AUCTION RESULTS: Part I: Charlie Watts' Agatha Christie Collection
On Thursday, 28th September, 2023, Christie’s Auctions in London, UK is held part 1 of their two-part auction comprising an extraordinary library of modern first editions together with landmarks from the world of jazz, collected by renowned musician and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (1941–2021).
For the preview of this auction and more details on the lots, please read our review (link).
All prices below include the buyer's premium. For US dollars multiple by ~1.2.
The total sale comprised about 200 lots that cumulatively realised £3,440,000 (incl. b/p). The 25 Agatha Christie lots detailed below totalled £510,000, for an average of £20,400 per book. While one book ultimately set a new single book auction record for an Agatha Christie book at auction, many books set their individual records. While a lot of this was attributable to the inscriptions which certainly added value, the Charlie Watts provenance clearly appealed too. What was clear is that the flawed jackets and married books did not deter bidders. While a purist may want an unmarried pairing, you could wait an eternity to find one for several of these titles. Even jackets that used to be more common are now rarities. For example, Dumb Witness and The Murder at the Vicarage both had very flawed jackets, but when was the last time you saw one for sale? For those of you that are fortunate to own early first editions, whether jacketed or not, scarcity continues to push up values. I've asserted before that Agatha Christie first editions and rare printings have become blue chip collectibles. Most lots had many bidders from around the world with the auctioneer quickly bouncing between bids from Italy, Australia, Austria, California, the London showroom, Iowa and other US states. There was no shortage of demand for these titles, so for those lucky enough to acquire them, enjoy them. However, expect to see a few show up for sale at higher prices fairly soon as several clearly went to the trade. If you were a buyer, do reach out to me at email@example.com and share your auction experience and your thoughts about prices.
Lot 18: £5,625: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Bodley Head, London, 1921.
Lot 19: £6,000: The Murder on the Links, John Lane the Bodley Head Ltd., London, 1923.
Lot 20: £6,250: The Secret of Chimneys, John Lane the Bodley Head Limited, London, 1925.
CC Comment: No surprises yet.
Lot 21: £56,250: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1926.
CC Comments: What was a new auction record for an Agatha Christie book until lot 27 sold. Incredibly strong money, but perhaps understandable given the unique inscription and the scarcity of this jacket.
Lot 22: £27,500: The Mystery of the Blue Train, W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, .
CC Comments: Despite the signature, this is clearly very strong money for this title which may appear for sale in a jacket more often that other books of this period.
Lot 23: £4,750: Partners in Crime, W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1929.
CC Comments: Appropriate given the signature and provenance.
Lot 24: £32,500: The Mysterious Mr. Quin. W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1930.
Lot 25: £33,750: The Murder at the Vicarage, The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co., Ltd., London, 1930.
Lot 26: £8,750: Peril at End House, The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co., Ltd., London, 1932.
CC Comments: While Lots 24 and 25 are records for those titles, Lot 26 was fairly priced. When Collins did second printings for this book, they continued to use the first state jacket which had a 3/6 sticker overlaid atop the 7/6 price. Over the years many of those stickers have been professionally removed increasing the supply of jacketed first editions.
Lot 27: £60,000: The Thirteen Problems, The Crime Club Ltd. by W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1932.
Lot 28: £23,750: Lord Edgware Dies, The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1933.
Lot 29: £27,500: Murder on the Orient Express, The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co., Ltd., London, 1934.
Lot 30: £20,000: The Listerdale Mystery and other stories, Collins, London, 1934.
CC Comments: Lot 27 is the all-time record for a Christie at auction, but it was lot 29 that really surprised me. At most the signature added a few thousand, so this was definitely an affirmation of the scarcity of this book in collectible condition. Over the years I've had numerous collectors reach out to me asking how to find a collectible first state of this book. Its scarcity is well known, such that I wrote a detailed article about it (link). However, this is probably the realised price that was most unexpected.
Lot 31: £27,500: Why Didn’t they Ask Evans?, The Crime Club by W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London, 1934.
Lot 32: £20,000: Parker Pyne Investigates, Collins Mystery, London, 1934.
Lot 33: £12,500: Death in the Clouds, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1935.
Lot 34: £25,000: The ABC Murders, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1936.
Lot 35: £23,750: Cards on the Table, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1936.
CC Comments: Record prices for all these books. Most surprising was Lot 35. It wasn't that long ago, well maybe 10 years ago, that you could buy a jacketed copy of this book for 10% of the sold price. Even if you assume that the signature and provenance increased the price by 50%, does this imply a standard jacketed copy of the book would now be worth £15,000. We need an auction of unsigned books sold by an 'average' collector to know how much these added attributes really impacted price. The reality is there are so few of these books out there, that such a sale may not happen for several more years and by then the prices will have caught up!
Lot 36: £4,000: Murder in the Mews and other stories, Collins Crime Club, London, 1937.
Lot 37: £10,625: Dumb Witness, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1937.
Lot 38: £31,250: Death on the Nile. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1937.
Lot 39: £11,875: Murder is Easy, The Crime Club by Collins, London. 1939.
CC Comments: Lot 36 is a rare book, despite not being the true first, but it provides a benchmark as to the value of the Christie inscription and Charlie Watt's provenance - which obviously wasn't more than the sale price. This helps put in perspective how surprising the hammer price was for lot 38. Buyers clearly see a premium on her most well known titles - consider Lot 21 and Lot 29 to confirm this. Personally I would say well bought to lot 37. One of my favourite books and jackets - while not in great condition, it rarely ever shows for sale now.
Lot 40: £6,250: Sad Cypress, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1940.
Lot 41: £7,500: Evil Under the Sun, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1941.
Lot 42: £17,500: By the Pricking of My Thumbs, The Crime Club by Collins, London, 1968.
Lot 44: £5,625: The Floating Admiral, Hodder and Stoughton, London .
CC Comments: The inscription to P.G. Wodehouse made the sale of lot 42 unique - sadly while I bid on this in addition to many other books, I did not secure this book - it went a little beyond what I felt was fair value and I avoided letting the emotion get the better of me! Aside from this, the others were the more "reasonably" priced books of the auction.
Part II of the sale soon... more to come.
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