Rare Map Auction from Old World Auctions


(Sedona, Ariz.) – Old World Auctions will celebrate its 30th year in business with an auction preview and gala party on July 13-14 and an exceptional online sale that opens July 2 and closes July 18. The festivities will be held at the firm’s headquarters in Sedona, Ariz., at 2155 W. Highway 89A, Suite A. The firm has been located in Sedona since 1994, when the current owners, Curt and Marti Griggs, bought the business.

Old World Auctions was started in 1977, originally as Old World Mail Auctions, by Tim Coss of Bethesda, Md. Mr. Coss worked for the U.S. Commerce Department for 30 years as an editor, and he and his wife, Jeannie, developed a fondness for antique maps and newspapers after seeing an old map in a local store and buying it on impulse. “I can’t even tell you what map it was,” he chuckled.

Being a government employee, Mr. Coss had access to the Library of Congress, which he would visit to learn more about his new hobby. “They had a whole section dedicated to maps, and I got to know the head of the Map Services Division,” Mr. Coss recalled. “He’d let me go through their catalogs, and that’s how I became familiar with values. I made sure I got put on their mailing list, too.”

Eventually, the Cosses began acquiring maps in Europe and at auction, through high-end houses like Sotheby’s. Finally, they went into business, auctioning vintage maps, old newspapers and prints by mail and phone (and later fax). By 1993, Mr. Coss was ready to retire from the Commerce Department. As for Old World Mail Auctions, he wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Enter Curt and Marti Griggs, a couple of antique map enthusiasts in their own right and longtime clients of the auction. They were operating a gallery that specialized in the art of cartography and historical graphics. “But Sedona is a tourist town and things can get very slow at times,” Marti pointed out. “We were discussing ways to expand the business when Old World Mail Auctions presented itself. We acted quickly to acquire it.”

The new owners quickly moved to place the auction on the nascent Internet. Initially placed online as a simple catalog listing, the site became active in 1999 when online bidding was first offered. Using in-house software developed by Curt, the site has grown in complexity, with features including bidding status, high-resolution zoomable images and dynamic certificates of authenticity.

Curt pioneered the firm’s “Qwik Bid” feature that automatically places a bid in the next increment with a single check. The site relies on Microsoft technology for the database and its active pages, which currently contain over 100,000 lines of code. The hallmark of the site, not withstanding its complexity, is “the easy and logical navigation,” Marti said.

That kind of technology was unthinkable in the days Mr. Coss owned the business. Then, he prepared the catalog on an IBM Selectric typewriter and mailed the catalog, then patiently waited for the mail to arrive or the phone to ring with that day’s bids. “It probably seems slow and antiquated by today’s standards, and it was,” Mr. Coss said, “but we did all right. And the people we got to know were great.”

Today, almost all bids are electronically submitted, although a personal relationship with clients and consignors is still maintained. “We bought the business because Tim and Jeannie had an impeccable reputation,” Marti said. “We have built on that foundation. We still have many of Tim’s original bidders continuing to add to their collections, even after thirty years.”

The July 13-14 preview will be followed by a cocktail party and barbecue, in celebration of 30 years in business. Old World Auctions’ sale 120 will close just a few days later, on July 18. Many fine examples have already been consigned for that auction, to include the following:

An extremely scarce book of city views executed in 1680 by Carel Allard, titled “Orbis Habitabilis Oppida et Vestitus,” is expected to realize $35,000-$50,000. The lavishly illustrated book offers views of cities and their inhabitants in the New World and Europe. The plates feature dynamic portrayals of New York Harbor, warships, cannibalism, early tobacco trade, silver mining and more.

A rare woodcut map of the Old World, created in 1493 by Hartmann Schedel and titled “Secunda Etas Mundi,” was published just before the dissemination of Columbus’ discoveries of the New World. It was printed just 40 years after the advent of printing and is one of the earliest world maps available to collectors today. And what graphics: Noah’s three sons hold the map up to view, while the monstrous inhabitants of unknown lands are displayed on panels on both sides of the map.. Expected sale price: $15,000-$20,000.

One of the most beautiful maps of the Americas — “Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio,” issued in 1584 by Abraham Ortelius – had enormous influence on the future of cartography in the New World. Frans This excellent example is expected to fetch $5,000-$6,500.

Old World Auctions’ preceding sale (# 119) concluded May 9. Top lots included:

An extremely rare pair of early charts of the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Bahamas, executed around 1768 by Thomas Jefferys, sold for $19,600 (prices quoted include a 12% buyer’s premium), on a pre-sale estimate of $6,000-$8,000 The charts show the coastline west of the Mississippi Delta as “A Flat Coast little known” and the Florida peninsula is lacking solid coastlines, while the interior is a mass of interconnected waterways.

Another lot that exceeded expectations at $6,160 was the scarce American Revolutionary War map by Louis Denis from 1782, titled “Carte du Theatre de la Guerre Presente en Amerique Dressee d’apres les Nouvelles Cartes Anglaises.” This map focused on the region most affected by the Revolution in 1779 and was updated with an inset plan of Yorktown, the site of Gen. Cornwallis’ surrender in October 1781. The large title cartouche included a battle scene, the personification of America as an Indian queen, and as scene of the British Redcoats surrendering to the American militia.

A highly detailed and richly colored map of Michigan, dated 1880 and issued by H.R. Page, achieved $2,800 on an estimate of $400-$600. The rare map was printed on banknote paper. This uncommon pocket-map was printed on banknote paper and folded into cloth covers, with an index describing the railroad stations, post offices and villages in the state.

An unusual map of Japan, probably from the Meiji period (1868-1912), rose past its estimate of $250 to achieve $1,344. The conceptual, stylistic map covers the whole of Japan, representing the country in a straight line. All the names and descriptions are in Japanese characters. The large and colorful example, probably produced for the Japanese market, was printed in the traditional Japanese woodblock style and was folded accordion-style.

In all, about 700 lots changed hands in the sale, which attracted hundreds of bidders from a variety of countries. “The strongest interest came from America and Europe,” said Diane Kelly of Old World Auctions. “It was a successful auction, with robust interest among collectors seeking hard-to-find, high-quality maps. The overall health of the antique map market is and remains quite healthy.”

As a specialty auction company, Old World Auctions is well regarded for its research and scholarship. Each lot is fully and accurately described, including academic references from their extensive reference library. Each map is scanned in full color at a very high resolution, using state-of-the-art technology. These high-resolution images are zoomable, allowing bidders to see remarkable detail with razor-sharp clarity when viewing online.

Old World Auctions holds five sales throughout the year, always as online affairs – there is no on-site auction (although phone and absentee bids are accepted). To cut down on last-minute bidding wars, or dubious at-the-wire bid submissions common to many Internet auction sites, Old World Auctions subscribes to the “10-minute rule” to provide bidders with plenty of time to reconsider if they are out-bid during the closing period. See the website for details: www.OldWorldAuctions.com.

To learn more about Old World Auctions, you may visit them online. To consign a historical map or an entire collection, you may call them directly at (928) 282-3944. The e-mail address is info@OldWorldAuctions.com.

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