November 19, 2015

Hot investment tip: Buy old books


J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

There was the Internet bubble, the housing bubble, and now, maybe, the rare book bubble.

Amelia Murray reports for The Telegraph that the value of rare, first edition books has risen 398% over the past ten years, or 8.8% per year.

The most valuable first edition, according to Stanley Gibbons Investments, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (valued at around $375,000), followed by J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (around $100,000). Other titles on Stanley Gibbons’s list of books that have seen a substantial increase in value include shockers George Orwell’s Animal Farm, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

But “The rush to invest,” Murray notes, “has arguably creates speculative bubbles in the prices of some assets.” She encourages potential collectors to choose debuts over an author’s later works (debuts typically have the most conservative print runs) and first editions in pristine condition, and to “keep an eye on upcoming films or related franchises.”

“While there is a difference between rare book collectors and investors,” she says, “there is no reason why you cannot be both.”



Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.