An Anatomical Exercitation through the Generations

Speculations on the future of the rare book market analyze the dynamics behind both the demand and the supply quite extensively. Demand for rare books in the United States and arguably the rest of western civilization is largely consumed by some long-standing cultural behaviors. Generalizations that are based on collector stereotypes that are broken up by today’s six living generations are quite interesting to ponder about. For the most part, supply has remained quite stationary, unaffected across generational segments while buyer motives are more dynamic.

The oldest living generation in America today is the GI Generation and it includes those born between the years of 1901 and 1926. The children of the WWI generation and fighters during WWII grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression. They as a result developed a strong sense of personal civic duty, loyalty, hard work, patriotism, respect for authority and self-reliance. This is the generation that gave rise to the comic strip of Superman, first appearing in 1939. At a very young age they may have tuned in to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. Book collecting was not a very popular activity at the time, but some very famous collections such as the one accumulated by Frank T. Siebert, which concentrated on American Indians and the American frontier, stood out nevertheless.

A stronger economy changed the mood of the market to optimistic and pumped some interest into the then depressed rare book market. The Mature/Silents, born between 1927 and 1945, demonstrated a disciplined, focused and cautious approach to book collecting enlisting some of the richest, most free-spending retirees in history. It includes avid readers of ephemera and intensive collectors that put energy into collecting a single author’s complete works. This is the generation of famous civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. JFK and Robert F. Kennedy; and writers/artists like Gloria Steinem and Andy Warhol. This is the generation that popularized the works of the Beat Generation that include William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959) and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957).

The combined force of the Silents and the 77 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964), brought about the changes to the rare book market observed during the 70’s. Up until the mid 60’s, it was predominantly considered a buyer’s market which changed to a seller’s market as the supply of rare books available for sale dropped significantly. The Boomers brought a care-free purchasing, lacking any serious time investment, “buy it now and use credit” type of attitude to the market. These practices boosted the demand for high spots that in turn caused a tremendous increase in pricing of the most sought after volumes of the late 70’s and 80’s.

The less passionate, less dedicated collector became more obvious as Generation X (1965-1980) formed. Short on loyalty and wary of commitment while being extremely conscious of market comparative values, they originally showed to have urgent wants but struggled to buy. A generation that is still attracted to labels and brand names, they also have been focusing on the high end of the market with a flamboyant excess to collecting.

The new frontier in book collecting fueled by the Internet brings a new generation along with it – Y/Millennium (1981-2000). Growing up in a digital environment with unlimited access to information, this generation emphasizes digital literacy and broadens the market beyond the collection of high spots. The technological advancement revitalized the ability to search and compare offerings from a number of sellers worldwide from the convenience of the home or the office within minutes. Technology savvy Millenniums bring back the well-informed intensive collector that first appeared back during the Silent generation. More recently, social media offers significantly better levels of collaboration, knowledge sharing and market efficiency to the rare book market.

And that is where we are today, standing at the edge of the new frontier with new opportunities for the next generation – Z/Boomlets (born after 2001), our youngest generation. This is a generation that has never known a world without computers or cell phones. They are geared to be a larger generation in sheer numbers than even the Baby Boomers! As to what kind of books they will collect, only “time” will tell.



Kay Thompson’s Eloise

“I am Eloise. I am six.” From these six simple words, the reader is at once hurled on board a captivating and enchanting amusement park of laughter, good times, and the impish antics of one very self assured and important little girl.

For countless generations, Kay Thompson’s Eloise books have delighted, enthralled and amused children all around the world. Since Eloise first sprang to life from the pen of Thompson onto the pages of the very first Eloise book, her magnetic personality, her mischievous habits and her charming quick wit have found their way into the hearts of children of all ages.

Though it is not quite known whether the Eloise books actually are loosely based on the childhood of Liza Minnelli as they are rumored to be, Hilary Knight’s masterful illustrations impeccably bring to life the heart and soul of the six year old whirlwind of undying energy and schemes the world has come to love.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating qualities about the young Eloise is the fact that she resides at the prestigious Plaza Hotel in New York city, and charges absolutely everything on a mysterious and seemingly boundless account. Indeed, Eloise’s iconic phrase of “charge it please! Thank you very much!” has become an immovable and unalterable component of every one of the Eloise books, and certainly one that Eloise fans expect to find amongst the pages of each of Eloise’s stories.

Charge accounts aside, another endearing quality pertaining to Eloise and her comical tales is the fact that beneath all the glamour, indisputable flair and zany pizzazz that encompasses her grandiose persona, Eloise is, in fact, just an ordinary six year old girl who is deserving to express her unique individuality. As Thompson concisely describes, “Eloise is a little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York. She is not yet pretty, but she is already a Person.”

While perhaps not all of us were foiling our mother’s lawyers into ingesting rubber chocolates at the age of six, many, if not most of us were feverishly trying to avoid those inevitable routine vaccinations! Eloise’s manner of doing so, and her coping tactics once her vaccines have been administered are sure to amuse any reader, regardless of his or her age.

Naturally, it would be dreadfully remiss to avoid mentioning Weenie and Skiperdee! Eloise’s beloved dog and turtle accompany her on even her most exotic of quests. What’s that? Eloise is needed in France, France, France? Without a moment to lose the three friends hop onto a plane and are France bound with Nanny.

Today, 60 years later, appreciation for the fabulous six year old also extends to the rare book market. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955 first editions of Eloise with a dust jacket are being sold for over $1,000.

This spring, why not delve into the animated and eccentric adventures of Eloise? You’ll be “rawther” glad you did!



Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 1st Quarter 2015

April 24, 2015
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Up until recent times, financial advisors have been reluctant to recommend “alternative” types of investments in collectibles, such as rare books, to their customers. Primary concerns circle around the factors of illiquidity, additional costs for storage, insurance, transportation and fraud. The lack of standard quantitative performance measurements comparing the long term returns of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, […]

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The Appeal of an Enigma

April 9, 2015
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A 16-page Don McLean manuscript, featuring the lyrics of the iconic song, American Pie, including the writer’s notes and an extra verse which was never recorded, was auctioned by Christie’s in New York on April 7, 2015. The manuscript achieved the 3rd highest auction price for an American literary manuscript selling for $1,205,000 (€1,109,182), including […]

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Graphic Novel Market Vision

March 13, 2015
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Graphic novel sales are outpacing the overall book sales at comics’ stores, bookstores and online booksellers. This trend includes both graphic novels and book-format comic collections. The audience for this type of books has recently expanded to include more women and younger readers as a result of a generational shift powered by the acceptance of […]

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Raymond Carver Short Story Wins on the Big Screen

February 27, 2015
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Bibliophilia rejoice when the Academy Award winner chosen is a film adaptation of a favorite book. It is a very special year when the film that got the Best Picture award is due to receive an extra bonus of publicity and a boost in readership. 2014 is about to become a manifestation of that through the Oscar winning American […]

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Valentine, Caviare, and Bittersweet by Grant Richards

February 11, 2015
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So many people read romance novels these days that it is hard to accept the mediocre performance that the genre exhibited in our rare book index – Rare Book Sales Monitor, over the last year. This trend was recorded primarily through sales of modern romance editions that lag behind the corresponding romance classics. The most sought-after romantic novels […]

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Some Disordered Interior Geometries

January 23, 2015
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American photographer Francesca Woodman started making photographs when she was 13 years old and had a working span of eight and a half years before her death at the age of 22, in 1981. Her suicide came a few days after the release of the only artist’s book to get published during her lifetime – […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter 2014

January 9, 2015
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Investment experts engaged in discussions on the topic of making money in collectibles are quick to point out that investing in collectibles may not be a good idea. Their argument mainly focuses on the lack of liquidity and efficiency of the marketplace causing such investments to be highly speculative in nature. Rare Books Digest has […]

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Bible Scarcity Reaches the Civil War

December 20, 2014
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Collectors who buy and sell Bibles have pushed the pricing of older editions printed prior to the 1700’s in Europe, and prior to the 1800’s in North America, to unreachable levels for the majority of liturgical buyers. During the second half of the last century, institutional and private collectors have driven these editions of the […]

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