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Why collect books

There are various reasons why people can, even should, collect books.

Very little, other than perhaps music, reminds you more about a period of your life, be it in childhood or the various stages of adulthood, than books. This could be one genre, one author or maybe several authors but having them on your shelves can bring back an interesting assortment of memories and emotions.

It is, of course, in the eye of the beholder but for many, a shelf with your favourite books can be a thing of beauty. The dustwappers are also often rightly regarded as works of art in their own right

The value of first editions can rise as well as fall but for some people that is part of the challenge. There is no doubt that some collectors have seen the value of their collection rise dramatically in value over a period of time.

Love of books:
Perhaps the best reason of all?

Some further thoughts on ‘Investment’:

Modern Classics are such for very good reasons. By modern classics I mean books like Lucky Jim, Catch 22*, Brighton Rock, James Bond, A Handful of Dust, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Animal Farm, Jeeves, Brave New World, Wolf Hall*, Midnight’s Children et al. Books that are so established they have become school texts, famous films, prize-winners. They are both famous and, generally, readable. First editions of such books are highly sought after and the better the condition, the higher the prices paid. An author’s signature can increase the value by up to 10 times (Depending on who the author is and on their proclivity for book signing. One of the jokes circulating around book fairs back in the early 90s was that one of the dealers had got a book of immense rarity - an unsigned Jeffrey Archer first edition).

As an investment, books of this nature rarely decline in value while those of a more speculative nature can certainly fluctuate. When Sandstone Books first started operating back in 1989, books by Neville Shute, H.E Bates*, Dick Francis*, C.S Forrester (Hornblowers)* were very much in demand. Similarly, in the 1990s, Morse*, Sharpe*, Dalziel* were very collectable heroes. The value of most of these plateaued in the last 10 to 15 years and have only recently started to slowly rise again.

Those books that are also, or becoming so, pretty much established have to include the 'Golden Age of Detective Fiction' and, as they begin to fade in the memory, it will be interesting if the prices plateau or continue to rise. As it will for the 'second division', those books that don't currently attract huge prices but are still very popular. I include in these the likes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy*, Watership Down, Jurassic Park*, Birdsong, Dune*, A Good Man in Africa, The Cruel Sea*, The Shining, King Rat* and so many more.

There will always be inspired selections, how I wish we started acquiring Harry Potter’s back in the late ‘90s. We got it right on some, especially with some of the short-listed Booker Prize nominees but we are still waiting patiently for the Terry Pratchett’s to escalate as anticipated. We seem to have got it wrong with some others, Allan Mallinson proving to be particularly disappointing

If collectors are lucky enough to stumble on a value for money ‘classic’ they are indeed very fortunate. Mostly though, we are left to anticipate the market which can be quite a challenge. Annoyingly I can’t find the quote but I think it was GB Shaw who, back in the ‘30’s, lamented over the premium price book-sellers put on certain books, asking why it was that books by one author can be regarded as much more valuable than those by another equally talented contemporary author. Something that still holds true today even if, more recently, the numbers in the print run have become more relevant.

And, in the words of Michael Dirda from the Washington Post: “As book collectors know all too well: We only regret our economies, never our extravagances.”

*Available on this site at the time of writing

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