In time the collector learns that the world is not as they expect. There will turn out to be much more material and sometimes-substantial differences in price that will leave you scratching your head. With enough experience you may learn the hardest lesson of all, that it’s often the best copy rather than the cheapest that is most appropriate, and may I call such purchases what they are, investments. Such copies will be hard to find but if you someday sell you will probably do well. If you doubt that quality is important look again at what dealers offer. There are some dealers that sell impaired material for lower prices but the best dealers sell very good material. Your mission, should you pursue serious self-directed collecting, will be to identify the current value and the fair price of material in your focus that you believe others will in the future want. It’s certainly the best material. If you collect this type of material you will have options when/if you sell. Rare material is after all a catch and release program. You can own great things but you or your heirs will dispose by gift or sale. This always happens. There are no exceptions.
The second illustration conceptualizes how a self-directed collector approaches their avocation. They live between two worlds, between the traditional world of bookselling and the world of the self-directed collector. They follow the flow at auction, on the listing sites, read catalogues, and of course go to shows. It is a passion and an intellectually filling experience. They do the hard work and achieve better results with lower costs and take the risk, as all dealers do, of making mistakes. It occasionally happens. It’s part of the game. [illustration 2]
This said, most collectors have day jobs and make their money using special skill sets that earn substantial rewards. The best use of their time isn’t necessarily to learn the book business, it may be to deliver Othello on Broadway, sing in concert, sell insurance, or manage money, etc. For them it’s almost always best to rely on dealers to help them build their collections. One’s time after all also has a cost.
If you are one of those collectors who likes the study and brawls of serious collecting you will find enormous satisfaction but you will earn your rewards. Prices are exacted either way and both provide an exceptional experience.