Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2018 Issue

Is There Money to be Made in Rare Books? Reader's Digest Says "Yes"

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A copy of the Gutenberg Bible (Library of Congress image).

For those who get their financial advice from Reader's Digest, you just got a "yes" on buying rare books, first editions in particular. Reader's Digest recently came out with a list of 8 Cheap Items to Buy Now That Will Be Worth a Fortune Later. On that list is "first edition books," with the explanation, "If you’re able to get your hands on a first edition of a new book that could potentially become very popular, you could make a lot of money off of it in the future." They cite as an example the one everyone cites these days, the Harry Potter series. Of course, if you bought one of the other hundreds of thousands of books published in the past two decades, you wouldn't have done so well.

 

The introductory paragraph then takes us to a more detailed list of "8 more rare books that are worth a fortune." There are actually 15 books on this list, which is why the publication is known as Reader's Digest, not Mathematician's Digest. There aren't too many other items on this list that living people could have purchased new. Older readers might have been able to pick up a James Bond when new, maybe even Salinger's classic. None of us were here to get a freshly printed Shakespeare First Folio, let alone a Gutenberg Bible.

 

Here is what is on their list, along with the estimated values. Their prices mostly seem on the high side, a seller's preferred price, rather than that of a buyer. One surmises they may have seen an auction price for a special copy, perhaps a signed one, or the highest priced listing on AbeBooks. However, even if some prices are exaggerated, they are right in saying, "If you have one of these rare books sitting on a shelf somewhere, get ready to cash in!" Check your shelves to see if you have a Gutenberg Bible lying around.

 

Shakespeare's First Folio. $5.2 million.

 

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. $321,000.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling. $55,000.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. $180,159.

 

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. $130,000.

 

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. $11.2 million.

 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. $210,000.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. $194,000.

 

Tamerlane and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe. $662,500.

 

Ulysses by James Joyce. $355,000.

 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. $56,124.

 

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. $40,000-$75,000.

 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. $2-$3 million.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. $137,500.

 

Gutenberg Bible. $5.39 million.

 

If there is one bargain in this lot, it is the last of these. $5.39 million was the price paid at Christie's in 1987 for the Esther Doheny copy of the Gutenberg Bible. That is the last one to be sold. It is worth a lot more today. In 2015, Sotheby's sold a section from the Gutenberg consisting of 8 leaves for $970,000. The Gutenberg Bible contains 643 leaves. Readers of Mathematician's Digest will be able to do the math on that one to estimate what a complete Gutenberg might be worth today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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