Move over Gucci; there’s a new girl in town. The notorious RBG’s library was auctioned off in a one-day sale at Bonhams, and we are talking record-breaking bids. The estimates were based on the value of the used books, so there was an expectation that the sale would do well, but no one thought it would do that well! We are talking $2.4 million for 1,000 books. Note to my daughter: I do not have, nor have I read, 1,000 books. Get a grip.
But for me, I think there is much more to celebrate. More than 1,000 people registered to bid, and an inordinate number of them were women! It was a white-glove sale, which means it sold out. Yep, every book went somewhere. Normally, book buyers at auctions were born in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, but this time around, it turned out to be the ’60s or later. Some were even born in the ’90s; yes, 20-somethings showed up and bought RBG’s books. Women! Bye-bye, Louis Vuitton.
Oh, and there’s more! They’d thought the law books would be the big sellers, but guess what? Gloria Steinem’s “My Life on the Road,” with a note to Ruth, went for almost $53,000! And a signed copy of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” sold for more than $31,000. Yes, the 1957–1958 Harvard Law Review, with her notes in it, sold for around $100,000, but huddle up, women sisters of mine; we showed up in large numbers, and we spent our money on the women of our past and the words of our sisters. It speaks well for our future.
Here is the thing: COVID has changed a lot. And where we spend our money is part of the trend that has taken hold. We are buying nests to live in, and we are buying things that matter, not things that simply convey something to someone who sees them. Perhaps that is why Estée Lauder has brought in Amanda Gorman to introduce the next generation to skin care and eye shadow.
As a marketer, I welcome the upgrade to marketing messages around things that I care about, like books and master classes and experiences that we take with us in our hearts rather than showcase on our shelves.