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Books 101: Are modern first editions good investments?

It's always good advice: collect what you love.
Photo: Dora Pete, SXC

Book collectors use the term 'modern first editions' for books published within the last 100 years or so, and it's currently one of the top genres for collecting. It's an area with a number of advantages, but does that make them a good investment? 

Modern first editions are usually available in larger quantities, making them more affordable for collectors. Even some of the most famous and sought after modern authors, like Steinbeck, Faulkner, or Hemingway, can be found in good condition with dust jackets for under $100. Unknown authors can catch public attention and become highly sought after. Their books may become classics, causing value to climb.

But collecting modern books or authors can have drawbacks if you're considering collecting for its investment value. It's difficult to predict whether a popular author is a passing fad or if a book will be considered literature. Consider the 19th century author Marie Corelli, who published under the pen name of Mary Mackay. She was one of the best selling authors of her time, but she's practically unknown today.

For modern first editions, the condition of the book will be one of the most important issues. It's important that the bindings be attached and all pages and illustrations be present. The cover must be clean, and there should be no underlining or tears. If the books was issued with a dust jacket, the dust jacket needs to be present and in good condition as well. Otherwise, the value of the book drops dramatically.

When it comes to modern first editions, collect according to your passions and your interests, not for investment value. Consider it an added bonus if the books you love increase in value as well.




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