Investing in Books – Rare Books as Investments?
John Moore is looking for answers on a difficult question
„There are fields of collecting in which you hear stories of someone who spent $5 at a flea market on an item that turned out to be worth $5 million. Book collecting is not one of those fields. a multimillion dollar Shakespeare First Folio up for auction gets a lot of attention. But for most collectors, books represent a stable, long-term investment. It’s a rarefied pursuit, one that can be financially rewarding if you have the necessary expertise, diligence, and patience. … Ask a dealer if books are a wise investment strategy and the short answer is no.”
John Moore has found more elaborate answers in his article “Investing In Books: Safe Returns Between the Covers”. He has asked John Windle, Rebecca Rego Barry, Thomas Joyce and other dealers to determine the real value of a rare book. Snippets:
“Beyond a book’s condition and edition, several other factors can help determine value. ‘You want to know the provenance, the history of the book, who owned it before,’ says Thomas Joyce, a partner at the Chicago Rare Book Center in Evanston, Ill., and a highly regarded appraiser. ‘There are people who tell you they don’t want anything that’s signed and personalized. If they want to buy a copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, they want it signed by him, but they don’t want it personalized unless he happened to personalize it to Allen Ginsburg or one of his intimates.’”
Rebecca Rego Barry:
“’A lot of people think just because a book is old that it’s valuable or rare, and that’s just not the case,’ says Rebecca Rego Barry, editor of Fine Books & Collections. ‘You really have to be mindful of that and you have to know what you’re doing.’”
Edition? Provenance? Condition? Place in History?
“For Windle, the key is collecting whatever it is you’re passionate about, no matter how obscure. ‘There are people who collect for financial reasons,’ he says. ‘I don’t call them collectors, I call them accumulators. They’re buying books like they would buy stocks and bonds. Those people seldom do well. But a really passionate collector who loves his subject, who loves the field, who become de facto the living authority on it, they become their own market. Collect what you love, collect what you know, and become the expert in your own field.’”
In 2008 Tom Congalton (of Between the Covers Rare Books) has given a similar answer in his article “Rare Books as Investments”: For him this one of the “seeming paradoxes” of the trade. “Barely is an antiquarian bookseller whelped before he or she is taught the cardinal rule of bookselling: Thou shalt not promote rare books as investments.” He concludes: “At any rate, here finally is my long awaited investment advice: I think probably the only thing worse than having your rare bookseller manage your assets portfolio, is to have your investment broker choose your rare books. One might want to govern oneself accordingly. After all, as long as you buy the books that you love ...”
>>> John Moore, Investing In Books: Safe Returns Between the Covers, published October 18, 2010 on CNBC.com
>>> Rare Books as Investments, by Tom Congalton