Turn Over A New Leaf As A Rare Book Collector

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If you want a word of advice about making money from collectibles, talk to a bibliophile investor.

Bibliophiles – lovers of books – are lured by collecting the printed packages rather than the words they contain, which are often available in much cheaper editions.

Like any collectible, rare books are highly sought after – but what makes a book rare.

Scarcity comes first – if the book had a short print run or a few copies were lovingly crafted by hand, and then start adding noughts to the price.

But what else makes a book special and desirable for a collector?

One place to find out is the Sotheby’s First Editions, Second Thoughts auction.

Harry Potter first edition

The theme is first editions, obviously, but the second thoughts refer to notes penned in the margins by the authors reconsidering their work.

Not all valuable books are ancient.

The sale set a new world record for a Harry Potter first edition – a cool £150,000 for the Philosopher’s Stone a massive 882% increase on the previous record of £17,000 hit only two months earlier.

Sotheby’s do not have the monopoly on rare book records – Truman Capote’s Breakfast AT Tiffany’s went for £168,000 at RR Auction, while Heart’s Yearning by Oscar Wilde went under the hammer at £69,000 at Bonham’s.

Signed copies are also highly prized by book collectors.

Photographer Helmut Newton’s Sumo was on sale for £985 in 1999, but cost an avid collector £285,000 in 2000.

Buying a rare book

Investing in rare books is about supply and demand coupled with a unique selling point – the less copies that exist the better, and if they have provenance, like notes or a signature by the author, then the price will sky rocket.

The blacker side of book collecting is much the same as art and other cultural pursuits – if the author or creator has died, then up goes the price because unfortunately, the supply of originals is finite.

“Rare books add diversity and liquidity to an investor’s portfolio,” said Andre Chevalier of Rare Books Digest. “A rare book is always rare and only gets more so, that’s why they hold value and appreciate in the long term.”

Choosing the right book from the thousands available is also an art.

Few Helmut Newton fans would have paid £985 for his book expecting the value to surge in just a few months. The likelihood is the investor bought a product he or she liked and was fortunate to benefit from the soaring value.

That’s the lesson if you intend to turn over a new leaf as a bibliophile – don’t buy for profit because second-guessing the market is tough. Buy something you like and can treasure, and if the value goes up, it’s a bonus.

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