• <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Lawbook Exchange. Trials for Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Rapes, Sodomy... 4 vols. London, 1764. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> An Enquiry Concerning the Liberty, And Licentiousness of the Press. New York, 1801. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tavern Licence Granted to John Swan by Mayor James Duane, 1789. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> First edition of Story's, Commentaries on the Constitution. 3 vols. Boston, 1833. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Manuscript Law Dictionary. Repertorium Universale, Amandola, Italy, c.1750. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Magna Carta. London, 1556. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Hemard. Code Civil, in an extraordinary binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Two Accounts of the Murder of Mr. John Hayes. London, 1726. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Robinson, Boardman. Mr Justice Precedent. 1914. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Five volumes of Italian Legal Code in miniature. Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1901-1903. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tartagni. Alexander de Imola in Prima(m) (et) Secunda(m)... Venice, 1514. In a contemporary chained binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Catalogue 85. Recently Acquired Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Single leaf from a paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Mainz, 1455, in a copy of Newton's <i>A Noble Fragment</i>. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Immanuel Kant, <i>Critik der reinen Vernunft</i>, first edition, Riga, 1781. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Hans Holbein, <i>The Images of the Old Testament</i>, with 94 woodcut illustrations, first edition in English, Lyon, 1549. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Samuel Johnson, <i>A Dictionary of the English Language</i>, first edition, London, 1755. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, first edition, London, 1668.<br>$6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Antonio de Guevara, <i>The Dial of Princes</i>, London, 1568.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> <i>Oraciones de los SS. Mysterios Gloriosos y Dolorosos</i>, manuscript in Spanish, Brussels, 1676.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Jan Nieuhoff, et al., <i>An Embassy from the East-India Company... to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperour of China, </i>London, 1671. 4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Moses Maimonides, <i>Ha-Higayon... Logica</i>, first edition, Basel, 1527.<br>$800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Petrus Berchorius, <i>Liber Bibliae moralis</i>, fourth edition of the first volume, Cologne, 1477.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Niccolò Machiavelli, <i>The Florentine Historie</i>, first edition in English, London, 1595. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Sir Philip Sidney, <i>The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia</i>, third edition, London, 1598. $3,000 to $5,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2016 Issue

Are Books a Good Investment? This Investment Advisor Thinks They Are

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First editions of The Grapes of Wrath can vary widely in price depending on which printing.

A few weeks back, an investment firm in London caused some stir when they published a list of book prices and their increase in values over the past two decades. The gains were quite impressive. Perhaps a few booksellers who have not found it all that easy in recent years to turn high volumes of expensive sales were pleased to hear the good news. Then again, some may have been surprised. Stanley Gibbons Investment, a firm that specializes mostly in investments in stamps and coins, reported books had increased in value by 398% over the past twenty years, and 8.8% per year over the past ten years. We found that last decade particularly surprising as it included some very difficult economic times.

 

Gibbons created their index using 30 books. It should be noted that these are generally important books. The list contains names like Hemingway, Tolkien, Wells, Orwell, Eliot, Joyce, Kerouac, Milne, Salinger, Rand, Fleming and Steinbeck. Only one item of nonfiction was included, from economist John Maynard Keynes. All authors were from the 20th century. This is a fairly targeted field within the category of rare and antiquarian books.

 

It is not clear how their prices were determined – from actual sales, offering prices, something else? Presumably, copies compared were reasonably similar – same editions, each "of a certain condition" (their words), "the dust jacket still intact." We also do not know whether this list was randomly generated, or pre-selected in accordance with some bias or expectations.

 

What struck us was that our own sense of the market is that it has not grown at quite such a spectacular rate. So, we looked at our own index. The Rare Book Hub has compiled a database of over 6 million auction records from the past century and a half, with a particular concentration over the last 15 years. A few million books, covering everything offered at auction, it would seem, might give a better view of the overall market than 30 books from noted 20th century fiction writers. Indeed, these numbers were significantly different from those compiled by Gibbons. They show the average price of books at auction has doubled, rather than quadrupled since 1995. More significantly, they have shown virtually no movement in the past ten years, as opposed to appreciating 8.8% per year.

 

This is not because prices have stayed flat for ten years. The first two years of this period showed significant gains. Then there was 2008. We cannot forget 2008, however much we might like. Prices tumbled the year of the Great Recession, and inched down a little more the following two years before starting their journey upward again. When all was said and done, prices were virtually the same as they had been ten years earlier.

 

Now, our method of comparison may elicit a few questions too. Gibbons was presumably comparing exact same books, the ideal way to compare prices. However, their sample was tiny and not representative of books in general. Our sample did not contain exactly the same books year to year. However, we believe that, as with polling, when a sample is large enough, it will all balance out. Our samples for each year included several hundred thousand books.

 

We next took a look at a few of the books Gibbons estimated to see whether their estimates were consistent with auction realizations. We looked at average prices in 2015 and 1995 (sometimes a year before and/or after too to get a representative sample). For the most part, Gibbons' estimates for gains were somewhat more generous, but in the ballpark. We used first editions, very good or better condition, but without special attributes such as inscriptions. Here are our comparisons.

 

Gibbons showed the largest gain of their 30 selections over the past 20 years belonged to Animal Farm, George Orwell's barnyard tale first published in 1945. Gibbons used British pounds, which we have converted to U.S. dollars for comparison sake. They showed a gain of 2,597%, from $289 to $7,800. Our records indicated a gain of 1,885%, from $228 to $4,300. One might surmise Gibbons used only copies even better than our very good-plus since prices were higher, or perhaps they used prices from venues other than auctions. While Gibbons showed a greater rate of appreciation, which one might expect from the best of the best copies, there is nothing wrong with 1,885%. Animal Farm was a great investment in 1995. The Dow Jones average appreciated 250% over the same time period.

 

Gibbons' fifth greatest appreciation belonged to Casino Royale, the first James Bond book by Ian Fleming. Anything by Fleming is likely to have been a good deal as his Bond series has become notably collectible in recent years. Gibbons showed an appreciation of 874% for Casino Royale, from $3,800 in 1995 to $36,995 today. We showed an almost identical appreciation, though again with somewhat lower prices. The auction records gave us an appreciation of 868%, from $3,096 to $29,969.

 

The final title we examined was #10 on their list, John Steinbeck's 1939 tale of the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath. Here we did not match Gibbons' results. They showed an increase of 527%, from $1,497 to $9,383. We could only manage a return of 83%, from $1,467 to $2,683. Why the difference? There are two possible explanations, one specific to this title, another more general. First editions of The Grapes of Wrath have the same variable as Gone With The Wind – there were a whole mess of printings of the first edition. There were 11 printings of the first edition, the first ten of which may be unclear without seeing the book as they are all dated 1939. The first printing is very valuable, the drop off steep from there. Most listings did not specify the issue. Gibbons' estimates may rely primarily on first issues. The 1995 auction records, perhaps, contained more unidentified first issues than did the 2015 listings. This is why book evaluation is part art as well as science. There are many variables, some of which can easily be overlooked if you are not expert.

 

Then there is the valuation issue that affects almost all 20th century books. It is not much of a stretch to repeat the joke that 90% of a book's value is determined by its dust jacket. No one is paying much attention to less than very good-plus copies of the book, but condition of dust jackets are all over the place. They do not hold up so well, it being rare to find one on a book 85 years old without some sort of problems. A few tears, chips, missing pieces from a dust jacket can have a major impact on a book's value. Gibbons speaks of dust jackets being "still intact," but that leaves a lot of room for variation.

 

One thing we can say with certainty is that if you bought a first printing in 1939 and kept it in fine condition, you made a killing. These estimates imply an increase of value between 97,500% and 341,200%, though if the condition is pristine it is likely even more. The original price was $2.75.

 

In announcing the index, Gibbons stated, "The index will help guide investors and collectors looking to build a rare book portfolio as part of a long-term investment strategy." Have they made their case? Hindsight is wonderful, but was the explosion in interest in Fleming, the spectacular increases for Animal Farm, obvious in 1995? Why didn't I keep the comics books I owned as a youngster if this is all so obvious? Gibbons' 20 years after-the-fact selections were very good, but would they have chosen this list to follow in 1995, or would there have been more duds? I can tell you which stocks you should have bought in 1995, but I can't tell you which stocks you should buy in 2016. Remember, our comparison of all auction results to some of Gibbons' selected titles showed their books significantly outperformed the market as a whole. How do you know which are the right ones to choose? If rare books are to be part of your long-term investment strategy, you need to be very familiar with the books you select, understand pricing, have good insight as to where the market is likely to go in the years ahead, and not be risk averse.

 

This brings me back to a statement made by Arnoud Gerits, President of ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) a few years back. "The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers does not encourage collecting books for investment purposes," the League's President said. "The reason for collecting is love and interest in the subject, the author, the period, what the book represents, the love and desire to own the original or best edition of a particular book... If, and I say if, it is an investment, than it is a long-term investment, a savings account, and you use money that you’re sure you won’t be needing for a long, long time, and nobody guarantees you anything. If you’re looking for a quick return on investment, forget it. The bottom-line is: don’t buy them as an investment: it is the wrong angle to look at books."

 

Unless you have exceptional insight into book values, Mr. Gerits is, in my opinion, correct. It is undoubtedly possible to make money investing in books, but it surely is not easy. However, the inspiration for most people to collect books is that they love them, not because it is an investment. We spend lots of money on things we like without expecting to make a profit. In fact, we usually expect a loss. No one buys a new car, television, or electronic gadget expecting to make a profit. Other pleasurable expenses, such as fine dining or a vacation, will leave you with nothing but memories. Anyone who refuses to take a vacation because it isn't a profitable financial investment is throwing away much of the enjoyment in life, simply to have a larger bank account at the end when they can no longer use it. Penny wise.

 

Books, perhaps, fit most logically into the same category as real estate. You buy a house because you love it, you will enjoy living there. Still, you want to come out financially whole when you sell. So you buy what you want, but with a certain amount of care. You may pass up the perfect home for one that is just very good because the very good house is in a highly desirable neighborhood, the "perfect" one in an area where values are falling. Investment quality should not be the primary consideration, but it shouldn't be ignored either. You should be able to enjoy your books in a way you will never enjoy your stock certificates, but still have no regrets at the end.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>SAXTON, Christopher. <i>The Travellers Guide being the best Mapp of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales</i>. London, [1583, but c.1716].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>VISSCHER, Claes Jansz. <i>Novissima et Accuratissima Leonis Belgici</i>. Amsterdam, Claes Jansz Visscher, [1611-1621 or later].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Decima Asie Tabula</i>. Ulm, Lienhart Holle, 16 July 1482.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>WIT, Frederick de, and Gerard VALK. <i>Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accurata Tabula</i>. Amsterdam, Gerard Valk, [c.1690-1700].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Astronomicum Caesareum</i>. Ingolstadt, Peter Apian, 1540.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>CASSINI, Jean-Dominique. <i>Carte de la Lune</i>. Paris, Jean-Dominique Cassini, 1787.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Geographicae enarrationis libri octo</i>. Argentoragi, 1525.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>[SAXTON, Christopher]. <i> [An Atlas of England and Wales]</i>. [London, Christopher Saxton, 1579].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> Commission des sciences et arts d'Egypte. <i>Description de l’Égypte</i>… Paris, Imprimerie impériale - Imprimerie royale, 1809-1828.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> CHURCHMAN, John. <i>To George Washington President of the United States of America this Magnetic Atlas or Variation Chart is humbly inscribed by John Churchman</i>. Philadelphia, 1790.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Tipus Orbis Universalis</i>. Vienna, Johannes Camertius, 1520.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LORIOT, A[uguste], [after] Nicolas LANE. <i>[Pocket globe]</i>. London, 65 New Bond Street, 1809.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Grooten Atlas</i>. Amsterdam, Joan Blaeu, 1662-1665.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>INGEBORG BRUN, Emmy. <i>Mars efter Lowell’s Glober 1894-1914</i>. Denmark, [c1915].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LUTHER, Martin. <i>Der vierde Teil aller Bücher vnd Schrifften des thewren seligen Mans</i>. Gedruckt zu Jhena, Durch Christian Rödinger, 1556.
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868

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