Saturday, 9 June 2012

Powell and Murakami in the Auctions

Anthony Powell and Haruki Murakami are two authors in whom I have a particular interest, both as a reader and a collector. In many ways they are at opposite ends of the spectrum of literary fiction in terms of their focus and style, though both like to use a rather neutral/passive central male character who observes and sometimes comments on often extraordinary events around them. I have provided complete bibliographies for both (Powell here and Murakami here), and continue to update my Murakami bibliography as new books appear in English.

My collection of Murakami is complete, while my Powell collection is extensive but incomplete (and will probably remain so, for reasons discussed below). Although I have all of his post-war books, the pre-war ones are prohibitively expensive and difficult to find in dustwrapper. I did manage to pick up two of these in damaged but complete dustwrappers reasonably cheaply about ten years ago, and a second copy of A View to a Death in dustwrapper which was too cheap to pass on. I have held onto this to use in a possible swap, but an opportunity has not arisen as yet.

 A search online will quickly identify copies of all of Powell’s pre-war novels for sale, but at prices which I would be unwilling to pay at the moment. As a result of the above considerations, I keep an eye out for Powell’s novels at auction, and for the less frequent appearances of Murakami. Any of Murakami’s limited editions at close to original price should be snapped up – he has a very large fan base, and is likely to remain highly collectible for many years to come. The situation with Powell is more complex. However, my sense is that there has been a steady rise in the prices for his rarer books over recent years, with the usual fluctuations. I’m therefore very interested in two current/recent lots as they should give a good indication of market values for both authors (retail prices in the secondary market will be significantly higher).

Powell is represented by a nice set of the Dance to the Music of Time novels in a Christies' sale, with an estimate of £3000 – 4000. My set (assembled piecemeal while Powell was alive) cost around £1000, and I can recall a second set on the secondary market shortly after his death for £1500, so this auction should provide an indication of how values have risen in recent years. Of course, condition is key and must be borne in mind when considering fluctuations in price*.

*The set of Dance novels went for  £5625 including the premium - Powell's  stock among collectors is clearly on the up.

In the case of Murakami, Bloomsbury offered today a group of four novels, including the metal box set of Norwegian Wood (one of 500), Kafka on the Shore in a leather binding (one of 100), Norwegian Wood (gold cardboard box), and Kafka on the Shore in boards and slipcase (one of 1000). The estimate at £200-300 seemed very low to me based on advertised secondary market prices for these, and so it turned out to be with the lot making £793 including commission. A solid result, suggesting strong interest in Murakami from collectors. 


Hyperbole said...

Your comments on Murakami's published paperbacks(in your Murakami bibliography) saved me from purchasing a copy of Hear the Wind Sing that wasn't a first edition. The paperback stated it was a first edition, but it didn't have the points you set out. I am also a Murakami collector (my collection is set out at: Somewhere along the line, I developed an aversion to limited edition copies of books. I have become a first trade edition collector that tries to get his copies signed wherever and whenever possible (virtually impossible with Murakami). Thank you very much for your articles, I get a lot out of them.

Trapnel said...

Many thanks - you have a very nice collection, and many of the trade editions (as you know) are quite uncommon, as well as being very attractive in their own right. Murakami is unusual in having so many limited editions, and suspect that there are very few complete collections. The Bloomsbury result suggests that high end collectors recognise the value of these, and Murakami now seems well established as one of the stars of world literature. One of the things which worries me greatly about signed trade copies is provenance - Murakami's signature is uncommon, and adds greatly to value. Unfortunately, I suspect it would also be relatively easy to forge, and the temptation to an unscrupulous seller must be significant. I'm also unsure about copies with signed bookplates from the publisher, as I think that these could also be relatively simple to fabricate (as I believe happened with Philip Pullman). I guess the lesson is to buy from reputable sellers or to look for good provenance.....

Hyperbole said...

I agree that signatures can be a problem from time to time. I usually either purchase new books from a specific signing or attend author signings and get them signed myself. I keep waiting for Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Leonard Cohen and numerous others to drop by. Somehow, I don't think this will ever happen. I generally purchase from reputable dealers that often deal in a specific author's work, so I feel relatively safe.