Monday, October 19, 2009

Auction Results: The Miller-Plummer Collection of Photographs, October 8, 2009 @Christie's

It didn't really dawn on me until after the auction that my visit to the preview for the Miller-Plummer sale at Christie's should have been a more obvious sign for how the sale would perform. Unlike the normal sparse smattering of visitors that seem to be around when we tour a sale, the Miller-Plummer preview was like old home week: the viewing tables were thick with gallery owners, private dealers and collectors, and there was a lively banter as greetings were exchanged and opinions on the condition of this or that lot were given; the Christie's specialists and staff were swamped taking images out of frames, and there were plenty of folks circling around the 19th century cases. It was as busy a preview as I can remember; the material was beyond the routine fare of most auctions, and the interest level was accordingly high. I should have known what that would mean.

The sale of Miller-Plummer collection delivered Total Sale Proceeds over the Total High Estimate for the first time in all of the photography sales thus far in 2009. While the buy-in rate wasn't particularly low (just over 25%), it was the many surprises and unexpected price run-ups that drove this sale.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Total Lots: 118
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $1185500
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $1746200
Total Lots Sold: 88
Total Lots Bought In: 30
Buy In %: 25.42%
Total Sale Proceeds: $1832625

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post, here):

Low Total Lots: 74
Low Sold: 59
Low Bought In: 15
Buy In %: 20.27%
Total Low Estimate: $444200
Total Low Sold: $481500

Mid Total Lots: 35
Mid Sold: 22
Mid Bought In: 13
Buy In %: 37.14%
Total Mid Estimate: $672000
Total Mid Sold: $873875

High Total Lots: 9
High Sold: 7
High Bought In: 2
Buy In %: 22.22%
Total High Estimate: $630000
Total High Sold: $477250

An unexpected 50% of the lots that sold had proceeds above their estimate, and there were an astounding seventeen surprises in this sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate). The Irving Penn prints clearly got a meaningful bump from the announcement of his death, but it was the strength of the 19th century images that was the real news from this sale:

Lot 516 Edward Weston, Johnny, 1944, at $23750
Lot 523 Marcus Aurelius Root, Albert Pritchard Root Asleep by the Flag, 1850, at $74500
Lot 529 Irving Penn, Cigarette No. 86, New York, 1972, at $37500
Lot 532 William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844, at $30000
Lot 533 William Henry Fox Talbot, Sun Pictures in Scotland, 1845, at $62500
Lot 534, Marcus Aurelius Root, Anthony Pritchard, 1850, at $350500
Lot 535, Matthew Brady, Samuel Morse with His Recorder, 1857, at $37500
Lot 538 Victor Prevost, Columbia College, 1855, at $23750
Lot 541 American Daguerreotypist Unknown, Buildings in Rural Setting, 1860, at $12500
Lot 548 Consuela Kanaga, Untitled (Girl's profile), 1948, at $16250
Lot 550 Frederick and William Langenheim, Cast-Iron Lighthouse under Construction, Carysfort Reef, Florida, August 2, 1849, at $20000
Lot 593 Robert Heinecken, TV Dinner, 1971, at $10000
Lot 598 Irving Penn, Chimney Sweep, London, 1950/1976, at $74500
Lot 602 Frederick Debourg Richards, Self Portrait, Anglesea, New Jersey, 1880, at $3750
Lot 604 Frederick Evans, Sea and Sky and Sand, 1899, at $21250
Lot 617 Lewis Carroll, 'Xie' Kitchen, 1870, at $8125
Lot 618 Joel-Peter Witkin, Le Baiser, N.M., 1983, at $50000

The top lot by High estimate was lot 547, a complete set of Camera Work, Numbers 1-49/50, 1903-1917, at $90000-120000; it sold for $80500. The top outcome of the sale was lot 534, Marcus Aurelius Root, Anthony Pritchard, 1850, at $350500 (more than 10X its high estimate).

Complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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