It drives me nuts when appraisers, auctioneers et al. dismiss books (along with magazines and ephemera) as having “little no value” — unless, of course, they are ultra rare first printings of first editions, signed works, manuscripts and journals from historic persons or covering historic events, contain original art, etc. I mean, a-duh! These things are not so much valued for the works themselves, but really are coveted and collected for other reasons; i.e. a signed Hemingway book is collected for the signature, not-so-much the book itself. So at best, I call those works cross-collectibles which benefit from higher prices due to a competitive audience across collecting genres — especially from those non-book collectors.
The sad fact is, the experts are right. Most books, magazines and ephemera have little monetary value because fewer people are collecting them, keeping the prices (the value that matters to most decision makers of popularity) low. This is why you rarely see these items on the collecting shows. *sigh*
I obviously do not agree. Not only with the limited and inaccurate definition of “value” (which is why I started this site), but I believe there is real value in old books, magazines, and other printed works.
What makes me rant about all of this again?
I spotted this antique copy of Marshall Everett’s Roosevelt’s Thrilling Experiences in the Wilds of Africa Hunting Big Game up for auction at Heritage Auctions.
The fine folks at Heritage give an auction estimate of $1. One friggin’ dollar! Oh, and a neatly tacked on “- up”, which I presume to mean “and up.” (Though, the “- up” also means the mandatory Buyer’s Premium, 19.5% of the successful bid with minimum $14 per lot.)
It’s not that Heritage Auctions is wrong in their estimate (or their buyer’s premium; it’s their business and someone should get paid for posting info online so people like me can rant). The auction closes in a couple of days and the antique work is still at $1.
But here’s the kicker.
I’ve actually sold a few copies of this book. It pained me to do so each time. Not only because it’s hard for me to let go of things, but because they sold for like $29 to $45 — something I thought rather an insult for such an old, richly illustrated book. I consoled myself then that eBay wasn’t where the really big book collectors and history lovers were; that bigger legitimate auction houses would reach a wider audience, fetch more appropriate — bigger — bids for such books. But if Heritage can’t do it…
I should clarify a few things. For both my peace of mind and accuracy.
I sold my copies of this book (in the exact blue cloth boards with photo inset) on eBay nearly a decade ago; the prices on eBay haven’t changed much though — if the book actually sells, it’s at a higher price than the one at Heritage. (So if you’re interested… *wink*) And I sold copies I found because then, as now, I sell so that a person just longing for that item can have it, rather than it being less loved and sitting on my shelf. At least there I succeeded.
If there’s a moral to this little story, it’s this: Books, magazines, etc. don’t have the monetary value they ought to; but that means those of us with less money can afford to collect and enjoy them. And, collectors shouldn’t make assumptions that “the big auction houses have higher auction prices.” Even with the buyer’s premium, the antique Roosevelt hunting in Africa book is 50% cheaper than on eBay. So whether you’re new to collecting or an old hand at it, include the big auction sites in your hunting and see what killer deals you can make.