John Spring, Ancient Coin Auction Catalogs: 1880-1980 (2009), self-published, distributed by Spink (but not yet on their website). 369 large pages describing 886 auction catalogs. Charles Davis is selling this for $110 and CNG is selling slightly bumped copies for $95.
It's a nice book! Every catalog is described by size and color. The number of plates — Celtic, Greek, Roman aes grave, Roman Republican, Roman Imperial, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, and "barbarian migration" — is given. There is often information about the collector, collection, or auctioneer. Sometimes that information comes from the catalog, but Spring also seeks biogrpahical information from other published sources such as obituaries in numismatic journals. The photos depict the collector or firm. The catalogs themselves are not pictured.
The author does not judge the paper quality, the method of reproduction of the plates, nor the numismatic merit of the coins. Tables of the "most important" sales are provided, broken down by category (Greek, Republican, etc), but imporantance for Spring is the number of plates. For example, Spring lists some Alex Malloy sales among the "most important" for Greek and Provincial. I don't know if those Malloy sales were well-made but the Malloy sales I know from the late 1990s were newsprint-quality affairs. If so it is hard for me to accept them as among the most important.
This catalog will shine is when used in conjunction with an auction catalog from a numismatic book dealer by putting the offered catalogs into context with the series of catalogs available. It will also be handy to use this within a large numismatic library like the ANS'. I only have a few of the catalogs and I'm finding it frustrating looking at Spring's book while unable to follow his leads.
I still haven't decided if I want to own and study old auction catalogs. I'm excited about old digitizing catalogs and having the coins online and individually searchable. I enjoy the few catalogs I have. Yet these old catalogs are not cheap. Very few of them illustrate more than 500 Greek coins. Anyone off the street in 2009 can email a dozen dealers and receive sample catalogs postpaid with more illustrated coins. Are these old catalogs still relevant for coin collectors? There is something lovely about the Collotype plates in the better old catalogs.
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