Created to benefit book collectors

by Kyriakos Kefalas

The beginnings

AuctionsCodex has emerged from my passion about rare and collectible books. Being a long time book collector myself for 30 years, I have encountered a real problem of collectors who want to buy at book auctions:

There are 5000 antiquarian rare book auctions per year and no complete and timely information about them, on one spot

Moreover each auction offers a catalog with 100-3000 lots which have to be browsed and studied by the collector, if he wants to make good use of his money. Therefore it is imperative that he gets the auction information sufficiently in advance of each auction, as soon as it is announced by the auction house.

To deal with this problem successfully we created AuctionsCodex, which gathers the auction information at the earliest possible time it is released by the auction houses. We offer all relevant information (auction dates, catalogs, subcategories etc) collected on one simple page at book auctions. We achieve this because

We solely focus on everything the collector needs, in order to prepare for the auction

No other site on the internet is so directly focused on the preparation of book collectors in this sense. In particular

  • The auction houses themselves are certainly focused only in selling their own books. Moreover many auction houses announce auction dates at irregular intervals.
  • There are sites which represent a number of selected auction houses and gather the lots together, in order to facilitate live internet auctions. However they only cover a limited number of auction houses and they are focused on sales commissions and not in providing a complete overview of information, for the benefit of the collector.
  • There are a few sites whose main focus is on historical auction information and book prices. Some of these sites also offer information for upcoming auctions, however not a single one covers all upcoming auctions (or past auctions for that matter).

AuctionsCodex offers to the book collector, early, complete and easy to find information. To facilitate our services we maintain a complete list of upcoming book auctions, together with all relevant information. We also have a growing list of past auction information. But more than that, we offer an online workspace with a range of important services (some of which are quite novel in the field):

  • The most comprehensive list of Upcoming Rare Book Auctions from 28 countries presented on one spot, including all auction catalogs. Hence relentless browsing through hundreds of auction houses becomes unnecessary at the preparation stage.
  • We maintain a Personal Auction Notebook for each auction and each collector, which contains favorite lots with maximum bids, together with other relevant information.
  • We offer advanced filters for navigation through the Rare Book Auction List.
  • We offer Personal Auction Alerts at selectable times before the start of the auction.
  • An enormous list of almost 20,000 past antiquarian book auctions.

From the rare book collector point of view

  1. Permanently early awareness of auctions.
    To successfully buy at auctions a collector has to study the auction catalogs (usually containing 100 – 3000 lots) and do the relevant background research. Hence it is imperative that the collector must be aware of the upcoming auctions enough time before the auction happens. To achieve this he has one of three options:i) He may visit regularly (at least once a week) the website of every auction house and look for upcoming auction information. However this is unrealistic since there are hundreds of active auction houses, many of which perform auctions at irregular intervals. Moreover, new, little known auction houses join the market every year.ii)  He may only select a few auction houses to follow, which is feasible and is the most widely used practice. However these tend to be the larger and most well-known auction houses, while most opportunities are found in the smaller, relatively unknown auctions.iii)  He may regularly check at sites with collective auction information. However all currently available such sites have serious disadvantages, as not a single one is really focused on the information a collector needs for the upcoming auctions. Rather this information comes as a byproduct, since their primary focus lies elsewhere (either to get commissions from the actual selling of books or to provide historical data about books sold at past auctions). Invariably these sites do not cover all available auctions.The auction awareness problem affects all collectors, but most intensely those with little time available.
  2. Complete overview of upcoming auctions.
    No complete overview of all upcoming book auctions is currently available on the internet, unless a collector does an unrealistic amount of research. Moreover the upcoming auctions list is dynamic, changing every day. Hence persons who tend to be exhaustive, end up being unsatisfied. Although not all persons have this characteristic, everyone knows that there might be missed opportunities. All the worse, when they retrospectively discover that they have actually missed an opportunity.
  3. Managing personal lot information.
    To study an auction catalog needs a considerable effort from the collector. The interesting lots must be preselected and useful background information has to be found for each of them. Moreover these notes must be retrieved at the appropriate time before the auction. The new problem now is that the collectors must maintain an administration of the information relevant to each auction, especially if there are many preselected lots. This becomes especially difficult if collectors want to check many auctions for possible opportunities.Collectors have two options: Either writing down the lot information or filling the checkboxes provided by some auction houses. In both cases however, this entails a personal notebook-administration in order to become aware of this information at exactly the proper time, since the notes may have been written a long time before each auction (for ex. several weeks). And there are hundreds of upcoming auctions at any time. Moreover the few auction houses with checkbox service, only provide for checkboxes, no relevant personal information can be stored (hence there must still be maintained a personal notebook-administration). Finally the checkbox information is usually shared with the auction houses themselves and/or other collectors, which may disturb the collector.
  4. Personalized auction alerts.
    A few auction houses offer the possibility of personalized auction alerts. These again tend to be the larger ones. And the collectors still have to search through their ‘notebooks’ for the relevant information, gathered at an earlier time.
  5. Checking upcoming auctions against a personal wishlist.
    This is a very difficult problem. If a collector is searching for a particular edition, it may be years before it appears on the market. If he makes a broader search for subcategories, he usually ends up with too much unwanted or wrong information, while still missing important cases. The reason is that subcategories are not accurately defined in the first place. Even if he specifies his desire in a well-balanced search, there is more than 50% chance that he misses his desired items because there are too much spelling ambiguities, especially for older or uncommon items. There exists no satisfactory solution at the moment, since much more (artificial?) intelligence is needed to address this fuzzy problem.In practice most collectors end up just browsing through auction catalogs, because this makes them feel safer that they themselves check the lots, which brings us back to problems 1-4.Most auctioneers with online catalogs offer general search capabilities through auction catalogs. But in this case, one has to do this for every auction separately. Some sites with collective auction information, offer searches through a larger number of upcoming auction. However all the problems mentioned above remain.
  6. Non-uniformity of websites.
    A general problem of collectors currently, is the non-uniformity of the websites of the auction houses. Each auction house tends to make its website unique (i.e. better than everyone else’s!). The result is that collectors browsing through the various auction houses’ websites, quickly become fatigued and give up the browsing altogether (at least temporarily). This again leads to a habit of concentration on few auction houses which they are familiar with, instinctively avoiding new websites. However, this habit creates a disturbing feeling of uneasiness, since collectors know very well that many opportunities lie hidden in small, relatively unknown auctions.

The advantage of AuctionsCodex

Our solution to the collectors problemsPicture

The general idea of our solution of the collector’s problems, is that we arrange the much needed primary information at the auction level. We provide the best overview available of upcoming auctions, at the earliest possible dates. This is our prime focus. It distinguishes us from the direct or indirect competition, who invariably focus at the book level, which actually makes the handling of information intractable or impractical and incurres delays. Below we state in brief our solutions to the above described collectors problems.

  1. Permanently early awareness of auctions.
    We offer the earliest possible auction information in one single upcoming auction list. We do for all collectors, what each one would have to do separately. We also offer as much relevant information as possible or convenient. Our focus lies entirely in the optimal presentation of the information needed by the collector.
  2. Complete overview of upcoming auctions.
    Our target is to offer the most complete upcoming auction list on the market. This is not unrealistic since everyone else’s lists are wanting. We offer advanced auction filters to get auction sublists, personalized to each collector’s wishes.
  3. Managing personal lot information.
    For each customer, we offer an online secure storage of the critical personal information gathered about the auction content. This information is of high value, regarding the effort needed from the collector to find it. This information is easily retrievable, as it is attached to each collector and each auction. It is accessible via passwords. The main tool is the Personal Notebook, which contains the preselected lots and the relevant information.
  4. Personalized auction alerts.
    The personal lot information becomes useless if the time factor is ignored or poorly managed. To solve this problem we offer personal auction alerts at times predefined by each collector for each auction.
  5. Non-uniformity of websites.
    In our website, the collector finds the most crucial information. This saves him considerable time and effort. In the final step of his query, he nevertheless has to visit the auction house website, in order to bid for the desired lots. However all preliminary investigation, which is the most time consuming part of the whole process, can be done from our single website. We present all auctions, either small or big, with the same weight as a single entry. This increases the opportunity of discovery.