Buying Guide

Buying at auction is a very simple process. We encourage all our potential buyers to be familiar with this buying guide since it explains everything needed to find, bid for, and buy at our auctions. Click here for a printable PDF of this information.

We are one of the few auction houses in the United States specializing in rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, ephemera, and related items.

The first step is to browse our catalogues for upcoming auctions. Our catalogues are available by subscription for print catalogues, downloadable PDFs, or on our website,, with high resolution photographs for each lot. Viewing our catalogue on our website makes it easy to keep track of interesting items by saving them to a watch list in My PBA.

Our specialists provide detailed descriptions of each lot including title, author, publisher, date, place, condition, and provenance where available. We also provide low and high auction estimates based on recent auction and retail sales data.

Did you know that PBA Galleries can deliver a weekly email of items matching your specified interests? The matching results are emailed on Sunday evenings. Simply add individual “My Alerts” on our website by entering your preferred keyword searches and alerts will begin automatically. To set up this feature, first log on to the website. Next, click on “My PBA” on the homepage and then select ‘My Alerts’ the third menu option in grey. Click the “Add Alert” button. A search screen presents itself. Enter a title for your search that describes the search. Then enter your preferred search terms. The four main fields are Keywords, Author, Publisher, and Date. If you type in a search term in keywords, the search will include and return all hits with that keyword in any data field including description, author and title. Keyword is the most common search. You can also do an author search on its own or with a secondary search term in the Keyword search. Our advice is to make the search narrow by restricting your search with targeted keywords. You can also select a category to further cull results. Selecting a general category is not recommended as the matching records will be too broad. PBA only holds one type of auction but leave all the auction settings checked which is the default setting. Be sure to save the search with your descriptive title. Results will include both items catalogued and those entered into a future auction that has not yet been published. Sit back and let us do the searching for you.

The reserve is the minimum price at which a lot will sell. In many cases, the reserve is equal to half of the low estimate. No lot at PBA Galleries will open at less than the reserve. All successful bids at PBA Galleries will result in the sale of that lot.

We invite bidders to attend our auction previews held in our gallery in the days preceding the auction. It is always helpful to see the items in person, but if that is not possible, our staff is available to provide additional information.

Our specialists are happy to discuss specific lots in greater detail or provide more extensive condition reports. They can be contacted by phone, fax, email, or in person at our offices. In addition, our photography department will supply more photos upon request.

Registration with PBA not only allows bidding at auctions, but allows access to My PBA where items can be placed on a watch list, absentee bids placed, and invoices viewed and paid. It is a simple process to register and can be done online at, by phone by calling 415-989-2665 or in person.

Placing bids for items at our auctions need not be intimidating. Bids can be placed in four ways: in person while attending auctions, by phone, absentee or online during the auction with PBA LIVE.

The auctioneer has sole and complete discretion on the acceptance of any bid. Bids are advanced in the following increments:
$0 – $200                 $10
$200 – $500             $25
$500 – $1000           $50
$1000- $2000          $100
$2000 – $5000         $250
$5000 – $10,000      $500
$10,000 – $20,000    $1000
$20,000 – $50,000     $2500
$50,000 – $100,000   $5000
Over $100,000 At the Auctioneer’s Discretion

In Person
Attending a gallery auction and placing bids in person can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Upon arrival at our gallery, a bidding paddle will be issued to all registered bidders desiring one.

Phone Bidding
We offer phone bidding for clients who are unable to attend the auction but would like to bid on the phone during the sale. This allows direct access to a PBA Staff member in the auction room. Reservations should be made as early as possible since we have a limited number of phone lines available.

Absentee Bids
Absentee bids may be placed in person, by mail, phone, fax or email and should be placed at least one hour before the sale begins to provide time to process the bid. Be assured that all bids will be used competitively against other absentee bids, internet bids and floor bidders. The final selling price may well be less than the upper limit of a winning absentee bid.
It is simplest to fill out the Bid Sheet found online or in the back of our print catalogues. Enter the sale number and date as well as the Lot number and top bid for each lot. Complete the form with name, address and phone number.

We also accept absentee bids by phone. When calling, have all the information listed on the absentee bidding sheet at hand before calling.

Online absentee bids may be placed by registered bidders directly on the lot details page for each item.

PBA Dynamic Bidding
With PBA Dynamic Bidding, a bidder will know immediately where an absentee bid stands. When a bid is placed online, PBA’s Dynamic Bidding will calculate the absentee bid against competing absentee bids and determine the current high bid amount. The current high bid will be new starting bid when the lot comes up in the live auction. PBA Dynamic Bidding provides full transparency and allows more informed decisions.

PBA LIVE Online Bidding
Watch and listen to our auctions as if in the room with the auctioneer from anywhere in the world on a computer, tablet or smart-phone. Registered bidders can log in and bid as the lot is being offered for sale.

In addition to the hammer price, items sold will include a buyer’s premium. PBA’s buyer’s premium is 25% for the first $100,000 plus 20% for the amount over $100,000 amongst the lowest in the industry.

For buyers attending the auction, invoices are available and payment may be made at any time during or immediately following the auction. For all other successful bidders, invoices will be sent via email the day following the auction or they may be viewed online by logging in at My PBA. The final amount due includes the hammer price, the buyer’s premium, any applicable state or local sales taxes, and shipping and handling charges unless we have received other instructions. Payment is due upon receipt.

PBA Galleries accepts cash, payments through Paypal, money orders or domestic wire transfers for over $1000 and international wire transfers for any amount. We also accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit cards. Please contact us with the desired method of payment so we may process your purchase as soon as possible. Alternatively, checkout may be accomplished through our website by logging into MY PBA.

PBA does not release material for shipment or pick up prior to full payment.

PBA Galleries has a full service shipping department to ensure proper packing and safe delivery of purchases. We are specialists at packing and shipping books and works on paper all over the world. All lots purchased by the same client are combined for shipping in order to keep the cost as economical as possible. We do not ship via Media Mail.

Our staff is happy to help. Contact us any of the following ways:
Phone 415-989-2665
Fax 415-989-1664
Email [email protected]

Or come by our offices located at
605 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA 94710