Cash for Classics!
At the risk of sounding crass and shallow, I ‘m hoping somebody someday will be able to cash in on my book habit. Yes, we all know that the only pure and holy reason to ever purchase a nicely bound book is to be enriched by the words contained between its covers, but that doesn’t erase the fact that fifty years from now my book collection could be good for some serious cash. Have you ever checked out the on-line used and rare book seller Abebooks.com? It’ll blow your mind! There are evidently people out there willing to fork over big bucks for an old book so long as it’s a first edition hardback in good condition and a classic.
Got a nice copy of The World According to Garp, by John Irving lying around the house? If you do, stop using it as a doorstop or whatever and offer it up on Abebooks. Garp isn’t even all that old – it came out in 1978 – and sure, it was a best seller for a while and they turned it into a nice movie and all, but I wouldn’t ever describe it as a CLASSIC classic. Even still, it is currently going for $580. How about Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint which came out in 1969? Abe’s asking $975 for it!
Go back a little further in time and the values leap exponentially, especially if you’re lucky enough to own a classic whose author died young due to excessive drugs, alcohol and overly casual roadside sex. Case in point: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is currently going for, get this … $9,500! Go even further back in time and we’re talking truly serious dough. A nicely preserved first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is currently fetching $25,000. Throw in a Moby Dick and a Scarlett Letter or two and retire early! If you’re fortunate enough to have a couple of these winners signed by the authors, start a foundation!!
So the question is, which first editions currently sitting on my shelf will turn out to be bonanzas for my lucky heirs? To properly balance my investment portfolio and project its value fifty years from now, I’ve devised a simple rating system.
If I’m confident a book will definitely become a classic, I give it, conservatively speaking, a 50-year future value of $5,000. If I only think it will probably become a classic, I give it a future value of $3,000. Maybe, maybe not = $1,000. Probably not = $100. Definitely not = $0.
Using this carefully calibrated scientific system, here’s what a 10-book pod of first edition books I have purchased over a two year period (randomly selected for the purpose of this exercise) will be worth in fifty years:
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach … definitely a classic = $5,000
Tinkers, by Paul Harding … definitely a classic = $5,000
The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel … definitely a classic = $5,000
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell … probably a classic = $3,000
Canada, by Richard Ford … probably a classic = $3,000
State of Wonder, by Ann Platchett … maybe a classic = $1,000
The Round House, by Louise Erdrich… maybe a classic = $1,000
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey… maybe a classic = $1,000
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak …. Probably not a classic = $100
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson … definitely not a classic = $0
Total Value of this particular 10-book pod = $24,100
Assuming there are likely around five additional 10-book pods of hard back first editions of equivalent value currently sitting on my bookshelves, and that over the course of my remaining days (again conservatively thinking based on the fact that I am a few pounds overweight and have a weakness for peanut M&Ms) I’ve got time to purchase at least 12 more 10-book pods of nice first editions. If this proves true, the ending value of my library will be worth (discounting for messy notes scribbled in the margins and a few coffee mug stains on the dust jackets) a whopping $433,800! That’s nearly half a mil!
Which, in 2063, will probably be just enough money to allow my grandchildren to give their children a nice dinner out at Chuckie Cheese.