Interview with Eliane Dotson of Old World Auctions

I am running a periodic series where I interview some of the people collectors come across. My purpose is to shed light on what they do and how they work, especially for new collectors. For the second post in this series I interviewed Eliane Dotson, owner of Old World Auctions in Glen Allen, Virginia.

Old World Auctions has been in existence since 1978 and Eliane, along with her husband, purchased the online auction house in 2007. She developed her interest in maps from being around her father’s collection. Although not a collector, she is passionate about maps and describes her career as giving her a chance to work with them everyday. Indeed, the best part of her work is the opportunity to research maps daily. Eliane says of 15th and 16th century maps that they “combine art and history” making them among her favorite pieces. A few times per year maps that she hasn’t come across make their way to Old World Auctions, giving her a chance to “bring their stories to life”.

When pieces come in on consignment, Eliane explains that they are thoroughly researched, their authenticity, condition, and other relevant information cataloged, and they are imaged using a rolling scanner over three feet wide. Each auction, conducted virtually, is managed well in advance, as this process underpins each listing in the auction catalog. She further asserts that Old World Auctions researches and describes each piece in far more detail than other auction houses.

When asked about recent trends in the map market, Eliane reports seeing an increased interest in 20th century pictorial and political maps. Maps showing westward expansion of the United States have also been popular.

Eliane describes the community of map dealers and collectors as very tight knit and “really great to work with”.

For new collectors she offers some advice. Collectors should identify their collecting interests, know what the market is like, and know the maximum amount they are willing to spend to acquire a particular map. As an aside on map prices, she mentioned that with the digitization of the map trade, collectors are able to see the inventory of dealers far away; this allows more transparency into availability and has worked to hold prices down. Returning to advice for new collectors, she suggests collectors “buy the best quality you can afford” and maps in the “best condition possible”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a satisfied customer of Old World Auctions.

Want to learn more about comparative maps? Check out my free ebook!

© Peter Roehrich, 2016

Building a Copy Stand

I usually write on maps themselves, but today I want to write on imaging maps. I wanted to get high resolution images of my maps, but didn’t want to buy a large format scanner or commercially available photographic copy stand. My phone has a great camera, and with sufficient lighting I get incredibly crisp, detailed photos. With the imaging device decided, I set out to build the hardware myself.

I did some internet research and toyed with several candidate designs: all wood versus wood/plastic/metal hybrid, black or white base, multiple or single rail, etc. My choice was to use a white melamine faced MDF base and platform to hold the camera (Home Depot) with aluminum pole and angle (Amazon) to support the camera. Further, I decided to make the pole and camera platform removable so I can store my stand easily, and to make the camera platform adjustable.

Sketches of copy stand.


This is only the second time I’ve worked with melamine board so I did some reading on how to cut it cleanly. Good tips, but I didn’t follow them, instead I took the suggestion of another site that I use a fine finish circular saw blade and tape the line of cut. And I’m glad I did, it came out perfectly smooth. I repeated the process to cut the stock for the camera platform, then used a 2 inch hole saw to cut the aperture; this cut came out with a few chips in the surface however since the maps will not come into contact with it I am not concerned.

Cutting the aluminum was a job for hand tools since I don’t have a chop saw at my disposal. I ordered the square tube to the desired length of 2 feet but the angle required cutting into one 6 inch piece and two 3 inch pieces.

24 inch aluminum square tube (rear) and angle (front) cut into two 6 inch pieces.

After cutting I filed the edge to knock off the sharp burrs. Following this I drilled holes in the brackets to attach them to the melamine board, and matching holes in the melamine board to affix them with ¼ inch bolts.

Copy stand base and pole bolted together. Platform dry fitted to the pole.


I drilled holes 3 inches apart in the brackets on the platform, one in the upper bracket and one in the lower, and holes in the tube 1 inch apart so the platform could be adjusted. Again using ¼ inch bolts I affixed the platform to the pole, securing it with bar knobs.

To get a crisp image I need good lighting. I procured 2 clamp on spotlights and 25 watt incandescent bulbs to clamp on the edges of the camera platform. While bright light will fade the maps, exposure will be short.

Completed copystand.
Completed copystand.

It came out looking great, especially considering it cost around $75 and was made in my garage. The lighting was a little hot in the center of the map, so I might have to replace that, but all told, the images came out sharper and less shadowed than when holding the camera in hand.

Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken by hand.
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken by hand (own work).
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken with copystand.
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken with copystand (own work).















© Peter Roehrich 2015