Sotheby’s Musical Instrument Auctions

Copyright © 2010 CBH


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The recently-issued color catalogs from the venerable house of Sotheby’s provide a good record of their regular musical instrument auctions, and are pleasant examples of design and print. The latest catalogs approach the typographic standards of Early Music before Oxford Journals moved its production offshore.

My own printed catalog collection has been gleaned from various sources and is not yet complete. On the several dozen following pages, you can peruse a listing of the early keyboard instruments offered at each auction of which I have been able to collect the catalog, beginning in 1970. Use the Quick Index menu below to start. This menu appears on each of the pages, or you can follow in chronological order by using the arrows at the top right of each page.

Where available, the estimates are included: For the earlier catalogs, these were published on inserts—obviously very easily separated and lost. Likewise, realized prices have been published on inserts following the auction. Results for some came from scribbled notes made in the catalog by the attendee on the day of the auction. Hence, some data are missing. All figures are in Pounds Sterling (GBP). It is noted on each auction’s page whether or not the results include the Buyer’s premium: This has increased from a flat 10% of the early 1970s, to the present much higher tiered commission structure: 25% of the hammer price up to and including £25K, 20% of the excess to £500K, and 12% on top of that. (The Seller also pays a commission, deducted from the hammer price.) Omitted lot numbers indicate items that were withdrawn, passed, or unsold as of the publication of the data.

The quaint language and opinions (“Highly Important”, “Fine”, “Good”, “Interesting”…) have truly evolved into an art form over the centuries of Sotheby’s existence: I retain these throughout for their character.

Links to Sotheby’s site are included for the more recent auctions, where further information including thumbnails can be obtained on some of the lots.

I trust the information to be found in this section of my website proves a useful and interesting resource.

For an wonderful insight into the auction game, read Peter Watson’s 1997 Hardcover, Sotheby’s — The inside story (Random House ISBN 0 679 41403 7).

Wanted: Good, clean Musical Instrument catalogs with keyboard instruments from auctions that you do not see on these pages. A listing of the catalogs I already have can be found here.


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Movie thumb 2K jpeg Movie 1K gif Sotheby’s Musical Instrument Auction Catalogs
A silent selection of the covers of recently-issued color catalogs from the venerable house of Sotheby’s.
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