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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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September 2003 Issue
 
LITERATURE INVESTMENTS
 
What Is It Worth?
By Robert McLellan
 

There are collectors and dealers who can tell you to the dollar what any brochure is worth. Of course among themselves they all disagree. It has a lot to do with their own personal interests and experience. A Ford guy knows Chevrolet literature is worth less than Ford... and you can bet that the Chevy nut thinks just the opposite.

In 1993 Thomas Warth produced a value guide for out-of-print books. As the former owner of Classic Motorbooks, and currently a leading out-of-print book dealer, Tom was certainly qualified and well respected for his knowledge of book values. All through the 1980s values of most old car books increased rapidly in value and book collectors searched for bargains. Most collectors and dealers were shocked at the high values Warth placed on thousands of collector books. Collections suddenly became very valuable. What a windfall for collectors and for dealers who were selling. Those of us who were buying soon were being offered collections at costs we were reluctant to pay. Bargains disappeared very quickly and many collectors became dealers.

How did the Warth value guide effect the market in the long term? Compared to what happened to old car prices that zoomed up in the late 1980s and fell in the early 1990s, the literature market was less effected. Rare and desirable literature (i.e. 1950s Ferrari brochures) did rise with "irrational exuberance", fell and then returned to a more rational rate of increase. Most literature is more expensive now than it was 10 years ago and has out-paced inflation. Over the long term literature beats the stock market and gold!

But what is something worth? Can a dealer ask one price that is fair to everyone? No. There is a value guide for car brochures in a popular auto magazine that tells you what to pay. Among knowledgeable collectors the author is considered to be an idiot who is trying to establish price controls on the hobby. After years of placing values on books, with annual revisions up and down, Tom Warth discontinued his value guide. If collectors / dealers could not agree, then there is little point in publishing a guide. An item has a different value to everyone. A brochure is advertised for $50. You collect literature and you bought it recently for $40 - therefore, you feel that it is overpriced. Someone else, who also collects literature, but missed out on one for $75, thinks it is a good deal. He then shows it to someone who owns the car, and has been searching for it for years, and suddenly it is worth a lot more. If someone puts a price of $100 on the same brochure, and someone pays $100 for it, does that mean it is worth $100?

Many factors can create large disparities in the value of one particular item. Condition, for example (see "Rob's Tips")... currency rates for overseas buyers... shipping costs... Buying literature by mail order can be cheaper than going to a swap meet, especially when travel and lodging costs are considered.

 
1936 Lincoln Zephyr V-12 brochure
8 page color folder, 12"x9"
In excellent condition

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT brochure
4 page non-color folder, 9"x12"
In excellent condition
CLICK ON PHOTOS TO FIND OUT
 

Cost is important, but do not let it override common sense. Does the price seem reasonable? Compared to comparable items does this one seem within reason? If it is what you are really looking for, are you willing to risk missing out on it and spending months or years looking for another one? If it seems like a bargain, great. If it seems a little high don't beat yourself up over paying too much. You now have the brochure to enjoy. That is better than not having it... and possibly paying more for the next one you find. Remember, literature is an investment as well as an enjoyment. In a few years you can sell it at a profit.

 
 
 
LITERATURE INVESTMENTS
 
Literature Life
Looking Both Ways
Golden Eras
Good Investment? - Yes!
Buying For Tomorrow
Good Investment?
Profitable Portfolio!
Unanticipated Investment
Today's Bargain Can Be Tomorrow's Treasure
 
 
 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the "Automotive Chronicles" are those of the writers' exclusively. Information contained in the articles has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness. When considering literature as an investment keep in mind that past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Some literature will not increase in value, and other literature varies in potential and results. Condition and desirability are important factors in considering any literature for investment.

 
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, September 2003
 
 
 
 
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