Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2005 Issue

Following Up a 25-Year-Old Book Investment Scheme

Fedwards

Rare book investment portfolio proposal.


By Michael Stillman

Books are purchased primarily for two reasons, reading and collecting. While the first purpose is the main reason they are published in the first place, it is generally a one-time shot. Read it once and its usefulness has been depleted. However, collecting has a permanence. It gives books a long term, and likely increasing, value. And once something has these attributes, a third purpose raises its head: investing. Most people who collect books for the sheer love of them are probably aware of this secondary purpose. Still, it isn't often that books are collected solely for investing. Once in awhile, they are, and a chance encounter with a 25-year-old pamphlet gives us an opportunity to look back on such a scheme.

While digging through boxes of old auction catalogues being prepped for the Americana Exchange Database*, we chanced upon a pamphlet produced by Francis Edwards, Ltd., of London, around 1980. Before we continue, we need to point out that this is not the same Francis Edwards of today. Francis Edwards today is again a traditional antiquarian bookseller, just as the firm was for more than a century before this pamphlet was printed. This pamphlet dates from a brief period between the 1978 sale by the Edwards family to venture capitalists to its early 1980s purchase by the current owners. The firm of Francis Edwards is now back to selling books in the British book town of Hay-on-Wye, as well as in London, as it has done through most of its existence since founded by Mr. Edwards in 1855.

During the brief venture capital period around 1980, the firm published this pamphlet, Rare Books for the Collector From the Investor's View, Francis Edwards Limited, Creating a Portfolio. Basically, the plan worked like this. You would invest a sum of money, minimum GPB (British pounds) 500, with the firm. This, they explained, was "the minimum feasible sum which will permit a balanced portfolio of titles across subjects, authors and countries." Then, "specialists identify titles which in their opinion will provide good appreciation over a period of several years." The purchaser could take physical possession of these books if he liked, or store and insure them with Edwards for 2% per year. They could be sold at any time, but the firm explained that this "scheme" (their words, not mine) was designed for those expecting to hold the books for "3 to 5 years."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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