Rare Book Marketplace LiquidityThe Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM) analyzes prices of rare books traded at on-line marketplaces, auctions and various book fairs to report valuation trends by genre and author.  The data collection process remained relatively static since the original collection was built back in 2011. The RBSM engine, however, has undergone several improvements in order to tackle some of the complexities associated with the heterogeneity of rare books.

Liquidity is one such factor recently incorporated into the engine. While changes in pricing trends may be of great value to collectors and investors of rare books, the factor of liquidity is often ignored. For those not familiar with the term, liquidity is a measure of the ability to sell an item for cash when so desired. In other words, it is an indication of the difficulty or ease associated with finding a buyer. Often times, sellers are forced to lower their price below market valuation in order to turn it to a quick sale and cash. Books that lack liquidity are usually under considerable pricing pressure.

As in the case of commodity exchanges, the primary determinant of liquidity is the spread between bidding price (bid) and asking price (ask).  Whether selling on-line, at an auction, or bookstore, etc., there is a certain price that the seller is asking for and whether it trades at that price, depends on whether a bidder is willing to buy it at that price. Rare books at the high end of the market tend to exhibit less liquidity trading on-line, than those put up in an auction with a limited timeframe and more dynamic bidding.  The seller without time constraints would rather wait for the price to rise, thus setting a higher ask price and contributing to the valuable book’s liquidity indirectly. The further apart the ask verses the bid, the bigger the spread, the less liquid.

Incorporating the factor of time into the RBSM algorithms is significant. In a market that is considered to lack much liquidity relative to the stock market for example, the factor of time is considerably more important in measuring price changes. For example, a rare book that sold for twice its estimated value after being available for sale for a year should be of lesser importance than a similar sale for twice its estimated worth that was in the market for merely a day before being sold.

During the 3rd Quarter of 2014 the RBSM recorded a significant price change in the genre of “Exploration & Discovery.” While sales for the genre throughout this time period registered no change for the most part, an event held by Christies on September 30th reversed that trend. The second sale of the Brooke-Hitching library managed to sell 348 books on Exploration and Discovery, with just two lots remaining unsold. In general, well-organized live auction events with the time factor constraint, are usually less successful at pushing for higher prices even though they do provide an ideal platform for determining market valuations.

The comparables used from this event signified a price increase unanimously. In fact 95% of the books sold at this auction got sold at a higher price than the top end of their estimated valuation. Our own featured complete collection of all 7 octavo Dobbs-Middleton controversy pamphlets sold for £212,500, registering the biggest percentage gain above its valuation at the high end of the event’s offerings.

Liquidity for rare books in general has improved with the introduction of newer channels such as the on-line marketplaces. The market as a whole is presently more efficient and the aggregate of all channel sellers and buyers leads to a closer spread between bid and ask. In the future, RBSM workings will engage even more transaction types in order to capture a more accurate pricing trend. Will the pricing trend for “Exploration & Discovery” continue to increase?   2015 will bring two further sales of the Franklin Brooke-Hitching collection in the spring and autumn. RBSM will be there.

RBSM 3rd Quarter of 2014 RBSM Q3 2014 Authors



Rare, Signed and Forged

by Admin on September 26, 2014

Tolkien signature variations

As there has been an unfortunate increase in the number of forged signatures over the last few years, I have cut back my purchasing of rare books that are signed by their authors and are not guaranteed to be genuine. The following guidelines that I have collected from a variety of sources have proven to be extremely helpful and equally as effective, if not better than hiring an authentication service:

1. Dead or alive. I am more likely to buy a signed book by an author that is still with us today, since the ultimate genuine signature is to witness the author sign the book in front of my very own eyes at a book signing event.  Track records show that signed copy frauds are more prevalent with deceased authors. It is also a good idea while attending one of these events to ask the signee for the inclusion of the date as signatures tend to vary throughout an author’s lifetime.

2. Limited editions. Numbered limited editions are also a pretty safe purchase since such books usually carry additional unique and distinct features, such as  copy numbers, authenticity stamps and so forth.

3. Inscribed not signed. Frauds are less likely to fake a lengthy inscription and would rather forge a signature or trace a short inscription in order to make an autograph look a bit more legitimate, (their favorite is ‘Best wishes’). It also takes more skill and effort, to produce a greater number of words that can pass as original. Furthermore, market valuations favor signed books over inscriptions to someone unimportant, so there is less of an incentive to put the extra energy into the criminal act.

4. Author discrimination. I keep away from names that are very popular with books that are quite scarce and yet easier to find signed in the marketplace. From the most frequent victims – Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, William Faulkner;  to the up and coming – Truman Capote, James Michener, Norman Mailer, Tom Clancy, Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, J.R. Tolkien, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Ray Bradbury. Tolkien for example, did not autograph many books and he most definitely did not sign any US editions. Kerouac was not a very prolific signer of his books and Pynchon almost never signs anything.  On the opposite side, Harper Lee autographed copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for years after it was first published in 1960. If you are planning on purchasing a signed book by J.K. Rowling which was published prior to 2007, you will not have the guarantee offered by the hologram of authenticity that she has adopted on all her signed books since then.

5. Raw material examination. Any autograph before 1960 will be in pencil or ink pen since the felt tip pens, sharpies, paint pens and so forth are products of the 60’s and onward. Forgers prefer using a paint pen because it hides the writer’s fatigue associated with copying or tracing an autograph.

6. Condition, condition, condition. Desirability & collectability are greatly affected by the condition a particular copy is showing. Now I have one more reason to avoid books that are in bad shape – forgeries are in less than perfect condition most of the time, because in order to maximize profits, the less desirable, cheaper copies are being used.

7. “Flat-signed” plus provenance. I never buy a signature-only or “flat-signed” book without adequate provenance provided by the seller.  The most definite type of signature to avoid is the one that appears on an adhesive-backed label bearing the autograph especially in the high end book market. The forger has more than one chance to get it right practicing on a label that can be affixed to the front free paper.

There you have it,  common sense plus a bit of insight, the golden rules for avoiding becoming a victim of a rare book forgery. I cannot stress enough the fact that these are only guidelines for assisting in making the right purchase when it comes to signed books.  Many organizations and dealers are exploiting these unfortunate market deficiencies to suggest that you should strictly make your purchases through dealers that are fully registered with them since they only sponsor dealers that sell authentic material. This is false advertising and the best way to avoid falling a victim to such market pressures is by doing your research for each and every autographed copy that you purchase no matter who the seller is.




Endpapers – Work of Art

September 12, 2014
Thumbnail image for Endpapers – Work of Art

Book collector interests may be driven by a particular author or genre (science, art, modern firsts, exploration etc.), a particular illustrator or artist, a certain series of award winning books, fine bindings in book design, cover or dust jacket art; a printer of fine press books, incunabula or books printed during certain periods, movable parts […]

Read the full article →

Exploration – No Discovery – Big Dispute

August 27, 2014
Thumbnail image for Exploration – No Discovery – Big Dispute

Nothing can be as fascinating in the world of exploration and discovery as some of the early Arctic voyages. Still one of the last frontiers on earth, the region that spans the Arctic Ocean and covers land areas in parts of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States (Alaska), has attracted numerous explorers […]

Read the full article →

There is no Business like Book Business

August 7, 2014
Thumbnail image for There is no Business like Book Business

A 43-year old book is soon to be the business bestseller thanks to Bill Gates.  The reprint of Business Adventures is scheduled to be released Aug 16, but digital publishers that reproduced it as an e-book have sent it to # 1 on Amazon and the New York Times bestseller lists. The book was originally […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Marketplace Shifting Gears

July 25, 2014
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Marketplace Shifting Gears

Towards the end of last century, antiquarian book dealer William S. Reese presented his much publicized view of “The Rare Book Market Today” at Brown University. In this historical retrospect beginning with the depressed years prior to World War II, 1945 was picked to be the year of the greatest buying opportunity, since rare books […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 2nd Quarter 2014

July 11, 2014
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 2nd Quarter 2014

The April 2012 article titled “Adam Smith’s Classic of Modern Economic Thought,” articulated the difficulty in tracking price changes in rare books that exhibit limited transactional activity. The Rare Book Sale Monitor, which tracks monthly sales from multiple channels and compares them to historic quarterly pricing in order to report on significant shifts in pricing […]

Read the full article →

The First Illustrated Textbook of Surgery

June 26, 2014
Thumbnail image for The First Illustrated Textbook of Surgery

During the Golden Age of Islamic science, (750 to 1258 AD) European medical practice was influenced by the important contributions of Muslims such as Al-Razi “Rhazes” (d. 925), Abul Quasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi  “Albucasis” (940 – 1013), Ibn Sina (d. 1037). Al-Zahrawi considered to be the father of modern surgery, diagnosed and treated many […]

Read the full article →

America’s Oldest Continuously Running Rare Book Shop

June 13, 2014
Thumbnail image for America’s Oldest Continuously Running Rare Book Shop

Amongst the lively city of Boston, Massachusetts, a rare book lover’s gem is unearthed. Nestled between grandiose skyscrapers and the inevitable routine city bustle, the oldest continuously running rare book shop is found: Brattle Book Shop. From the delightfully carved wooden sign bearing the shop’s name, to the exquisite front window display, all that encompasses […]

Read the full article →

Book Restoration: Good or Bad?

May 30, 2014
Thumbnail image for Book Restoration: Good or Bad?

Sotheby’s sold Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925, at an auction last month for $377,000 including buyer premium. The lot was traded at the high end of the estimated value, signifying the fact that rare book investors and collectors will pay premium prices to acquire top quality books.  This particular […]

Read the full article →