Saturday, September 12, 2015

Till Death Do Us Part- Disposing of a Bookplate Collection




 Many years ago  I had a brief telephone conversion with Dr. Samuel Radbill.
.His name came up often when I asked book dealers about  collectors in Philadelphia
 He asked a simple question : Would you like to build a world class collection ? I answered  affirmatively and he said It's very simple just live longer than the other collectors..
 Several years later he died and I attended an auction  sale of 18th century bookplates from his  collection I purchased some remarkable plates including an Engraved Thomas Penn plate printed by  Ben Franklin .
-Ref Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Printing by C. William Miller P.39

Now it won't be long before I am 79 years old and an increasing number of collector friends are.sending their collections to auction houses.

It is my hope that this collaborative undertaking will help others (and myself)  weigh carefully the options they have and shed some light on on what is a major decision.
My own thinking is still some what muddled. I could take the path of least resistance and do absolutely nothing.but that would be a big mistake. My heirs would not have a clue about what to do with the collection .. As strange as it may sound I know of several collections that wound up in dumpsters..
.
Several years ago I began sorting my collection.. Some portions are sorted by artist, some by categories such as famous people , angling,theatrical, Judaica etc. This will facilitate the eventual sale in more manageable lots that can be be directed to specific audiences.

Because it is easy to do and pleasurable I frequently print out biographical information about the owners..I think this adds to the value of the collection and facilitates cataloging .

Normally, I publish short articles This posting is different..
It is quite long. I hope it is thought provoking enough to stimulate further discussion.

Bookplatemaven@hotmail.com


The following article originally appeared in The Bookplate Journal

Volume1 Number 1 March 1983


REFLECTIONS ON DISPOSING OF BOOKPLATE COLLECTIONS

Professor William E. Butler

In 1937 Clara T. Evans and Carlyle S. Baer published a census of institutional bookplate collections in the United States.  It listed dozens of collections scattered in public libraries or universities, colleges, institutes, and galleries throughout the land, the great majority of them presented or bequeathed by private collectors.  Although there is no comparable census for the United Kingdom, such preliminary data as we have suggests an analogous pattern of beneficence.  No Anglo-American institution to my knowledge, however, actively augment through exchange or purchase the bookplate collection(s) which they hold.  Most collections may be consulted for reference purposes, and in a few cases the collection is drawn upon for exhibitions.  The vast majority if institutional collections have no published catalogues the magnificent exception being the Frank Collection in The British Museum. Whose three volume catalogue remains the most fundamental reference work on Anglo-American bookplates up to 1900.  In short, most bookplate collections presented to institutions cease to become living collections.  Unlike the book or graphic art holding, they rarely enjoy an acquisitions budget and virtually never have a curator knowledgeable about bookplates and in a position to enlarge or upgrade the bookplate collection.
            The alternative is to sell the collection.  Modern collectors cannot hope to amass even a medium-sized collection purely by exchange.  Earlier material especially is most likely to be obtained through the acquisition of another collection.  A small collection these days is up to 15,000 plates: medium-size c. 15-50,000: large collection is excess of 50,000.  Some collectors, most notably the late Horace Jones and Mr. & Mrs. Tom Owen in England, have directed that their bookplates be dispersed to other collectors.
            The sale of a small collection normally presents few difficulties.  Although to the best of my knowledge only two book dealers in the United Kingdom (James L. Wilson and Nigel Burwood)* and none in the United States regularly stock bookplates, many book dealers will purchase small collections.  Auction houses too will be prepared to sell collection as a whole, and occasionally do, but gone are the days when an entire auction is gives over to individual plates.  Medium and large collection are another matter entirely.  If sold intact, their size narrows the field of prospective purchasers dramatically, and, if broken down, poses formidable lotting and description problems for the vendor.  A knowledgeable collector might overcome these obstacles by lotting or arranging the materials himself.  Rarely is such foresight encountered.  The Bookplate Society often is asked to assist in the disposal of collection and gladly does so without charge.
            These reflections are prompted by the disposition during 1982 of one large and two medium-sized collections.  Each raised interesting considerations for the vendor and purchaser which we believe to be of general concern.

The Harold Mortlake Collection


Many readers will recall that in the “good old days” Harold Mortlake’s antiquarian bookshop in Cecil Court was one of the few places in Britain which regularly offered bookplates for sale.  A few plates in the window, including a Harrison copper-engraving, enticed one in to page through some well-worn albums with plates individually priced.  Behind the shop stock lay a substantial personal collection amassed over many years which Mortlake ultimately offered, as he did many of the book collection that he formed, en bloc together with 193 books and pamphlets. 
            The bookplates and books had been thoroughly inventoried and classified.  Of the 28,000 bookplates, some 16,000 were British, and of the latter nearly a quarter were die sinkers.  The plates were grouped into categories: armorials, Chippendale, garter, urns, bookpiles, libraries, seals, clubs, and institutions, medical, ermines, ovals, pictorials armorials, pictorial, armorials with supporters, military, Irish, Jacobean, ladies, authors, individual artists, prize labels, monograms, and more.  Most plates were mounted on single sheets of headed paper containing brief annotation: the names of owner, designer, engrave, and Franks number when relevant.  The foreign plates were simply grouped by country, with a few outstanding continental artists kept separately.
            For various reasons, not least the element of duplication, four London collectors decided to purchase the collection as a syndicate and divide it among themselves.  A price was agreed and the entire collection moved to a central London site for distribution, an awesome exercise which might in its execution easily have sorely tested the friendship of those involved.  In fact, it proved to be enormously enjoyable and provided an absorbing diversion for several long evenings without any cross words.  The recipe for success was complementary collecting interests and equitable canons for distribution rigorously observed.
            The books were dealt with first.  The vendor supplied a complete list of titles to which one syndicate member assigned notional prices for distribution.  The other syndicate members reviewed and agreed the prices.  The books were laid out on tables: lots were chosen to see who should have first choice- the others following in alphabetical order, and the prices of books selected in this way, the other half to be sold.  The cost to each member at this stage was the total of the books selected plus a quarter of the value of the remainder.  The amount received for the latter, when eventually sold, was divided among the members equally.
            The syndicate members each entered the arrangement with certain preferences for material, but exposure to a new range of plates served in all instances to broaden their taste.  “Royals” were sought after generally.  One member with a larger general collection concentrated on plates he lacked, leaving much material to the others.  Fine plates of all periods and countries grew in appeal.  As light relief from the hours of serious selection, the members worked through the die sinker volumes individually, pulling those plates that seemed worth considering separately.  The same procedure was followed for the 12,000 continental plates, again pulling out those that appealed.  The quality of the continental plates was much lower in general, but a few by Zetti, Severin, Rueter, von Bayros, Sattler, and other contemporary engraves made the effort worthwhile.
The Arthur Brauer Collection


By Lukavsky, Jaroslav

            In early summer 1982 it become known that a continental collection of about 30,000 bookplates was available in England.  Formed by the late Dr. Arthur Brauer in Germany, the collection had first been offered to the Exlibriscentrum in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, without success.  Those who viewed the collection were enormously impressed with its quality.  Dr. Brauer had collected by artist and chosen carefully.  The sale was being arranged through book dealers in southern England.  The initial asking price was extremely high.  In the course of the summer various individuals were offered the collection at a gradually diminishing price, the ultimate purchaser, A.K. Pincott, acquiring the collection for about 40% of what originally was asked.  The bulk of the collection consisted of twentieth-century Western and Eastern continental European material, especially from the period 1900-30.

The Margaret Woodbury Strong Collection


Margaret Woodbury Strong

On 17 May 1982 Swann Galleries Inc. in New York announced that they had been appointed to dispose of the Strong Bookplate Collection on behalf of the Pierpont Morgan Library- “one of the world’s largest collections of bookplates.”  Margaret Woodbury Strong (1897-1969) was a passionate collector.  Toys, miniatures, shells, marbles, a superlative doll-house collection, buttons, china, door knobs, inkwell, paperweights, vases, smoking pipes, shaving mugs, valentines, trade cards and more were assembled on grand scale and bequeathed with a stunning endowment (in excess of $60 million) to form the nucleus of a “museum of fascination” in Rochester, New York.  After thirteen years of planning, the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum opened officially on 12 October 1982 in sumptuous purpose-built premises designed to exploit to the utmost the educational and research dimensions of the collections.  The bookplates did not pass to the Museum.  They were willed separately with capital sum to the Pierpont Morgan Library and a request that the Library expend the sum to provide facilities for the better care and display of bookplates.
            Although Mrs. Strong grew up in a family of connoisseur-collectors and began herself to collect at a precocious age, the massive holdings (300,000 objects) which comprise the core of the Museum in Rochester were acquired late in life, from 1958 to 1969.  Bookplates were, however, an early and sustained interest.  Her bookplate collection commenced c. 1907 when a University lecturer presented his personal bookplate to her during a transatlantic voyage.  Eventually she was given part of the bookplate collection formed by her favourite aunt.  She was a member of the American Society of bookplate collectors from 1935 until her death.  The true size of the Strong Collection is unclear.  Accounts published in 1969 indicated a collection of about 86,000 plates.  The Swan figure of c. 150,000 plates was an estimate based on random sample; the discrepancy may represent duplicate and unaccessioned material.
            A full account of the Collection will be given when there has been sufficient opportunity to study it.  Preliminary observation suggest that the collection was assembled with devotion by way of exchange and especially by the acquisition of other collections.  Most of the bookplates are Anglo-American pre-1945, with substantial representation of A.N MacDonald, Sidney L. Smith, E.D. French, C.W. Sherborn, G.W. Eve, and a sprinkling of other artists of the period.  There are modest but excellent holdings of older continental plates, including a handful of fifteenth-century plates, although the celebrated rarities seem not to have been represented.  Twentieth-century continental European material forms a small percentage of the collection, but there are some choice Japanese examples.  In some cases Mrs. Strong was content to collect the illustrations of bookplates in place of the plate itself.
            The plates were organized by artist, subject, or country, elaborately sorted into labelled files, often with clippings, correspondence, checklists, or monographs about the artist.  A sizable card-index of the plates was maintained; all the cards were painstakingly hand written, and some incorporated data about the provenance of the plate.  The bookplates alone took up some twenty four-drawer filing cabinets, plus another ten cabinets of collateral material.  Accompanying the bookplates were some 250 reference books and about 150 volumes of multiple copies, sometimes reflecting special copies or bindings, but often simply identical examples, usually in superlative condition.  The present writer spent five hours viewing the collection, yet so immense was the volume of material that only the most general impression could be obtained.
            What induced the Pierpont Morgan Library to part with the Strong Collection is not a matter of public record.  For any institution, however, the proper sorting and cataloguing of the collection would have posed insuperable problems.  It was in the end a collector’s collection, inadequately processed for institutional use by its owner, and beyond the reasonable capacities by virtue of its size for any institution to assume the responsibility of processing.  Even the reference collection, invaluable as it was, is as remarkable for the materials not present as it is for those that are.  To their everlasting credit, the Pierpont Morgan Library instructed that if possible the Collection should be sold intact and not broken up at auction.  That object was realized.  The Collection passes for another generation of study, increase, and cataloguing to the source from whence it all originated, a University Professor.
            This returns us to the original concerns voiced at the outset of these reflections.  The Strong Collection one might have supposed met all the criteria for disposition into institutional hands: a substantial accumulation of plates reasonably concentrated on particular countries and periods; a capital sum to help care for the collection; and a distinguished institution to have custody over the collection.  The capital sum (reportedly $60,000) would have been inadequate even in 1969 to prepare and produce a catalogue of the collection, without which its use would have been impossible, irrespective of the best institutional will toward the Collection.  Collectors would do well to consider carefully the implications of leaving bookplates in institutional hands and to ensure that, one way or another, the collection will by their own efforts or devices or the recipient institution’s receive the care and access that the bookplates deserve.  Bookplates can place burdens on and open vistas for institutions that other kinds of collections do not.  Ignoring these is likely to lead to frustration of the donor’s most cherished intentions.

Notes from Lew- The  images  were not in the original article.
*James Wilson died several years ago but Nigel Burwood is still active.

From Anthony Pincott


The clock may be ticking, and one may increasingly suffer the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, but perpetual sleep is not yet for me a consummation devoutly to be wished. Nor do I desire at present to fix in print what could eventually happen to my collection. I recognise that both a collector and his family are poorly served if an individual with such specialist knowledge leaves to his heirs the task of turning treasured and often hard fought-for items into cash. However, the trouble with disposing of a collection during one’s lifetime is that it is no longer available for reference, and for as long as I retain my faculties I want to keep researching bookplates. Having one’s own collection readily to hand is an important stimulus to, and resource for, research and writing. For example, Brian North Lee’s ability to write so extensively, was based not only upon a thorough knowledge of bookplate literature but also of bookplates, often scarce examples, in the Levine and other collections he acquired.


From Larry Conklin

Dear Lew,

First of all, the bookselling/book collecting public needs to be made aware of exactly what a bookplate is. I have encountered professional (?) booksellers who think that a bookplate is any plate published in a book. How about that?

I will work on that long-discussed exhibition of my New England plates that I told you about; others should try to do likewise, locally, including you. Your blog, of course, is great.

I will try to get my article An Introduction to Bookplates. With Examples from the Earth Science Library of Herbert P. Obodda. Mineralogical Record volume 26, (1995), pages 143-158. put on my website. I have been told it is not half-bad.

Finally (and for the time being) we owners of collections of bookplates should try to put inheritance restrictions on them to our heirs and require that they do not sell them for a  period of at least 20 years after we are gone.


I will try to think of more possibilities.
Best regards,
Larry.

Note from Lew;
I added blue type to the last paragraph in Larry's email.It is an innovative suggestion.Would it work for most people ? Perhaps not, but it  might if your heirs understand that some collections will greatly appreciate in value over time  especially if they make a real effort to learn about them .


From Tom Boss

As a dealer in bookplates (and rare books) I can say, perhaps in a somewhat self-serving way,
that the best way to dispose of your collection is BEFORE you have shuffled off the mortal coil. It has been my experience that most of the collectors I’ve known who have done that have been quite happy with the results of a dealer, private, or auction sale or some kind of gift
to a library or museum.

 
The reasons for the pleasure and satisfaction of moving along one’s treasures oneself are
primarily related to control. If one expires before the collection is sold there is never an ironclad guarantee that one’s wishes will be adhered to in all of the important ways. The material may be scattered when the owner wanted it kept together or publicly auctioned
when the desire was for friends and colleagues to have exclusivity in purchasing or at least
first refusal.

Selling one’s collection before demise is a sure way to more closely achieve what may be
wanted in disposal; one can exercise the maximum control. One can gauge the market or
demand by talking to other collectors, dealers, auctioneers and librarians or museum curators.
When a collector takes on the task of disposing of his own material while alive and in full command of his faculties the result will invariably reflect his wishes and usually work out

From Christine Bell


Dear Mr Jaffe
Having worked as a volunteer organising a medium-sized bookplate collection for the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, my suggestion is this:  to avoid the dispersal of collections, the present owners/collectors should consider the idea of leaving their collections to a public institution which has an existing collection, whether it be large or small.

In Australia, because of our federal tax laws, there is a scheme called the Cultural Gifts Program (CGP).  This means that an eligible institution can be approached by a potential donor, and if accepted by the institution in line with its publicly accessible acquisition guidelines, the value of the gift is a straight deduction against the donor's taxable income for the year in which it was donated.  The value is determined by the average of 2 valuations by Commonwealth approved valuers.  In the event that the value of the donation is too large for a tax deduction in the year the gift was made, it can be carried forward for 5 years.

This has been a bonus for cash-strapped organisations like galleries, museums and libraries, and is the basis for the donation of the John Gartner collection which I am cataloguing at the moment.  This collection has about 45,000 examples, the majority of them European from the 20th century, but it is growing slowly through gift, purchase and exchange. A collection of bookplates made for Elizabeth and Jack Diamond will be added to the State Library's collection through the CGP system, and the catalog will include information the Diamonds and the donor.

I do know that some collectors regard public institutions as huge maws into which small gifts can disappear without trace, but electronic access is improving in major institutions, and libraries are the major forces in improving on-line access.

Best wishes
Christine Bell
Christine  Bell P.O. Box 427 EAST MELBOURNE 3002 Victoria Australia email: christinedowner@yahoo.co.uk

!0/12/2015-Additional Information From Christine Bell

Some years ago I think I mentioned that a medium sized collection of international bookplates was given to the State Library of Victoria.  This is not a stagnant collection, as funds have been made available for purchases over the past 5 years.  There is no endowment for this area of collection, so funds come from two budget lines within the special collection areas _Rare Printed and Pictures.  Recently a collection of international bookplates was purchased to add to the existing collection.  This was formed in Hamburg by Viktor (or Victor) Singer, a collector and publisher, who fled the Nazis in late 1938, and came to Australia via England in 1939.  The collection, which was known to exist but seemed to disappear after Singer's death in 1943, surfaced with a rare book dealer in Melbourne a year ago, and was purchased by my bookplate mentor in order to prevent it being broken up and sold overseas.  The purchase funds were provided by 2 donors (2/3 of the total) and by the Library for the remaining third.  There are about 2000 plates in all, and the arrangement is by country, and within each country, alphabetically by artist.  It took me about 4  months to archivally house and box the collection before it went into the Library. 

My point is that, if collectors are worried about the future of their collections, and would prefer them not to be broken up and dispersed, it might be as well to choose and institution and begin negotiations well in advance.  Patience and the long-term view are both important when negotiating with public institutions - there's always a reason for them to say there are no funds to support future acquisitions.  This is a stock response to most initial negotiations., but money can always be found  in the end if a well thought-out case is presented, from my experience of working 25 years in such an institution.

The other avenue might be, if personal funds allow, to leave collections to these institutions, with some kind of endowment.

The final avenue of course it to allow collections to be dispersed so that others can have the fun  of building up a new collection.

I don't know if this adds anything to the collection of opinions that you have already assembled from people with much more experience than I in these matters

Best wishes
 
Christine  Bell 

From Mark Griffin

 I am a recent convert to this hobby, my focus has been more on acquiring than on selling.  I have no intention of getting rid of my collection during my lifetime. Neither of my children is particularly interested in this hobby, but they are still relatively young and may become more interested as they grow older. I hate the thought of my collection disappearing into the collections of some University, Library or other institution because that would mean that for all practical purposes, these bookplates would be lost to the general public except in the rare instances when an institution mounts an exhibit of some of these bookplates.  I would like to see someplace where collections could be made available to old and new collectors alike at fair prices since one of the joys of this hobby is finding new items for one’s collection.

From Jacques Laget

I was a little over twenty years old when I started picking bookplates. At that time it was impossible to sell an old book binding if it was not in good condition,  All works with used Bindings  went home .. I removed bookplates that would have been thrown out by the bookbinder. Then I started buying collections and have classified the French bookplate by owner name. After more than 50 years of collecting I found myself at the head of a number of double and also bookplates from all countries, but I was collecting the French. Thus from merchant of books I became a merchant of bookplates ... What will become of my collection after me? I do not know. There are few collectors in France but the people I know keep only certain categories, I have never met an amateur who seeks to unite all French bookplates. I now has nearly 30,000 old (before 1930) or modern. I think the ideal would be of interest to an institution and sell this collection, and then seek only those who lack ...
The general directory of French bookplates (until 1930) is now available at http://afcel.fr/fr/base-des-ex-libris/        This is a very slow link .Be patient.

I have to include more than 10,000 scans. do not know if I have enough time yet because life is so short!


Ex-Libris Jacques LAGET -


jacques@laget.fr

From Jerry Morris

Lew,

My blog post shown below, still best expresses my plans for the disposition of my books.  I have sold and will continue to sell some of my books now.  But many of my books will remain on my bookshelves until after I'm gone.

On Finding New Owners For My Old Books


Finding new owners for my old books is something I've done before. In 2006, while waiting for my disability retirement to be approved,  I sold some of my old books just to help pay the bills.   In the months to come, I will try to find new owners for some of my old books just to make it easier for friends and family to dispose of my books after I am gone.

I will sell some of my books now. And I will research and identify potential buyers of some of my other books. These potential buyers will be contacted, hopefully "at a much later date," and offered the books I think they might be interested in acquiring.
Among the books to be disposed of at a "much later date" will be the books that have been given to me, which are part of My Sentimental Library Collection.

What books will I be selling now? My First American Edition of Shakespeare's Works; my Poetry books; my History books; and a few selected author collections.

I would love to sell my Books About Books Collection en bloc –– anyone interested? Contact me: moibibliomaniac at gmail.com, with @ replacing the word "at.'

But I am prepared to sell my Books About Books by sub-collections (bibliography, booksellers, etc.). What I will not do is list my Books About Books individually on eBay.

My Mary Hyde Collection will be sold en bloc at a later date. And I have a potential buyer or two already listed.

If you are interested in acquiring some of my books either now or at a later date, please contact me: moibibliomaniac at gmail.com.  
I have all my books catalogued on Library Thing   where I have added  contact information of potential buyers in the "Private Comments" section .

Best,
Jerry

From Richard Thorner

BOOKPLATES, DEATH AND TAXES

Bookplates, like other collections, should be scrutinized when preparing an estate plan.  They are an asset which should be considered like any other asset such as real estate, stocks and bonds.  This is especially true for the avid collector whose net worth may be heavily-weighted in tangibles.
This is an attempt to simply point out some facts which should be considered when dealing with estate planning issues of your collection.  Needless to say, professionals in the form of certified public accountants and estate planning attorneys should be consulted when it comes time to developing your specific estate plan.  The following represents an overview of some of these issues:
1.     During your lifetime, remember that if you sell any portion of your collection at a gain (and everyone should be keeping accurate records with respect to purchase prices and vendors), there is a flat capital gains rate of 28%.  This is significantly higher than the rate on other assets such as stocks and real estate (15%);
2.     If you are nearing the end of your collecting either due to age or disinterest, then it may make sense to hold the underappreciated asset until you die in order to avoid the aforementioned capital gains tax.  This assumes, of course, that the asset is, in fact, underappreciated (i.e. that you would be selling your collection at a profit);
3.     To the extent that you are holding the underappreciated asset at the time of your death, your estate will get what is termed “the automatic step-up  in basis.”  In other words, if you bought a Paul Revere bookplate for $1,000 and at the time of your death, it has a fair market value of $2,000, your heirs will inherit it at the date of death value (i.e. $2,000).  If your heirs sell the bookplate for the $2,000, then there is no capital gains tax.  If, however, you sold the bookplate right before you die for $2,000, you would have to pay 28% on the $1,000 gain ($2,000 sales price less your cost of $1,000).  Hence there is a benefit to dying with the asset with respect to capital gain tax avoidance.
4.     Do not get confused between the “capital gains tax” discussed above and the Federal Estate Tax.  When computing the latter, each individual is currently entitled to a $5.43 million exemption (meaning if your estate is below this value, there is currently no federal estate tax).  Keep in mind that Congress could decide to reduce this exemption at any time, so while your estate may be far below $5.43 million in value, it may be impacted if Congress reduces the exemption below whatever your estate is valued.  Additionally, I am not going to address whether or not your particular state has any estate tax consequences.  You must consult your own advisors on that issue.
5.     If your estate’s value exceeds the $5.43 million (and assuming you are leaving your estate to someone other than your spouse as there is an unlimited Federal Estate Tax exemption for a spouse who inherits), then the estate tax needs to be computed (or estimated ) and paid within nine (9) months of the date of death.  This may be a problem if you estate primarily consists of tangible assets with very little cash.  Your heirs would have to raise the money some how, and your collection might be the first thing that gets liquidated. The problem with a potential liquidation is that your heirs may be forced to sell at a “fire sale” discount just to raise the funds.

There are many other topics and practice tips that should be considered, but the foregoing represents a quick overview of some basic information.

Richard Thorner, Esquire
Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, P.L.L.C.
95 Market Street
Manchester, NH 03101
PH:  603-669-4140
FX:  603-669-6018


Note from Lew.Richard Thorner is exceptionally well qualified to share his thoughts with us. He is a bookplate collector/dealer and an attorney.

From Richard Schimmelpfeng

Thoughts on the Disposal of a Private Bookplate Collection


               I began collecting bookplates in 1971 after contacting the ASBCD which turned out to be the indefatigable Audrey Arellanes.  Audrey put me in touch with Mary Alice Ercolini who had just decided  she would disperse her collection due to health reasons.  I was able to acquire large quantities of European and Australian modern pictorials by artists that became well known to me.  So, over the years I have amassed a large collection of bookplates, occasional graphics, and related literature, both books and periodicals.  At the time I became acquainted with Mary Alice she told me she felt strongly that collections should go back into circulation rather than be donated to libraries or museums.  I think unless an institution has the interest, and more importantly, the staff and wherewithal to catalog a collection, that collections are better off being dispersed to newer collectors.  Part of Mrs. Ercolini’s collection did go into a library, as did the remainder of Clare Ryan Talbot’s collection and a few others, but most of it sits boxed on shelves, the acquiring library having had little staff and no funds to catalog and scan the bookplates online.  I’ve had a great time collecting and exchanging over the years and building up my collection.  Now, in my own thinking, sometime soon I will hopefully be looking for ways to disperse my collection among a younger generation of exlibris enthusiasts, although I am well aware that I will never recoup the considerable expenses paid out over the years. 

9/14/2015 Message from Michele Behan

Very interesting article, Lew!  Thanks for sharing it here.

Now, if you lived in ancient Egypt, you'd have no problem figuring out how to dispose of your collection.   You'd simply be laid to rest with your entire bookplate collection so you could enjoy sorting and cataloguing them in the afterlife!  


9/15/2015 Message from Ebay Seller Bugler 1998

In my day job, I draft wills for middle class folks from time to time.  I really do not work with folks who draw wills that give away collections very often, but it does happen.  I repeatedly find folks say they want to give away aunt Edna's ring, but I often have trouble getting accurate descriptions of specific items that are being given.  Instead of a description of Aunt Ednas wedding ring, it is much better to say Aunt Edna's 1/2 carat gold wedding ring with the initials EA inside.  With 5000 items in a collection, , it is fine to say "my Topps baseball card collection".  However giving away half of the collection is more difficult.

One thing I have done is let my wife know which of my friends will know how to properly sell my books, and which one to help sell my baseball cards.  These folks are not appointed as executor, but are folks who will help her find a proper selling venue.


9/20/2015  Message from Debra Walker

Lew, what a wonderful and thought provoking piece - and thorough!
It is a great piece for individuals who collect anything,from watches to Fiesta Ware to realize when they are gone, someone has to tend to the dispersal, or not, of the collection. 
In my job I find these decisions are differed, and then some. The collecting of anything is so personal, it becomes painful, or confusing to decide. It is all part of Estate planning which opens that can of worms. No Executor that I have met is overjoyed with the job either, even though an honor and privilege if done by a person and not a professional (CPA or Law Firm).
When I was 9 my parents drew up their wills, bought their plots, and included letters of what to do with their collections. When they passed many years later, I was so glad for their no nonsense outlook on both life and death. Another gift from them who loved art, history and the fun of the hunt!



2 comments:

John F. Kuenzig said...

What Can Happen

We've twice in the last few years been hired to triage the estates of booksellers who have passed on and left their accumulations to their heirs. The heirs have asked us to attempt to sort thousands of items into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or, what should be treated specially (valuable or rare), what can or should be wholesaled to dealers or sent to auction, and what should be donated or discarded.

The frustrating thing for us is that often, sans instructions or notes left to the contrary by the collector or dealer, we can be hours (or days) into sorting material only to discover that widely scattered material should more appropriately be kept together. Or that seemingly disparate items belong together (often prompted by an obscure purchase receipt that links things together). While sometimes material bought together should be separated, there is often more value (in our view) in keeping things together when possible. And this often translates into more interest on the part of an institution or potential purchaser.

Contrast that with a collector we're working with now, who, faced with a life challenging medical situation is trying to make plans to divest his collection before he passes. He has a catalog of most of his material, complete with purchase prices and sources, and he only laments the fact that he may not have the time to a) find the best home for portions of his collection, and b) that he probably won't have the time to document his thoughts on why the whole of the collection is bigger than the sum of it's parts.

The worst part is when something ends up in a dumpster. Most of the records of writer Harry Stubbs (better known as science fiction writer Hal Clement) ended up in a dumpster, which we found out only after buying some material we recognized at a small auction house. We inquired about and chased that dumpster, but were too late. I knew Hal, and I regret not making sure he had plans for his records (including his typescripts, etc) before he died.

So I heartily thank Lew for bringing up this relevant and timely subject again. And for those who have added great thoughts along the way. We're all in one way or the other in the business of salvaging history. And it's worthwhile in my view.

Best,
John Kuenzig
www.kuenzigbooks.com

matteo ferrando said...

Nice to see one of my drawings at the beginning of this article :)
Cheers from Italy!
Matteo Ferrando