The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 5, February 3, 2013, Article 31


Dennis Tucker writes:

E-Sylum readers might be interested in this article by Abebook’s Richard Davies, published last week in Publishers Weekly. I like his advice of spending time in book shops, and his assertion that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have fun with rare books. I’m not so crazy about the idea of facsimile dustjackets (unless they’re authorized by the publisher or copyright holder).

Thanks. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

It might just be me, but I believe far fewer ‘Physical Books are Dead’ articles are being published these days. Just as well because book collecting is alive and well, and co-existing happily alongside digital media. Avid readers are still becoming book collectors. Beautiful, rare and interesting editions are still being bought and sold.

The first question for any potential book collector to answer is ‘What should I collect?’ The answer is simple – collect the books you love. I always advise collecting for love rather than financial gain. It could be an author or a literary group, every possible edition of a single title, a genre or a sub-genre, an era or a publisher, first editions, signed copies or books illustrated by a particular artist.

Can you make money from collecting rare books? Yes, but like the stock market, the value of books can decrease as well as increase. Can you build a collection of valuable books? Again yes, but, again like the stock market, it takes knowledge and research to strike gold. Are books a good long-term investment? It depends – can you identify books that will gain value over a couple of decades?

Collecting books for financial gain is not easy. That’s why it’s good to start with the books you love and know well.

If you already have first editions from up-and-coming authors on your shelves, you need patience. The big bucks are generated by books from legends of literature such as Kipling, Hemingway, Kafka and Tolkien – writers who have inspired millions of readers. It can take a long time to become legendary.

Another key question is how much should be spent on a book collection? Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to spend $40,000 on a signed first edition of Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Set a budget and stick to it. If you are collecting books that have prices out of your reach, be smart – spread your net into charity book sales, library sales, and thrift shops. Spot undervalued copies and snap them up. I met one collector who loved first editions from Fleming but could not afford them – instead he bought later editions and added facsimiles of first edition dust jackets. Facsimile jackets can be bought for $20.

Good advice. We all love coin books, right? So if you haven't already, start collecting them! -Editor

Dave Bowers adds:

Concerning facsimile book jackets, these are to the book business what Chinese counterfeit coins are to American numismatics.

About 10 to 20 years ago I thought it a nice idea to collect one each of the old editions of The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift. I bought a few at antiquarian book shows then learned of the leading dealer specialist. I then bought a couple dozen from that source, only to learn (from a bibliophile friend) that all of the dust jackets were fake. Andy Brown, who used to conduct the Gotham Book Store in NYC, also a friend, dealt in first-edition novels, charging market prices for rarities—but constantly being offered copies w repro covers.

In numismatics we are lucky that there are laws against counterfeiting (although not always easy to have enforced). For fake book jackets there is no consumer protection. Sellers usually show a picture or whatever and do not describe; buyers assume they are original!

To read the complete article, see: Book Collecting 101 (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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