Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2019 Issue

Now You Can Own a First Edition Harry Potter, a Honus Wagner Baseball Card

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Rare books will soon be joining automobiles as "investments of the rich, now available to all."

Would you like to own a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone? How about the $3 million 1909 Honus Wagner Baseball card? Of course you would, but you can't. These are only available to the very or super rich. Ordinary mortals don't own these, certainly not the Honus Wagner card. Well, now you have a chance. Soon you will be able to buy these at a very affordable cost.

 

So, what's the catch? Well, you don't exactly get to own all of the book or card yourself. You get a share. These can represent as low as a .00004 interest in the Honus Wagner card. Expressed another way, that is ownership of 1/25,000th of the card. Don't plan on displaying your share of it on the wall. No one will see it.

 

Of course, this is meant to be an investment vehicle. The idea is to enable ordinary folks to participate in the investment in expensive luxury goods too costly for them to buy. The company offering these investments is Rally Rd. They must know something about alternative investment "vehicles" as that is, literally, what they have offered so far. Opening for business just last year, they began by selling shares in collectible automobiles. This is the only way I will ever own a Ferrari. Then again, I'd rather own a Chevy I can actually drive, so I don't feel too bad about this.

 

I don't fully understand the economics of this investment, other than, hopefully, these items will appreciate more than typical investments over the years. There is some hope that they will generate income through "membership experience programs." These seem to be places where they display their cars, now maybe books, where members can see them, presumably for a fee. Maybe they are displayed to others as well. Still, if they earn $10,000 a year from displaying "my" Honus Wagner card, my .00004 share will earn me 40 cents. This is before various management fees and expenses such as storage and insurance. It feels like the income/expense equation is as likely to be negative as positive.

 

It doesn't sound that easy to get out if I need my money back. There is no obvious marketplace and the management company does not promise to buy back shares. You can sell them on the open market, but where? They don't trade on an exchange. eBay? Craig's List? Perhaps, they plan to sell the assets someday, presumably after their value has greatly appreciated. That sounds like the best hope, but there is no guarantee this will happen, or how much of your profits may be devoured by fees and commissions along the way.

 

In their original prospectus, when still syndicating only automobiles, they said, "We believe other companies crowdfunding collectible automobiles or proposing to run a platform for crowdfunding of interests in collectible automobiles is very limited to date." It is, though this does remind me somewhat of another such investment opportunity - Aristophil. Perhaps it is unfair to make this comparison. The Aristophil collection consisted of hundreds of millions of dollars of manuscripts in which the manager sold shares. He clearly overpaid for many of the manuscripts, but hoped that buying up so much of the available material would push prices up. It didn't turn out that way.

 

However, Aristophil was different in that it made promises Rally Rd. does not. They promised to pay investors 8% annual interest, and repay principal on demand. To keep it afloat when investors started demanding their money, Aristophil became a pyramid scheme, taking money from new investors to pay back old ones. Rally Rd. makes no such commitments, so risk of bankruptcy, the inevitable end of Aristophil, is slim. Still, the Rally Rd. investments require substantial appreciation in value to make sense. If they pay too much, or the purchase price plus fees and commissions is more than the asset is worth, you can lose money on the deal. Of course, that is also true of stocks, bonds, gold, and real estate.

 

If you believe that luxury goods are a better investment than the aforementioned assets, and you are willing to take the risk investing in shares without an obvious liquid market, you may want to take a chance. I wouldn't, but then again, I failed to buy stock in Amazon, Apple, Google, or Facebook earlier in this century. What do I know? If I were that smart, I'd own a Ferrari, maybe a Honus Wagner. Make your own decisions, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

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