Alternative Investment Guide - Rare Books

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Dealer in antiquarian books and sometime book-shop owner Nancy Foy outlines the thrills and spills of the book market

The book market doesn't behave like the stock market or the housing market. Like them it has its own jargon ('foxed eps', 'light offsetting'), its own perceptions of value ('good' means 'not good'), its own fads (C S Forester is up, E P Forster is down). Unlike other investments, books bring out personal quirkiness, and inexplicable elements of love. If a book won't sell, put the price up, they say.

If you're trying to buy or sell a book that's out of print, Abebooks (born as Advanced Book Exchange) is the only game in town. This single web site carries a database of about 50 million books, from almost 15,000 dealers all over the world. Yet the numbers of antiq...

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26th Jan 2005 15:39

Not a Quick Win
Whilst agreeing with most of Nancy's views I would emphasise that like all alternative markets only get involved in Books if you love them (and then selling any of them becomes a problem).
With modern Firsts (post 1960) condition is absolutely paramount and the lack of a dustwrapper can reduce a books value to one tenth. For older books collectors are more forgiving (try finding a First of Brighton Rock in any condition).
For investment go for the classic authors: eg Orwell, Greene, Joyce, Beatrix Potter. Beware modern fashions: eg a First of "The English Patient" was fetching £300 when "hot" a few years back but has now settled at less than £100: similarly Captain Corelli.
Boot sales can be a source but take time and you will quickly recognise the local group of book experts who will fillet a boot sale in 10 minutes (you have to be up early and be lucky).
Bargains can be found: over the last 5 years I have found: pristine first of Rankin's "Knots and Crosses" (~£700, 1901 Directory of Gibralter (~£200), Bundle of 1920's Meccano magazines (~£400)
Like any hobby you have to develop a feel for books and instinctively be aware of the value of the unusual: of course you still make mistakes and these get relegated to the garage (no room in the house!).

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