In a week where a first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice sold for a record £139,250, its clear books can be so much more than a great read. Rare book expert Clive Farahar reveals the secrets to investing in your bookshelf.
Buy the books you love
Book values fluctuate. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings went through the roof after the film came out, with a set selling for as much as £25,000. But that market won’t last. So pleasure, enjoyment and enthusiasm for what you buy is the most important thing.
Start with 18th and 19th century classics
Authors from this period are incredibly reasonable; you can pick up a first edition Jane Austen for around £150. Try 19th century travellers like Livingston, Stanley, Parry and Cook or authors like George Elliot or Charles Dickens they're some of the cheapest books to invest in.
People will always want classicslike Beatrix Potter, because it reminds them of their childhood. There was a 1902 first edition that I valued it at £25,000. And in American the hippy generation has now grown up, got rich and they’re buying beatnik authors like Jack Keurouac because it was part of their youth.
Condition is key
You want the book to be in as original condition as possible, so look carefully at the cover, the printed labels and the bindings. An original condition book may not be the prettiest on the bookshelf but it is the most rare, and therefore worth the most.
Do your research
Make yourself asknowledgeable about the market as possible. Look through eBay, browse online and talk to your friendly local book seller. If they are a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, they’re obliged to give you the best advice that they can.
Our Top Spots for Discovering Book Bargains
- Southbank Book Market, London: London’s best kept book secret, southbankcentre.co.uk
- The Old Cinema, Hay on Wye: The top spot in this book-filled town, haycinemabookshop.co.uk
- Barter Books, Northumberland: Dubbed 'The British Library of secondhand bookshops', barterbooks.co.uk
- The Book shop in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway: Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop, the-bookshop.com
- The Haunted Bookshop, Cambridge: Specialises in children’s and illustrated books, sarahkeybooks.co.uk