Art + Auction
"Commanding the Cosmos"
by Jonathon Keats
November 1, 2008

“There’s nobody focused on globes as a market in the way that people are focused on contemporary art.  For two or three million dollars, a fraction of the price of a Warhol, you could build a museum-quality [globe] collection of worldwide importance. What other collecting area can you can say that about?”

-- George Glazer

This article explored how, in the words of the author, “[m]ajestic globes reveal old worlds while offering new frontiers for collecting.”   George Glazer was among the international experts quoted. 

Below are excerpts from the article, also quoting a few of George’s observations on the subject:

Who buys antique globes: Although few globes command even a tenth that price—and many fine Victorian sets are priced under $10,000—their appeal as decorative objects of aristocratic lineage ensures perennial demand in auctions and showrooms. “Most globes sell to people with antique furniture,” notes George Glazer, a New York dealer who specializes in antiquarian globes. “Buyers tend not to be systematic, as they are with atlases. They purchase a pair, and they’re finished.”

The decorative appeal of globe stands: Glazer adds that the “more elaborate stands were made for more exclusive clients” and that present-day buyers can generally see the difference.  This was demonstrated by a pair of globes—27 inches in diameter— from the fabled antiques collection of Lily and Edmond Safra.

How restoration affects values:  Many people who acquire globes tend not to be purists in the way that coin or stamp collectors are and take structural restorations in stride, as long as they’re invisible. “Sometimes,” observes Glazer, “someone will put a globe in the stand carelessly and punch a hole through Antarctica, but the hole gets filled in” and it does not greatly affect the value.

Pocket globe collectors are a breed apart from other globe collectors: 

Made by the same skilled craftsmen and with the same care as their library cousins, pocket globes are generally not larger than three inches in diameter and come encased in a shaped fish-skin box. In the 18th and 19th centuries pocket globes were favorite gentlemen’s toys, portable status symbols connoting curiosity about world affairs as well as a significant disposable income....

While buyers of library globes are often content with specimens that are visually impeccable rather than wholly original, when it comes to pocket globes, “people are very picky,” says Glazer. “They won’t buy anything that’s been restored.”  In fact, pocket globes break almost every precept, representing an entirely separate collecting category.  They are also carried by fewer dealers, since they are considered antique scientific instruments, rather than furniture.

Buyers of pocket globes are fastidious about condition because they are building a collection and their mind-set is more curatorial than decorative. “Just as the collector of decoys wants an Elmer Crowell and a John Dawson, the pocket-globe collector wants all the important names ... and to be comprehensive," says Glazer. By comprehensive, he means a representation of the various small sizes; different eras; and diverse styles....

Opportunities in library-globe collecting:  Glazer believes the lack of such comprehensiveness in library-globe collecting represents a significant opportunity for someone eager to venture into unknown territory. “There’s nobody focused on globes as a market in the way that people are focused on contemporary art,” he notes. “For two or three million dollars, a fraction of the price of a Warhol, you could build a museum-quality collection of worldwide importance. What other collecting area can you can say that about?”


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