Welcome to Rare Books Insider for February 2nd 2022 – FREE issue.
Each week we give you the scoop on undervalued, mispriced and hidden gems in Alternative Investing.
Rare books in 2022
Rare books on fractional platforms continue their downward slide for 2022 as increased liquidity has given investors the opportunity to exit their positions during the broader general market downturn.
The downturn appears to be exclusive to fractional markets, though, as January 2022 kicked off with a 22% advance year over year in terms of total spent at auction. The average lot price also increased from $1,780 to $1,920, though the median’s come down from $311 to $281.
The data above includes comics, so be sure to factor in that noisiness, but the industry overall appears to be in rude health to kick off the new year.
Last week in Rare Books
Fractional Secondary Markets
While books on fractional marketplaces continued to decline, the bleeding seems to have slowed relative to last week.
While there were significant declines – for example, Huck Finn, On the Road, and Alice in Wonderland dropped 45%, 30%, and 27%, respectively – Churchill’s Second World War, Tolkien’s LOTR trilogy and The Great Gatsby each ticked up between 17% to 30%.
We were keeping an eye on Sothebys’s Fine Books and Manuscripts auction ending last week, and we were treated to a few instructive results. Here are the books we were watching, along with our notes:
- Signed first edition copy of Joyce’s Ulysses – Look for it to beat $90k
- Presentation copy of a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. – Look for it to beat $50k
- First edition of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye – Look for it to beat $25k
- First American Edition of Tom Sawyer – Look for it to beat $20k
- Thoreau’s Walden – Look for it to beat $20k
Ulysses crushed it with a hammer price of $151,200, well above estimates.
Tender is the Night slid in at the low end of expectations at $35k.
Catcher in the Rye did well, finishing at $32,760.
Tom Sawyer, as if to prove an eponymous point, failed to meet my expectations, finishing up at $18,900, just shy of our $20k target (but within the range Sotheby’s provided).
Thoreaus’ Walden just pipped Sawyer finishing at $21,160.
Pretty good results, all in. Two assets smashed their targets, one just pipped its estimate, and two fell pretty much in line.
More broadly, though, it was perhaps a disappointing event for Sotheby’s, as two of its top four lots failed to meet reserves.
This is something new we’re introducing this week, and it’s an opportunity for those with a passion for books to invest with a slightly more modest budget than we’re used to seeing at auction sites.
What are limited editions?
Think of limited editions like limited-run prints from an artist you love. Or a rainbow parallel of sports cards. They’re usually artisanal reproductions of a classic or cult book. Often they feature new or reimagined illustrations, and they’re frequently signed by either the artist, the illustrator, or both.
Most limited edition books cost between $100 and $1,000 at the initial print run, so they’re accessible to most collectors.
And they can be great investments. Many sell for 2x to 10x on the secondary market once the initial run has sold out. This limited edition Picasso book from 1934 is up at auction now at Potters with an estimate between $4k and $6k.
A few prominent publishers:
I’m going to aim to highlight new releases in this section going forward, but if you’re the DIY type, Daisy at Beautiful Books maintains a list of forthcoming releases.
If you’re looking for an investment, the most popular books usually aren’t where it’s at. You want cult books with potentially small but ravenous followings. Think about books or characters that have stood the test of time. Often sci-fi and fantasy are good bets, because their audiences are very devoted.
Autographed copies are always better than ones that haven’t been signed, of course.
Here are a few that have caught my eye.
- Marvel Comics Library. Spider-Man. Vol. 1. 1962–1964 – Edition of 1,000, € 500
- Dune – Edition of 500, £495
- Go Set A Watchman: Limited Signed Edition by Harper Lee – Edition of 100, £2,000
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Artist’s Edition of 1,000 – $175
If you’re more of a wholesale investor/collector, you can pick up a lot of 400 limited editions now from Potter & Potter Auctions. Estimates are $10k to $15k, and you’ll need to write in for a full list of the titles.
This week and next week in Rare Books
Fractional Market IPOs
Nothing new this week.
Fractional Secondary Markets
Five more books start trading this week on Rally, and we expect to see more downward pressure. Prices below are accurate as of Monday 1/31.
Please note the Ulysses book at Rally is different to the one mentioned at the Sotheby’s auction above.
As mentioned above, Potters & Potters is running a Fine Books and Manuscripts auction through 28th February. In addition to the limited edition lots mentioned previously, there are a few other notable items.
- A rather mundane piece of correspondence from Einstein to physicist Daniel M. Lipkin at Princeton.
- A near-pristine first edition early state copy of Huck Finn.
- The Commentaries of Caesar, eighteenth-century translation by William Duncan. Estimates are $6k to $8k but I’ve seen this for $18k elsewhere.
That’s about it…sort of a slow week on the auctions front.