Shakespeare’s First Folio may be out of reach, but collectible books can be a lucrative business

Collectible books First Folio VA

Recently a librarian in a small town in France had the discovery of a lifetime when he realised a book of Shakespeare plays in the library’s collection was actually a rare ‘First Folio,’ printed almost 400 years ago. Rare books are a popular item among collectors, and few come rarer than this one. Only around 200 Folios exist in usable condition, and those that are still in existence often sell for a premium; a ‘near-perfect’ copy sold for £3.7 million at auction in 2001. A good find for this librarian, but the reality is that very few are that lucky. So how can you become a rare book collector yourself?

Learn what’s valuable

Naturally, books of great cultural, scientific, or religious significance tend to command the highest fees. The most expensive book of all time is the Codex Leicester, a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1994 it was bought for £19.6m (£34.8m when adjusted for inflation) by tech industry magnate Bill Gates.

But that’s not to say that fiction isn’t worth collecting. At New Bond Street Pawnbrokers we frequently see rare fiction books that are worth tens of thousands of pounds. We’ve seen Harry Potter first editions, Oscar Wilde first editions, and more. So what’s our advice, if you want to make money in the rare collectible books market?

Knowledge of literature is paramount

First, you need a keen eye for literature. A lot of capital to invest up front, of course, will also help, but if your eye for the latest big thing in the literary world is honed enough, you could end up making a decent amount of money and pay little more than a book’s cover price. If there’s a certain buzz around a new writer that’s just coming onto the scene, it may be worth shelling out for a first edition copy of their books. Collectors who did just that when a writer called J.K. Rowling came onto the scene can now reap the benefits, as a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can fetch tens of thousands of pounds if in good condition.

It’s not worth much if it’s in bad condition

Secondly, you must be able to keep items in good condition if you want a good price for them. Just look at a first edition set of the Lord of the Rings novels by J.R.R. Tolkien; a full set in good condition can be worth anywhere from £10-20,000, but a poorly kept set could fetch less than £100 per book.

Be patient

Thirdly, patience is key – the aforementioned Harry Potter book only commands such a high price because its rarity has increased over time. Those who picked up a copy years ago will have had to wait a long time for it to reach the value it has today – let’s not forget it was released almost two decades ago.

If you’re a literature fan, and you can fulfil these criteria, there’s no reason you can’t make some money from this lucrative investment market.

New Bond Street Pawnbrokers are a high-end pawn shop in Mayfair, London. They deal mainly in vintage watches, fine wines, art, and to a lesser extent cars and other luxury items. NBSP are a member of the Art Loss Register, raising awareness of art theft worldwide.                                  

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