Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

Antiquarian Bookseller Completes Successful Stock Market IPO

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Shapero Rare Books is a world leader in rare and antiquarian books.

New offerings in the stock market, IPO's (initial public offering), are common these days, particularly in the high tech field. Those from well-known brands like Facebook and Twitter received enormous publicity and billions of dollars in investments. Everyone, it seems, wants to participate. What you don't expect to see is public offerings in old technology, and what could be more old technology than antiquarian books? Of course, yesterday's technology can be today's collectible, and that was the justification for a recent IPO you might have missed. The company was Scholium Group. The IPO was not covered by Bloomberg News, nor debated by the talking heads on CNBC. The stock had no dramatic movement, either up or down, on opening day. This one definitely slid under the radar of the financial news beat.

 

Scholium Group, a name you may not recognize, has three major divisions. There is South Kensington Books, a London shop selling newer titles, and Ultimate Library, which provides books for libraries in luxury hotels and personal residences. However, the division that will be familiar to those in the rare and antiquarian book trade is Shapero Rare Books. Shapero has been selling high-end rare and antiquarian books and other works on paper since it was founded by Bernard J. Shapero in 1979. Scholium acquired Shapero Rare Books a few years ago when its finances became tight, but Mr. Shapero remains with the firm in senior management.

 

While many dealers have found these to be challenging times in the rare book trade, evidently Scholium's CEO, Philip Blackwell, doesn't see it that way. He exudes confidence. Blackwell has long been involved in the book trade if not the rare book trade, he being of the English bookselling Blackwell family. He was previously Group CEO of the Oxford based Blackwell's book stores and international wholesaler. As for the antiquarian market, it should be noted that Shapero's segment, the high end, has been the most robust in recent years. In its registration statement, Scholium reported that Shapero had £5.38 million (roughly US $8.95 million) in sales last year. The average price per book sold was £6,100 ($10,140), the highest £400,000 ($665,000).

 

Scholium provided the following reasons for its seeking additional capital in the public market:

 

“provide it with capital to increase the stock of its business dealing in rare and antiquarian books and works on paper;

 

“provide it with capital to trade, in affiliation with other dealers, in the wider rare and collectibles market;

 

“provide it with access, in due course, to further capital to finance ongoing growth of the business, both organically and by acquisition of related businesses;

 

“attribute a value to its Ordinary Shares to increase employee motivation intended to be achieved by the employee incentivisation schemes; and

 

“enhance its public and corporate profile.”

 

Offered were 8 million shares at £1 each, for a total of £8 million, or US $13.3 million. Trading began on March 28 with listing on the AIM division of the London Stock Exchange. While the offering was not flashy, it was successful. All shares were sold. Adding retained shares, the company ended the day with a market value of £13.2 million ($21.9 million).

 

In a statement released prior to the offering, Mr. Blackwell said, “We are delighted to bring our company to market. The market for rare and collectible items is growing internationally alongside global wealth, and London is a key centre for this trade. The first step is to grow Shapero Rare Books, one of the most respected international dealers in rare books and other works on paper. Supportive capital from the London IPO market will allow us to take advantage of the attractive economics of the more general rare and collectibles market. High end dealers in these markets have limited access to capital and this will put us in a fantastic position to trade alongside these established specialist dealers to find and acquire high value items and collections beyond the reach of their normal capacity. These works will be sold on to the customers of Scholium and its dealer partners. We have an exciting opportunity to provide investors with exposure to the growing global high value collectibles market.”

 

After the IPO was completed, Mr. Blackwell concluded, “We are delighted to have received strong support from both institutional and retail investors. The market for rare and collectible items is growing internationally alongside global wealth, and London is a key centre for this trade.”

 

One point specific to Shapero is that they have connections with collectors to the east, Russia and other remnants of the old Soviet empire. Russia may not be filled with rich people, but there are a few of extreme wealth. Some are interested in acquiring the most important books of their own heritage, many of which found their way to Europe in the years when personal wealth was not considered a good thing in Russia. Shapero is helping facilitate that return.

 

Scholium's plan is to return a share of its profits to investors. They stated their first dividend, subject to “the Group's profitability, underlying growth, availability of cash and distributable reserves, and the need for funding to support the development and expansion of the business,” is envisaged as occurring in June 2015. They add that “the Company will adopt a progressive dividend policy thereafter.” For anyone who has ever dreamed of owning an antiquarian bookstore, but never wanted the hassle of actually running one, you can become a co-owner for as little as a pound, more or less. If you would like to track the stock, its ticker symbol on the London Exchange is SCHO (you may find it on U.S. sites as either SCHO.L or SCHO-GB).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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