During the second quarter of 2012, the Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM), recorded a continuing climb for the most popular categories of Arts/Photography/Architecture and Modern Firsts. The authors scale recorded a superior performance for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Victor Hugo.
The general level for rare book pricing ticked higher in an upward trend parallel to the slow and steady climb that took shape towards the end of last year. Despite Europe’s financial concerns, the first half of 2012 left the rare book market relatively unaffected. Tangible assets such as rare books, art, fine wine, coins, baseball cards and so forth, while lacking liquidity, are used to provide a good alternative investment other than stocks and bonds and an additional level of diversification.
The RBSM group consisting of art, photography and architecture reached its highest level since the inception of the RBSM three years ago. The genre of Modern Firsts has returned to its prior normal levels, and the strong groupings of Children’s and young adult, Exploration, Military, World History and Government, Nature, Poetry and Literary criticism, Religion & Theology, as well as Science remained strong.
The author breakdown exhibited two spikes: one for J.R.R Tolkien, and the other for Victor Hugo. Over the last couple of years, Peter Jackson’s movies have added a significant amount of new Tolkien fans and Tolkien book collectors, pushing pricing for the most collectible Tolkien first editions higher. Peter Jackson has in fact finished the shooting of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, just this week, and is now working on finalizing the cuts. Film adaptations of books into film have historically fueled demand for the original written form of the story. In the case of Victor Hugo, however, the increased interest may not be attributed to any recent film production despite such farfetched associations as the very successful release of Hugo with its 5 Oscars. The film Hugo was in fact based on Brian Selznick’s celebrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Last April 4th, on the 210th anniversary of Victor Hugo’s birth, Christie’s auctioneers conducted an event in Paris titled The Victor Hugo collection. A total of 415 books, manuscripts, paintings, engravings, photographs, and other personal collectibles estimated to be worth € 1,000,000 were sold at the auction. The final proceeds from the event actually turned out to be much higher, at €3,229,537. Bidders drove prices higher for one of kind rare items. During this event the highest price paid for a Victor Hugo book went to a lot of two works – Odes et Ballads and Les Orientales, which included a first edition of Les Orientales, and had an estimated value of €800 – €1,200. They sold for €25,000 instead.