• <b>Sotheby’s: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations.<br>Online now through December 10
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> Adam Smith. <i>The Wealth of Nations</i>. First edition, 1776. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> William Shakespeare. <i>Comedies, Histories, Tragedies</i>. 1632, the Second Folio. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> The Saint Albans Chronicle.] <i>Here begynneth a shorte & a breue table on these cronycles.</i> Westminster : Wynkyn de Worde, 1497. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations.<br>Online now through December 10
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> E.H. Shepherd. “A Very Grand Thing – The Trouble at Owl’s House”. Original ink and watercolour. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> Charles Darwin. <i>On the Origin of Species</i>. First edition, 1859. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, now to Dec. 10:</b> William Blake. <i>Illustrations of the Book of Job.</i> 1825 [but 1826]. £10,000 to £15,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Churchill (Winston) & Others. 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, 27 April 1944. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> First English edition, 1922. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Belzoni (Giovanni Battista). <i>Plates Illustrated of the Researches and Operations...in Egypt and Nubia,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1821-1822. £14,375 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Astor (John Jacob). A collection of rare letters, 9 January 1812- 4 September 1837. £26,000 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 1997. £27,500 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Royal Family. Photograph of Queen Elizabeth, George VI, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, signed, 1946. £3,640 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Collodi (Carlo). <i>Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1883. £8,401 inc Buyers Premium.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> ALBUM AMICORUM OF SCHELOMITH FLAUM. Autograph album containing drawings, autograph quotations and signatures from over 47 contributors, India, Europe, America, Israel and elsewhere, 1923–50. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> FLEMING, Ian (1908–1964). <i>Live and Let Die.</i> London: Jonathan Cape, 1954. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> HISTORY OF CINEMA. Animal Farm (1954), an animation archive from the Halas and Batchelor studios, [c.1954]. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> LE HAY, Jacques – [Charles de FERRIOL]. <i>Recueil de Cent Estampes representant differentes Nations du Levant...</i> Paris, 1714. [With:] <i>Explication des cents Estampes.</i> Paris, 1715. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> THE LAST JUDGEMENT, historiated initial 'A' on a leaf from an Antiphonal on vellum illuminated by Nikolaus Bertschi [Augsburg, first quarter 16th century]. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413–1484). <i>De re militari.</i> [Verona:] Johannes Nicolai de Verona, 1472. £170,000 to £250,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2018 Issue

Credit Suisse Labels Rare Books a "Mediocre" Financial Investment

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Increase in values of various assets (from Credit Suisse Yearbook 2018).

Rare books hit the news wires in an unflattering way last month. Credit Suisse, the major banking and financial institution headquartered in Zurich, released its annual Yearbook. They spoke of investments, including what they call "non-financial investments" or "investments of passion," or even "treasure assets." Rare books made it into the passionate category, but not to the one of best financial investments. Of course, we are passionately invested in our wives, husbands, and children, but they aren't great financial investments either. Anyone who wants to trade them in for stock certificates has problems at home that go way beyond the scope of this article.

 

Before we proceed, we should note that this report is aimed at the wealthy, or even ultra-wealthy. That includes an estimated 193,490 (that's a fairly exact looking number for an estimate) people in the world with net assets over $30 million. Most of us fall into the "other" category, which I estimate to be 6,999,806,510. The wealthy are the people who can afford to invest seriously in various sorts of collectibles. Even among them, it is still a small percentage of assets. They estimate these people hold 25% of their wealth in financial assets (stocks, bonds, cash), 24% in real estate investments, 23% in personal businesses, and 16% in real estate they inhabit. Only 6% falls to collectibles.

 

We should also note that this is focused on long-term investments. You can trade in and out of stocks in the same day, but it's hard to be a day-trader in books or art. Day-traders can make money on the change of a few pennies in a stock price. You cannot do this with a Shakespeare First Folio.

 

The common wisdom is that stocks are the best long-term investment. That belief has become so ingrained that we would believe it even if it weren't true. Fortunately, we don't have to face such a predicament. Credit Suisse confirms our assumption that equities are the best long-term investment.

 

However, when it comes to collectibles, they have concluded there is a difference, and here is where they determined rare books are on the short end. The categories they examined were fine wine, classic cars, musical instruments, rare books, jewelry, and stamps. All of these fell short of equities, but within the group, the runaway winner was classic cars. This was followed by wine, jewelry, stamps, musical instruments (as represented by violins), and art. That leaves just books to fill the bottom rung. Credit Suisse describes books as providing a "mediocre financial return."

 

However, here is where the chart departs from common wisdom. If books have something of a bad rap, art has a different reputation. We have read stories of paintings selling for over $100 million. Anything by Andy Warhol, even prints, just a few decades old, brings huge prices. A piece of paper Picasso used to wipe his paintbrushes would cost as much as an average house. Still, art barely beat out rare books on this index.

 

Here are a few points Credit Suisse makes in their report about those who purchase "treasure assets."

 

(1). "In the eyes of the owner, they are beautiful and collectible items, even though they do not generate any financial income." They "provide an emotional reward in terms of enjoyment for the owner."

 

(2). "Rare books have been a passion investment for centuries."

 

(3). However, "collectors point to cultural and artistic investment not only as a pleasurable activity but also as a contribution to financial diversification." "[M]ost high net worth collectors say they are interested in the financial as well as the psychic benefits of their private assets. They are not hoarders and accumulators; they are investor-collectors."

 

(4). "Within the category of passion investments, investors almost invariably hold focused portfolios. The average of their holdings should not be regarded as a desirable allocation for an individual or institution."

 

(5). "Such investments are in many cases marketable only with a substantial transaction cost, so the purchaser of these tangible assets is likely to be someone with a long investment horizon for whom the liquidity of the asset is a secondary concern."

 

(6). "The case for private wealth assets is that they provide a mix of wealth conservation, financial diversification, and gratification. We support the view that a moderate allocation to tangible alternative assets is appropriate for high net worth investors."

 

We will add one more point. Rare books, like equities, is a category of financial asset, but unless you are buying some sort of index fund, you are buying individual items, not an asset class. Stocks may be the best performers, but there's a whale of a difference if you bought tiny Apple or Microsoft in the 1980s, or retail behemoth Sears or the high-flying airlines. In the latter case, you probably lost most if not all of your money. With books, as with stocks, the trick is successfully anticipating which will be more valuable years from now, buying for a fair price, and being patient.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Currier & Ives, <i>The Mississippi in Time of Peace,</i> hand-colored lithograph, 1865. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Hartmann Schedel, <i>Liber Cronicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, 1493. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Claudius Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographicae Enarrationis Libri Octo,</i> Lyons, 1535. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Thomas Jefferys, <i>The American Atlas,</i> London, 1776-77. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Speed, <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> 20 miniature maps, London, 1665. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> <i>Biblia Das ist: Die Gantze Heilige Schrifft Durch D. Martin Luther Verteutscht,</i> illustrated cartographic Bible, Basel, 1665. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Early Hawaiian-language school geography, Lahainaluna Seminary, 1840. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Cornelis de Jode, <i>Africae Vera Forma, et Situs,</i> Antwerp, 1593. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Maria Vincenzo Coronelli, <i>America Settentrionale Colle Nuove Scoperte Sin All Anno,</i> Venice, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Christoph Volkamer, <i>Nürnbergische Hesperides,</i> Nuremberg, 1708-1714. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Bayer, <i>Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata...,</i> 51 celestial charts, c. 1603. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Manuscript map of Commodore Perry’s Black Ship squadron at Edo Bay, with manuscript sketchbook, ink & watercolor, Japan, c. 1853. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies.</i> The second Impression. London, 1632. £120,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Das Römische Carneval.</i> Berlin and Gotha, 1789. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [SHAKESPEARE, William]. Manuscript part for a contemporary analogue to <i>Henry IV,</i> part I, n.p. [perhaps Oxford or London], n.d. [c.1580s – before c.1620]. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832). <i>Faust. Ein Fragment... Ächte Ausgabe.</i> Leipzig: Georg Joachim Göschen, 1790. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. As it is now Acted at his Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.</i> London, 1683. £60,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.</i> Leipzig: Weygand, 1774. £15,000 to £20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> AN EARLY DUTCH POCKET GLOBE ATTRIBUTED TO WILLEM BLAEU, AFTER C.1618. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes (1596-1673). £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Theatrum Statuum Regiae Celsitudinis Sabaudiae Ducis, Pedemontii principis, ... pars prima, exhibens Pedemontium ...</i> Amsterdam, 1682. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> DUDLEY, Sir Robert, self-styled Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick. <i>Arcano del Mare.</i> Florence, 1661. £500,000 to £700,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> The Mainz Psalter: <i>Psalterium Benedictinum cum canticis et hymnis,</i> for Bursfeld use. [Mainz:] Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 29 August 1459. £5,000 to £10,000.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Melville (Herman). <i>White Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War,</i> 1st edition, London, 1850. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Bracton (Henry de). <i>De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae,</i> 1st edition, 1569. Ex libris Sir Daniel Dun (c.1545-1617). £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Edgar (Thomas). <i>The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights,</i> 1st edition, 1632. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Donne (John). <i>Poems,</i> 3rd edition, 1639. Ex libris Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982). £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Mandeville (Bernard). <i>The Fable of the Bees,</i> 1st edition, 1714. Rare inspiration for the Wealth of Nations. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Honter (Johannes, & others). <i>De Cosmographiae rudimentis,</i> Basel, 1561. Ex libris Georg Joachim Rheticus (1514-1574). £5,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Lincoln (Abraham). Military commission signed, Washington, 1864, and related documents. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Faraday (Michael). Iron filings diagram on waxed blue paper, c.1850. £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Felixmüller (Conrad). <i>ABC,</i> 1st edition, Dresden, 1925. One of 10 hand-coloured copies. Ex libris Eduard Rosenbaum (1887-1979). £3,000 to £5,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Autographs<br>December 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Kelmscott Press. <i>The Order of Chivalry,</i> 1893. One of 225 copies; presentation copy from Sydney Cockerell. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Anna Livia Plurabelle,</i> 1st edition, New York, 1928. One of 50 special copies on green paper. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Dominic Winter, Dec. 11:</b> Orwell (George). <i>Homage to Catalonia,</i> 1st edition, 1938. £2,500 to £3,300
  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Archive of almost 500 Quaker letters written between leading members of the Society of Friends in Ireland between about 1770 and 1830. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Heraldic Grants to the Delaval Family of Northumberland Manuscripts: 9 May 1761. Patent of Stephen Martin Leake. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Unique Manuscript – Miniature Book by Seamus Heaney. Holograph manuscript copy by Heaney of his poem <i>Mad Sweeney’s Praise of Trees</i>. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Yeats, Mangan and John McCall, with an ALS Yeats [W.B.]. <i>The Wanderings of Ossian and other Poems.</i> London, 1889. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Toome</i>, illustrated by Jane Proctor. National College of Art and Design 1980. Extremely rare Heaney title limited to 15 copies. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Young (Ella). <i>Celtic Wonder Tales,</i> illustrated by Maud Gonne (four colour plates and other decorations). 1910. Signed by Gonne with an original sketch. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> The Yeats Brothers “Jack & William” Yeats (Jack B.) RHA (1839-1922). An attractive small pencil portrait of his son Jack Yeats, aged perhaps 10-12, drawing of a bearded man on rear [with] a second drawing. €1,000 to €1500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> 18th c. Manuscript Volumes on French Peerage Manuscript: “Recueil de tous les actes concernant les Ducs & Pairs de France… Depuis l’an 900 jusqu’en 1660.” €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Churchill (Winston Spencer). <i>The River War, An Historical Account of The Reconquest of the Soudan.</i> 2 vols. roy 8vo L. 1899. First Edn. €800 to €1200.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Rare Books & Literature Sale<br>December 10, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Important Scientific Association Presentation Copy - Tyndall (John). <i>Heat considered as A Mode of Motion…</i> 1863. €600 to €800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Receipt Signed by Chippewa Chiefs Document dated 24 May 1845 signed by five “Chippewa chiefs on the River Thames.” €400 to €600.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 10:</b> Bury (Lady Charlotte). <i>The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany, Valombrosa, Camaldoli, Laverna.</i> Lg. oblong folio L. (J. Murray) 1833. First Edn. €250 to €350.

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