Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book collecting ain't what it used to be

When it comes to Civil War book collecting, Paul Taylor always has something interesting to say.  Check out his latest commentary on the current state of the lifestyle.  [While you're at it, take a look at his new book about Civil War Detroit titled "Old Slow Town". I have a copy and it looks good.]

My own collecting bug is geared toward modern books -- from the Centennial period to today -- and I've always considered it an intellectual and aesthetic investment rather than any kind of financial one. Paul's comment that the peak period of collecting was the mid-1990s, before internet tools broke down the traditional forces propping up prices, has the ring of truth to it.  I recall a dealer remarking in a 2005 article somewhere that a good Civil War book collection valued at $200,000 in the 90s was only worth $40,000 a decade later.   Going on ten years more, the value gap has undoubtedly only widened further.


  1. Interesting post indeed.

    The advent of the Internet changed one primary aspect of basic economics by making everyone a dealer. In turn, that increased the supply and ease of sale on any given title, and despite the fact that I have a public school education, I know enough about econ to know that when you increase the supply, and couple that with ease of purchase, the price of the widget falls.

    This is precisely why every employee at Savas Beatie knows we are not in the book business. We are in the information business. And to that end, we try very hard to produce titles with information that is unique in some way and difficult to obtain elsewhere, in an attractive package at an attractive price.

    I would quibble with the observation that the advent of digital books has diminished reading. We are finding the opposite.

    Also consider that "digital" includes the Internet and not just "books." I was surprised the other day, for example, when my 17 year old son, who is not much of a book reader, started talking intelligently on a subject about telescopes and outer space. When I queried him as to the source, he said he has bookmarked certain sites and does a lot of reading online.

    The young are still reading. Many are simply doing it in an entirely different fashion. The world is indeed a-changing.

    Ted Savas

  2. Drew - I like your observation that book collecting is an "aesthetic and intellectual" investment. Very, very true. While I acquire my fair share of newer books, such as Savas-Beatie titles, which should demand a spot on all ACW bookshelves, most of my "collectible" books are older titles. These are generally pre-1930, such as the Neale books. Thanks again, Paul


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