Welcome to Rare Books Insider for February 15th, 2022 – FREE edition.
Each week we give you the scoop on undervalued, mispriced, and hidden gems in Alternative Investing.
Table of Contents
But first, for your listening pleasure
Hurrah, our first Books podcast! Last week, Horacio sat down with Ken Gloss from the Brattle Book Shop. The Brattle Book Shop has been in the family business since 1949 and has become a Boston landmark ever since. In this episode, he discusses the trend of younger customers coming to the shop, how the tastes of book collectors have changed over time and his thoughts on the fractionalization of first editions. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Rare books in 2022
Rare books on fractional markets continue to slide in 2022 as investors take advantage of increased liquidity.
Last week in Rare Books
Fractional Secondary Markets
Because our yearly and weekly indices are calculated slightly differently, we have a negative trend overall but a slight uptick on the weekly chart. They’re often slightly off, but it’s unusually egregious this week due to two assets — Wizard of Oz and Grimms’ Fairy Tales — rising 110% and 79%, respectively. The outliers broke our formula a bit.
That notwithstanding, there were only three books that advanced last week – the two above and Alice in Wonderland (up 23%).
That’s set against fifteen declines with Grapes of Wrath incurring the most…er, wrath…from investors, declining 29%.
Auctions last week were down compared to both the previous month and the year prior. Average price was $1,286 compared to around $1,800 in January.
Two auctions of note last week, but both made their hay on manuscripts, autographs, and letters, rather than books. This is a trend we’ve seen more and more lately as investors snap up rare pieces from historic figures.
Two slightly odd ones from PBA went for around 10x estimates each:
- An oversized map of Brazil from the 17th century sold for $179k, which highlights increasing interest in rare maps (Rally is set to IPO an antique map of Manhattan soon).
- A Royal Order to colonize the Californias from King Phillip V in 1705 sold for $173k. Phillip signed it “Yo el Rey,” which means “I the King.” That’s pretty awesome.
That both the above lots went for well above their estimates and that they both sort of feel similar on some level is interesting. They were the only lots to exceed estimates in a meaningful way and they both did so in spectacular fashion.
I’m going to wildly speculate that it’s a pair of dueling treasure hunters searching for something priceless. I’ve got a call into Nic Cage’s manager to confirm. 🤞
For me, the pick of the litter (sorry) this week is George Orwell’s Animal Farm over at Suntup. which is particularly relevant given Russian aggression over the last few weeks.
A 1946 quote from Orwell feels relevant: “What I was trying to say was: You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as benevolent dictatorship.”
The political allegory is strikingly rendered with a series of oil paintings, and I think the volumes are stunning. Just hoping my wife reads this.
There are a few options:
- Artist edition – 1,000 copies; $195
- Numbered edition – 350 copies, $595.
- Lettered edition – 26 copies, $4,500, only three copies left allocated by lottery.
For comparison’s sake, Suntup offered a similar run of Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale earlier in the year:
- Artist edition – 1,000 copies; $175
- Numbered edition – $250 copies; $750 (sold out)
- Lettered edition – 26 copies; $2,950 (sold out)
I’d ask my wife for one of those as well, but she might think I’ve got the wrong idea about how marriage is meant to work.
A couple of other notable limited editions are available this week:
- The Folio Society is selling a /500 version of Ulysses for £495. It’s leather-bound and comes with evocative illustrations.
- If you’re both a book and art nerd, Taschen’s massive 50cm x 70cm visual survey of David Hockney’s work is the one for you. It comes with a (reinforced?) bookstand, 13 fold-outs, and a 680-page chronology book. I don’t love his work, but you can’t deny it’s impressive. €3,500.
Editor’s note: Hi Wyatt, this is your wife. Of course I read your emails; I edit them. Just in case you’re reading this, I’m a big Hockney fan. Just saying.
This week and next week in Rare Books
Fractional Market IPOs
Rally brings us Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind this week.
Fractional Secondary Markets
Three books open to the secondary market this week, and it’ll be instructive to see how they trade. Historically books on Rally trade around 20% higher than our Inferred Value.
After six weeks of crickets, it’s a big-ish couple of weeks on the books and manuscripts front.
There are a huge number of letters written and signed by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These items usually go in the mid-five-figures, which is remarkable to me given how many of them there are available.
You can even buy a lock of Washington’s hair for around $8k if you’re looking to create a historical theme park full of presidential clones.
In fact, this week RRAuctions has an entire event dedicated to American presidents and first ladies. There’s clear value here given what the market is willing to pay, but I don’t really get it.
Beyond American presidents, there are some other lots worth keeping an eye on:
- Freemans’ has a first edition Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It’s the second issue but the first American edition. The estimate is between $4k and $6k.
- Freemans has also brought to market a first American edition of the Douay Bible – the first Catholic bible printed in the United States. Printed in 1790, there were probably fewer than 500 copies produced.
- Swann treats us to a more colorful variety of lots this week with a wide variety of assets including a Time Magazine cover signed by Steve Jobs, Ben Grahams’ Security Analysis, and several pieces by Robert Indiana, including this stunner: