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
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
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.
Lincoln Zephyr V-12 brochure
8 page color folder, 12"x9"
In excellent condition
Aston Martin DB4 GT brochure
4 page non-color folder, 9"x12"
In excellent condition
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.
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.