Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2005 Issue

How to make a Fortune



A doubling of your investment in a few months is a great return, but if all you can do this with is one £30 copy, it's still only going to provide you with profits enough to buy dinner tonight, not get rich. If this were a stock, you could buy 1,000 or 10,000 or however many units you could afford, and sell them later at the market price without depressing the market. You could get rich. But, you can't buy and sell 1,000 copies of a "rare" book without turning the market upside down. To put it another way, you can't buy a thousand copies without paying too much for most of them, and you can't sell a thousand copies without selling a lot at bargain prices. Yes, you might make some "respectable returns," but you sure aren't going to make a fortune.

The article quotes London antiquarian bookseller Nigel Williams with what I believe is better advice. He believes a buyer has a greater chance of "being lucky" by buying a first edition by an unknown writer who later becomes a name. He points to the first edition of the first Harry Potter book, a run of around 500, now worth in the area of £25,000. I would agree that this is a better prospect as it is a rare first edition of something that went on to be enormously popular, truly the first of a kind. The designed limited edition, something a colleague of mine has referred to as a "manufactured rarity," is not the first of something that became great. It is a standalone item of no particular significance in the history of books.

However, even this is a real crapshoot. For every first edition Harry Potter, how many thousands of books are published that gain little or nothing, at least not for years and years? How would you know to pick Harry Potter? Can you read all of the thousands of new books to determine which ones you should buy? Even if you attempted this, what are the chances you would have come across this particular book, there being only 500 copies of it printed? It's like first having to win a lottery for the privilege to buy a lottery ticket.

Here is some advice from the most successful stock investors, that I believe equally applies to newer books. They will tell you not to try to buy a stock at its low point. Your risk is great that it will only go lower. They will tell you to wait until it has recovered perhaps 20% before making a purchase. Wait to make sure there really is some value there, even if this means giving up a little of the gain. It is well worth this sacrifice to avoid investing in a lot of losers. My guess is this advice works just as well with books. Wait until you see some signs of life for a particular book. You may pay a little more than the list price, but you'll avoid loading your shelves with thousands of unimportant books in the hopes of finding a Harry Potter for $5. Wait until it reaches $100. Yes, you will miss that first 2,000% gain (from $5 to $100), but at a value of almost $50,000 (in U.S. dollars), that is still a profit of $49,900. It's okay to leave that last $95 on the table if it saves you from buying a lot of junk.

To read this interesting article from the Telegraph's website, go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/30/nbooks30.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/04/30/ixhome.html

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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