As the year of the Kindle and the Nook came to a close, one trend proved to be here for the long haul: “digitalization is increasing prices of rare and fine physical books.” In fact, 2011 proved to be a great year for rare book sellers as collectors bid prices higher and there is every indication to believe that this trend will continue during 2012.
While the general level of pricing increased in the majority of the categories we tracked throughout the past year, our Rare Book Sales Monitor (RBSM) recorded some interesting shifts in a number of genres during this final Quarter of 2011. Notably “Poetry and Literary Criticism”, and “Military, World History and Government,” have spiked upward during this final Quarter of the year. At the same time, strong performers such as the categories of “Modern first editions” and “Art/Photography/Architecture,” did finally reach a level of plateau as the year wound down.
From Baudelaire to Frost it was a time for poetry collectors to rejoice as it was a rich season for verse. A highlight of the group’s performance was Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” that sold for a record price of $230,500 USD. Unlike the collectors of art, photography or even some of the modern first editions, poetry as well as history and government are very slow to appreciate in value but have been holding steady. They are more likely to be described as items of a “slow but steady” market.
We have decided against making any changes to the RBSM category and author breakdown at this time since our analysis did not result in a significant shift to justify such an action as referenced in our 3rd Quarter write-up. That being said, the works of William Faulkner are still under pressure, as the prices failed to keep up with the general levels of increase observed in comparables.