Long ago as a teenager, I decided to sell my collection of first edition Mary Grant Bruces and Ethel Turners. I sold them to Reg O’Connell for $50. They’d cost me almost nothing, having been picked up at opshops. One could argue I’d made an nice profit.
But that wasn’t the point. You really should buy books because you like them, not because you think they are going to make you money. The Rare Book Monthly has a really interesting article about books as investment which I thoroughly recommend. It comes, of course, to the same conclusion.
My apartment in Geneva is covered in bookshelves, we have thousands of books here. Almost none of them are worth more than a dollar or two, but we love being surrounded by them. In fact when I tried, on one occasion, to suggest replacing a much loved series in the most tatty paperbacks with a nice hardcover set, I faced rebellion. ‘But these are the ones I first read, they are the ones I value.’ The value, in other words, has nothing to do with money.
So when we talk of books as investment, whilst the financial adviser is looking at whether it is better to buy a book or a share, a human being should be looking at emotional investment and emotional gains. I’d say that matters at the highest and lowest ends of the market. Buy the first edition 1945 in dust-jacket for thousands of dollars because of how it will make you feel, not because you hope it will perform better than mining shares. Buy the tatty everyman edition in the opshop for $2 because it reminds you of your first time with the book. Books should be about feelings. Should you happen to end up with a book that turns out to be a financial windfall, that’s not even the icing on the cake.