Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2005 Issue

Following Up a 25-Year-Old Book Investment Scheme

Noimage

none


How accurate were these results? Thanks to the million records in the AE Database and our new current value estimating tool*, we can go back and look at the past. Samples of purchases and sales of these titles in roughly the same time period indicate these figures are in the ballpark. There is nothing to indicate they fudged the gains. These books were outstanding. However, whether these books were indicative of the market as a whole is another question. Auction results from these two decades indicate that on average, prices were rising from 3 to 6 fold by the end of the 1970s, depending on whether you purchased in 1960 or not until the middle 1960s. It was a very good time for books. Edwards' numbers were a bit exaggerated, at least compared to the market as a whole. Whether this reflects superior choices on their part, or selective memory, I cannot say. However, if the exact figures were perhaps somewhat misleading, the general impression was right. This was a period in which it was far superior to invest in books than in stocks.

But that was looking at the past. It was as easy as it was irrelevant to tell people in 1980 what was the best investment to have made in 1960. What happened to people who invested in books in 1980? We know that this particular scheme did not last, but what if it had? What kind of returns might people have experienced?

Perhaps this is a good time to recall the apocryphal story about Joseph Kennedy, who when given some stock tips by his shoeshine shortly before the market collapse of 1929, sold all of his holdings. His reasoning was that once little guys like this started pouring their money into the market, the end was near. Nothing nearly so dramatic happened with books. In fact, they continued to do quite well in the decades ahead. However, on a comparative basis, the heyday was over. Our indices show that books as whole grew another three to four times in value over the following two decades. There is nothing wrong with that return. However, if you sold your stocks to buy books, you would have been disappointed. After 15 years in the doldrums, the stock market was poised for one of its greatest bull runs ever, just as Edwards was encouraging investors to put their money in books. Not even that dark day in October, 1987, nor the bursting of the bubble at the end of the century, would make this anything less than a phenomenal run. Certainly, there were areas where investors were hurt. Late '90s internet stock investors received some painful doses of reality, but those who took a more conservative approach, such as investing in the Dow Jones Industrials in 1980, were handsomely rewarded. After a 15-year run in which the Dow Jones advanced not at all, over the next 20 years it would grow to more than ten times its 1980 value. In fact, the growth in the Dow proved to be almost exactly the same as the atypical Edwards eleven described in their pamphlet grew over the preceding 20 years. As we said, there was nothing wrong with the returns achieved by rare books during this period. However, part of their premise, that books appreciate more rapidly than stocks, proved to be false over the following two decades.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <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.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions