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Strong Results from PBA's May 7th Americana Sale

PBA Galleries announced successful results from their May 7th auction of Americana – Travel & Exploration – World History – Cartography. The sale was PBA’s first return to the live auction format after the hiatus required to observe Berkeley’s shelter-in-home restrictions.

While maintaining the safe distancing protocols as recommended by the State of California, PBA Galleries presented an exciting live auction featuring scarce and rare works, many of which sold for well over their presale high estimate. The catalogue also offered bidders the opportunity to bid remotely on over 400 lots of historically important printed and manuscript material, photographs, significant cartographic and geographic items with maps and views, and other rarities.

Pre-sale absentee bids revealed bidders’ notable interest in nearly fifty lots of Californiana from the collection of the late George E. Steinmetz, many of which marked pivotal moments in the state’s history. Before the gavel fell on the first lot, President Sharon Gee noted the palpable anticipation for the sale expressed by PBA’s clients: “Our staff looks forward to serving bidders and consignors, many of whom are enthusiastic about PBA’s return to a bi-weekly live auction format.”

From the beginnng, important lots attracted steep competition which ultimately resulted in consistently strong prices for the duration of the sale. An early standout was an original piece of wood from Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, site of the discovery of gold in California by James Marshall. The original artifact represents one of the key events in California history, the sparking of the Gold Rush, and was paired with a handwritten letter from Phil B. Beakeart presenting the artifact to Robert E. Cowan in 1925. After enthusiastic bidding, the hammer fell at $9,600, far exceeding the wood fragment’s estimated value of $1,000-$1,500.

The enthusiasm continued throughout the sale.  A half-plate California daguerreotype from the 1850s of Wilt’s Half Way House, located half way between Marysville and Parks Bar along the Yuba River, sold for $9,000, and an inscribed presentation copy of John Muir’s Our National Parks (once presented to the daughter of railroad magnate Edward Harriman) also fetched $9,000. An 1845 letter from early California landowner and businessman Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, written to saloonkeeper Jean Jacques Vioget, sold for $5,400. Historic ephemera was well-represented by the tenth issue of California’s first newspaper, The Californian (Vol. I, No. 10, October 17, 1846), printed on the Rampage printing press that Agustin V. Zamorano brought from Hawaii to Monterey in 1834 (sold for $6,000). Other literature highlights included Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences…, 1751-1780, comprising 35 large folio volumes in period mottled calf, including the important plate volumes with nearly 3,000 copper engravings (sold for $18,000).

“PBA was proud to provide our clients with a world-class catalogue of rare books, manuscripts...” said Gee. “We look forward to resuming our Thursday live auction schedule beginning with May 14th’s Rare Golf Books, Memorabilia, and Ephemera auction at 11:00am PST.”  PBA Galleries is also currently inviting consignments of Americana – Travel & Exploration – World History – Cartography for their upcoming live Americana auction on June 25th, 2020.

As companies navigate and return to business during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the upcoming months will become part of an enduring record of 21st century economic history. PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. PBA will conduct previews via Zoom and limit live auction participation to online or phone bidding.  For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com.