I’ve been thinking seriously of late about throwing more dough at books. Not that I don’t already buy enough to fill gymnasiums every week. No, I’m talking about buying fewer, more expensive, rarer books…for ‘fun and profit.’ Treating them like blue chip stocks.
Over the past decade I haven’t even broken even on the stock market. The only people who seem to make money in this scam, both on the way up, and the way down, are the brokers. Real Estate has been marginally better, and then there are GICs, but if 0% to 6% is the best one can do, why not use the money to actually enrich life? Put it into something you know and love? Everyone will tell you that buying books for profit is a fool’s game. But what if your objective isn’t to make a killing…but, just, for a time, to possess beautiful, important objects, and in so doing make a reasonable return, surely this is possible? To sit and hang out with a set of good friends…and then pass them on for a 0-6% gain? Is this so unreasonable?
Now the challenge of course is to find the friends…the books you love which are sure to hold their value. Right now there appears to be a real glut on the used book market. I have lots of f/f first editions by decent authors - currently looking at: Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried, Frederick Forsyth’s The Odessa File, Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs – that booksellers I’ve approached just don’t seem interested in buying, at least for reasonable money…can’t blame them really, when they can get the same or better for one or two dollars per at local book sales and auctions… these used to be $50 books…and I can’t get my money out of them.
Which begs the question: If I do invest say $15,000 in a handful of books, for a start, which ones – of those I’m passionate about – should I buy? The last thing I want to do is go starving to the grave clutching my Kelmscott Chaucer, my Nonesuch Shakespeare, my Sphinx in scurvy’d hand. Which ones will hold their value over say the next decade? Given the advent of e-books and digitization, it’s pretty clear that -as in the past- books which are well constructed, beautifully made, in fine condition, will gain in importance…I’ve been reading about Fine and Private Press books lately, and talking to current producers (Stay tuned for an interview conducted recently with Richard Coxford of Bytown Books on collecting fine press editions). This is where I think I’ll be going…but not before talking to some experts in the field. I plan to put this scenario to the cognizanti of the antiquarian book trade in the coming months. Stay tuned for their responses.