The 2021 Virtual Penn Dry Goods Market Antiques Show & Sale
Jun 04-06, 2021Michaan's Auctions Gallery Auction
May 14-15, 2021
Published: July 29, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Show Dealers
ONLINE — Marvin Getman is having such great success with virtual book fairs that he decided to present one July 7-9. The online emporium featured 150 dealers, all accessible by clicking an eblast link at noon Eastern time on July 7, allowing visitors to virtually browse and shop autographs, rare books, ephemera, maps, vintage photography and more.
An ebullient Getman reported about a dozen items sold in the first 15 minutes of opening. Five minutes later, his webmaster reported that 54 items had been marked as sold for a total take of $30,018. Not too shabby, one might say.
For Getman, the show’s traction is a silver lining of sorts from all the disruption to the market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is my vision being fulfilled!,” he told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “It was very successful by all accounts, with a little more than 5,000 people who “attended” or visited the site over the three-day fair. During the fair, 378 items valued at $245,000 sold, which amounts to about 22 percent of all items listed from 150 dealers. That is the maximum number of dealers allowed to exhibit. And after our first two fairs, we are now starting a wait list for dealers wanting to get a spot. These will be allowed as current dealers turn over.”
In mid-July, Getman was still tallying sales based on a dealer survey. It so far indicated that quite a few dealers sold items that were not listed to people who contacted them to purchase listed items, and there were a fair amount of sales of posted items sold after the fair. This addresses one wrinkle in the online world with respect to the ephemera market.
An important audience for dealers, he said, are institutional buyers, librarians and curators of university libraries and museums. “There were many sales to institutions during the fair,” Getman reported. “Among the 20 or so institutions listed by dealers, two popped out at me — the University of Hawaii library and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Librarians have commented that they appreciate the ease of searching all 2,000 items listed without having to travel to fairs. I believe the virtual format will outlive the pandemic as more people discover the ease of browsing the fair. The search functions are very robust, making it very easy to find all of the items in any category.”
Getman, unlike many online selling siters, charges no commissions. All sales are made directly between the buyer and the seller. He believes his “rental” fees are reasonable — ranging from $75 to $225 per space per fair for up to 15 items. “I limit the number of items to keep the listings fresh each month. I am not competing with the traditional bookselling sites that have millions of items. I have seen a rapid rise in visits in the two months since I started the virtual fair.
This most recent edition’s offerings included the usual gamut of material associated with rare books and ephemera. Lion Heart Autographs, for example, showcased signed photos of women in the arts, material relating to naturalist John Burroughs, cartoonist Saul Steinberg and King Hussein of Jordan. There were signed books by poet and activist Amiri Baraka and Mexican artist and writer Dr Atl, as well as letters written by photographer Brassai, American journalist Horace Greeley, sculptor Barbara Hepworth, physicist Otto Hahn, fantasy writer Lord Dunsany, artist John Flaxman and British officer Charles Gordon.
Zac Marconi, assistant shop manager of Brattle Books in Boston, said the July show went very well for his firm. “We did the first fair and the most recent one. I like Marvin’s format. He limits it to a digestible number of items for each dealer. It definitely is different from a live show where we typically bring 50-70 boxes of material. But this format lets you really focus on some key things and you don’t get overwhelmed clicking though page after page.” A benefit from a live event that is not easily replicated in the virtual sphere is the ability to meet new customers, although Marconi said there were a couple of new customers introduced to the firm through the Getman show. As for notable sales, there was a book of poetry by William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost first editions and a large hand colored map of Honduras from the 1870s.
One of Getman’s dealers, Jen Johnson, also produces a successful book fair in Los Angeles. “She will be using my platform to run her virtual fair in October. Due to inquiries from organizations and other producers, I have decided to license my platform,” said Getman.
The next Getman virtual show opens on Tuesday, August 4, at noon and closes on Thursday, August 6, at 6 pm. For more information, 781-862-4039 or www.bookandpaperfairs.com.
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