Converting Old Prices To Current Value: Finally A Tool
Here is an example: suppose a book sold for $5 in 1955. Next, let's imagine that it currently sells for $10. Was this book a good investment? As we just noted, it certainly was not. It has doubled in price, but you don't need a formula to recognize that this is a terrible rate of return for fifty years. But what if today's price is $50? Or $100? Maybe it's $150, or $200. Most people probably have no idea what that $5 translates to today. That's today's quiz, and at the end of this article, we will tell you. Until then, most people will not likely know what this price means, meaning that a wealth of valuable pricing data collected over decades if not centuries is totally worthless to them. But, it no longer needs to be.
Now we'll show you an example of a book that is growing far beyond the rate of a typical book. It has been an outstanding investment in the past. No guarantees here, but it looks to be a continued good value for the future. The book is the original 1830 Palmyra, New York, printing of The Book of Mormon. Mormon titles have become very collectible over the years. If you click the image to the left of this column to enlarge it, you will see the growth, not just in actual prices, but in current estimated dollar values as well. From values in terms of current dollars of $1,000-$2,000 in the 1920s and 1930s, more recent sales translate to near or over $10,000. The trend-line for this book is exceptional. On the other hand, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, a 1751 book by Tobias Smollett, has not fared so well. See the image on the next page to see what has happened to it. Of course not all copies are identical, and this will affect price, but the trends here are inescapable and very telling. I know now which books I want to collect.
Some of you may not see a need for this resource. Many people determine values from Abe, Alibris, Biblio and the like. These online book sites are wonderful places for buying and selling books. They are terribly misleading for establishing value. Prices are all over the place. One bookseller may want $10 for a book, another $100 for a similar copy. What does this tell us about its value? A site like Abe has some knowledgeable bookseller members, but it also has a great many amateurs whose prices are pulled out of thin air. Here's another thing to remember about Abe et al. While some of those prices may appear cause for optimism, at least for the seller, what you are mostly seeing are the prices of books that don't sell. The ones whose prices truly reflect the market don't hang around forever. The majority of what you see is books that have been there for ages, often many years. These are essentially the prices people won't pay. They tell the seller how to price books they don't want to sell; the buyer what to pay if they want to be financially underwater for years to come.