AUCTION RESULTS: Potter & Potter - August 2023
Potter and Potter Auctions held an auction of the Library of Robin and Kathryn Smiley in August 2023. This auction comprised 382 lots of which a significant number were detective fiction. Within the auction were six lots related to Agatha Christie – mostly single books but a few with multiple items. However, they were important Christies for collectors and so the results are worth reviewing.
Robin and Kathryn Smiley established “Firsts – the Book Collector’s Magazine” in 1991. In its early years, before the advent of the internet and the now broad range of online resources, Firsts was a highly popular magazine for collectors. I was a subscriber in those early years and the magazine provided valuable content. The magazine is still going, though instead of monthly, it now only produces six issues a year. There is also a lot of good content on their website and well as a searchable archive of prior issues. One example of the online content is their article on grading books and the meanings of the terms used (link).
Potter and Potter Auction Prices Realized:
The Lots: All lots sold with no reserve. All prices were in US dollars. The prices realized reflect the total hammer plus the buyer’s premium. At the time of this article the exchange rate for US dollars was $1.24 per £1. NOTE: The full auction and higher resolution images can be found on the Potter & Potter website (link).
Lot 24: And Then There Were None. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1940.
Sold for $2,280 with 17 bids. First American Edition. Original light beige cloth stamped in orange, top edge stained red; original dust jacket (spine panel gently sunned, professional restoration at extreme ends and fore-corners).
CC Comments: Strong money for this title, but there again they aren't making any more of them. US books from the late 30s and early 40s are definitely seeing strong appreciation when in a 'very good' or better condition.
Lot 25: Death on the Nile. London: Collins for The Crime Club, 1937.
Sold for $4,750 with 10 bids. First Edition. Original red-orange cloth (light sunning to spine, some spotting to title-page); Original dust jacket (extreme edges professionally restored, right corner of front panel completely restored, small spot of restoration to front top fore-corner slightly affecting title).
CC Comments: Without the restoration to the front panel, this likely would have received double the value realised. Front panel restoration is particularly impactful to value for collectors, as is spine restoration when lettering is recreated.
Lot 26: The Witness for the Prosecution and other stories.
New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, .
Sold for $2,280 with 21 bids. First Edition. Original grey cloth stamped in red with the “Red Badge Detective” motif on upper cover; Original dust jacket (spine very gently sunned, some light edgewear at extreme ends, else fine).
CC Comments: There is no English equivalent edition of this collection of short stories and thus this book appeals to collectors on both sides of the pond. A deserved price given the condition of the jacket and a book that is starting to get very hard to find in this condition.
Lot 27: A group of 3 titles.
Sold for $1,187.50 with 21 bids. Included: (1) The Hound of Death and Other Stories. London: Odhams Press Limited, . First Edition. Original purple cloth spine stamped in gilt (spine sunned, binding edgeworn, text toned and foxed). (2) The Moving Finger. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942. First US Edition. Original red cloth, front board and spine stamped in black (some edgewear to binding, endleaves toned); original dust jacket (jacket restored and repaired, spine sunned, some soiling, several creases, repaired tears).
(3) Curtain. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, . First US Edition. Original blue cloth-backed boards, spine lettered in gilt (minor rubbing); original dust jacket (price with blue ballpoint ink covering, light rubbing to jacket).
Lot 176: The Murder at the Vicarage. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1930.
Sold for $1,800 with 13 bids. First US Edition. Original blue-green cloth stamped in green; original dust jacket (vertical crease to front panel with some minor touch ups, spine gently sunned, few tiny chips at head); cloth folding chemise and full morocco slipcase.
CC Comments: While not an overly appealing jacket, most that show for sale generally have significant chips. Quality jackets are getting scarce and auction values are starting to finally rise for this title.
Lot 177: The Mysterious Affair at Styles. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1926.
Sold for $4,320 with 30 bids. First Dodd Mead edition. Original light green cloth lettered in red; Original unrestored dust jacket (some very light edgewear, else fine).
CC Comments: This title, her first novel, was first published in the US in 1920 by John Lane – preceding the UK version. Dodd, Mead & Co. (New York, US) acquired the copyright in 1926, and used the unaltered first edition artwork on the front panel for the dust jacket that was used on the original first editions of this work – which is scarcer than a pink unicorn. This jacket was a fine copy and the price realised is a market high for this book. Later reprints by G&D reference The Murder of Roger Ackroyd on the front panel and are much more common. For even more information on this book, please read my detailed article on it (link).
There are several interesting observations in this sale. The provenance of being part of the Smiley collection certainly helped as fairly strong money was realised across all the books. However, the 1926 Dodd Mead printing of her first novel set a new record price for that book and affirms its appeal for collectors who – even if they have the deep pockets to buy a true first – may go a lifetime and never have the opportunity to do so. This really was the best next option.