“Without Wall Street many forms of books, incunables, high spots of modern literature, are already unobtainable by the average collector or even fairly well-to-do collectors. Think Great Gatsby at over a $100k…Look what happened in the art market, where paintings that used to cost thousands are now hundreds of thousands, and paintings that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars are now millions of dollars….
If Wall Street gets hold of books and turns them into high priced investment widgets, then look out. No one will be able to afford them any more and some of the joy of collecting will be gone.”
This quote from The Man who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession came from a book dealer upon hearing that book collections were being characterized in Worth magazine as good investments. It certainly hard to imagine people like to Vogels collecting in todays market, which bounced back from the financial crisis without losing much of the gains it has made over the past 20 years.
Does the rare book market share the same future? If so, I’d better scrounge up my first editions. It’s interesting that this book dealer, who would profit for this more than the average collector potentially, doesn’t like the idea of pricing people out of their collecting hobby. The dealers arguably benefit more than the collectors or artists, because many collectors are priced out and because fewer contemporary artists make the cut for the higher prices being paid at auction. But on the other hand, perhaps it is a sign of the health of the art market than it can command such record high prices.
By the way, the book itself is proving quite enjoyable. It’s the true story of a book thief who stole rare books and hoarded them in the modest apartment he shared with his father, not unlike the art thief of my novel who steals to create his own personal collection that he keeps at his mother’s house.