this unusual exhibition suggests the often decisive effect of our earliest aesthetic experiences. ‘Home is where we start from,’ wrote the psychologist D. W. Winnicott. The richer the formative experiences there, the better for everyone.”

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