Introducing Rare Book Offer ManagerAlternative type investment mutual funds are often pitched as providing decent returns that are not tied to the fate of stocks or bonds. But getting the right asset mix to deliver on both of these goals has proven quite difficult. Alternative fund strategies, in addition to providing diversification, cushion stock-heavy portfolios by reducing volatility. During the extremely volatile markets of recent months, most of what was labeled as alternative funds did come up short on both of their promises.

The ideal alternative fund should eliminate volatility as much as possible while providing a steady, competitive rate of return. Collectibles are often used to add an extra level of diversification despite lacking liquidity. Within collectibles, (not quite a mainstream investment vehicle), the rare book market is often being considered as the means to “slow but steady” growth.


CBOE VIX® volatility index

VIX® volatility index complements of CBOE

When managed properly, knowledge acquired through specialization is a key component and can be quite rewarding. Investing in rare books is not recommended for everyone due to lack of liquidity, or difficulty of connecting sellers with potential buyers. Ideally, in a perfect rare book marketplace, books are traded in a way similar to stocks. Investment advisors are then able to package the collectibles as part of an alternative type investment for their clients.

The rare book business is capital intensive. It takes a significant sum of money to build and maintain a large inventory, and most booksellers lack funding and they have small inventories. This has always been true to some extent, but the trade is more divided between the few well-capitalized dealers and the majority that strive to grow. The separation is more apparent at book fairs where some are only open to the elite ABAA or IOBA members while others are open to anyone that pays the price for a booth. Small sellers with quality inventory can still do very well, but the disadvantage is obvious.

In an imperfect market, the bid-ask spread, the prices quoted for an immediate sale (ask) and those for an immediate purchase (bid) are relatively static due to the illiquidity of the market. While the Internet has unquestionably added immensely to the liquidity of the rare book market, it still lacks considerably when compared to the stock exchanges. Buyers can easily search for the most competitive “ask” price for the item they are interested in and are able to compare offerings from sellers worldwide but the heterogeneity of rare books is a huge obstacle. In theory, no two used books can be considered alike and thus priced and traded as identical.

Unlike the mechanics of a stock exchange, the buyer’s “bid” information is, to a great extent, hidden from the rare book marketplace. Historic sales, especially those published at auction events, offer a way to determine what bidders have offered. Despite the efficiencies provided by the Internet, for the most part, buyer pricing remains quite hard to collect and analyze. Our Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM) is relying on a variety of sources including auctions, on-line marketplace partnerships and dealer reports to record sale pricing for rare books actively trading hands.

Rare Book Sale Monitor Chart

Rare Book Sale Monitor© Index

In order to improve the efficiency of the marketplace, promote a less imperfect market, and improve the liquidity of this less volatile but rewarding market, we have launched our Rare Book Offer Manager (RBOM). This will allow a buyer to place offers for rare books they are interested in buying. Our network of dealers will consider all offers and try to make a deal. There is no obligation on behalf of the buyer to complete the transaction, and unlike auction events, there is no buyer premium.

Please visit our Rare Book Offer Manager and let us know what you think.



John Tenniel AlicePrinted books usually sit around, demanding very little to survive. Water, mold, smoke, dirt, direct sunlight, insects, bad shelving, fire, human misuse are enemies to avoid for a healthy long life that guarantees a book to outlive its creators. Long lifespan coupled with popularity, may lead to production of multiple new editions, revisions, foreign language translations and artistic renditions. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a fine example of such a long, fertile life!

So far, the book has inspired artists, writers, filmmakers, and even web and game designers in three centuries! Some of these original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects, joined the original manuscript that traveled from its home at the British Library of London to New York’s Morgan Library & Museum, to an exhibit currently underway through October 12, 2015.

The work which has been extremely popular and inspiring worldwide is also very tempting to rare book collectors through a variety of ‘Alice’ collectibles. The scarce first edition that appeared in 1865 as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the iconic illustrations of Sir John Tenniel, was quickly suppressed by Tenniel, who was dissatisfied with its printing quality. Now, only twenty-two copies of this edition are known to have survived. Martin Gardner, one of the world’s leading authorities on Lewis Carroll, recounts the curious collaboration between author and artist in Carroll’s own words:
Mr. Tenniel is the only artist, who has drawn for me, who has resolutely refused to use a model, and declared he no more need one than I should need a multiplication table to work a mathematical problem! I venture to think that he was mistaken and that for want of a model, he drew several pictures of ‘Alice’ entirely out of proportion — head decidedly too large and feet decidedly too small.’ [1]

Arthur Rackham AliceAnd so, the imaginations of artists throughout the world expanded exponentially. From Lewis Carroll’s own pen and ink drawings in the original manuscript, to the first edition drawings of John Tenniel, followed by English book illustrators Arthur Rackham and Harry Rountree, during the very beginning of the 20th century. Rackham’s first edition ‘Alice’, London: William Heinemann, & New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1907, has 13 full page color illustrations and was first released with 1,130 copies, 30 of which designated as presentation copies. Depending on condition, expect to find this children’s favorite selling well above $1,000.

Marie Laurencin Alice






In 1930, Black Sun Press and Marie Laurencin put out an unusual Art Deco version with six original color lithographs, signed in the plate by the artist and produced from a set of colored pastel drawings. The total production consisting of 720 copies, 50 of which were printed on Japan paper, are selling for about $5,000.


Salvator Dali AliceTwo surrealist contributions with incredible interpretations that generated a great deal of collector interest include an offering from the master of Surrealism himself, Salvador Dali. New York: Maecenas Press-Random House, 1969; 2500 copies with twelve color lithographs and an etching, is selling for around $10,000. The more recent “Alice au pays des merveilles – de l’autre côte du miroir,” Paris: Diane de Selliers, 2006; illustrated by Pat Andrea, double volume in slipcase with 100 copies, in a limited edition that contain signed full-page pencil-drawings, is selling for $1,000.

Pat Andrea Alice






Since she stepped out of the Victorian era and the underground, Alice is destined to continue to travel through the polymorphism of infinity, and is bound to keep inspiring the imagination of artists worldwide. Child-woman, half-nymphet, half pin-up girl, ingenuous and fearless, shrewd and talkative, Alice makes friends from all generations that have appeared since her created existence, and is certain to make more from generations to come.




1. Martin Gardner, “The Annotated Alice: The definitive Edition,”  (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Nov.17, 1999)


The Rare Books of Hunter Thompson

August 28, 2015
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Here is a question for all Hunter Thompson collectors out there: If you had to choose between being the proud owner of Thompson’s first or second book which would you choose? The choice, of course, is between Thompson’s famous 1967 Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or the 1971 […]

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Rare Books Digest Sentiment Analysis

August 13, 2015
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Based on an analysis of the interaction we have received over the last two years, on our public-facing social media: Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comments and Pinterest, we have prepared the Static Four Quadrant chart exhibited below. Data received through Facebook and Twitter is the primary source of standard follower activity (y-axis), whereas social […]

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Book conservation / Book restoration: Deciding upon a course of action

July 30, 2015
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Book repair, book restoration, book preservation, book conservation or do nothing at all. With a worn or damaged book in hand, the choices for treatment (or no treatment) may seem bewilderingly complex. Add to this the contradictory advice and opinions offered by different authorities, it may seem impossible to come up with a ‘best’ course […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor Update – 2nd Quarter 2015

July 17, 2015
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In the midst of the Greece crisis reaching yet another boiling point, the RBSM recorded little or no change in ancient, classical Greek authors’ works covering history, science, geography, philosophy and literature. It has definitely not been the type of economic event with significant impact on antiquarian books. The supply of ancient Greek books got […]

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Once Upon a Simpler Time

June 26, 2015
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In the midst of our current, diverse, fast paced, competitive, corporate ladder climbing, rat race of a day-to-day society, nearly every work-worn and weary individual holds in common the ability to think back to a simpler time during childhood where anything and everything was possible between the covers of a book. Throughout that small window […]

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The Bright Side of the Black Sun

June 12, 2015
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It has the chemistry of a major hit – importance, scarcity, artistic impression, controversy, and mystique. Yet the small imprint of Editions Narcisse, later renamed Black Sun, has not performed like a major hit. It all became obvious a year ago during the Sotheby’s Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana, auction event, held in New […]

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Rare Book Market – An Anatomical Exercitation through the Generations

May 22, 2015
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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 […]

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Eloise from 6 to being 60 years old

May 8, 2015
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“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 […]

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