The Lord of the Rings
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Tolkien Collector's Guide
May 3
2021/5/3 9:48:48 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
It’s always stated, a book is worth what you are willing to pay for it.
Prices for collector’s items (not only books) depend on age, scarcity, condition, beauty, demand and maybe some other aspects. Let’s have a look on our books. If we only would have been in search of ‘content’ there wouldn’t be a reason to collect special editions. A facsimile or a later print run would be sufficient. If there wouldn’t be a joy of owning a special book yourself, you could be satisfied knowing it on the shelves of the Bodlean or other libraries. Rare items in a collection are always the highlights.
There was some speculation about the selling price of this special Hobbit and I was thinking about revealing the real one. I think sarcasm isn’t very much helpful if you want to know real prices in the future because you feel uncomfortable with it and people decide to stay calm.
And it is just as when talking about intentions of purchasing a special book. Being here in a ‘collector’s forum’ we should assume the aim of collecting, not speculating. (Collecting since decades now, I only sold a unique LotR set years after purchasing it, asking the same amount I’ve paid before.)
Appealing to buyers is only half the truth: we all know that some of the members here also are sellers. They fix prices as well, being responsible for increasing prices as well.
Let’s come back to the PiR H. Honestly we don’t know the development of prices for this book in the future. Looking back, almost all Tolkien editions increased in value and I assume not only a handful but most members here have at least one copy sitting on the shelf that is worth much more nowadays than when purchased.
Why do people pay ten thousands of $€£ for 1st H or LotR? There are most likely much more survivors of these copies than PiR H. Maybe this one was undervalued all the time because it was more unknown, flying under the radar, I don’t know. I decided to buy it and explained the reasons in my recent post. It will be part of my collection not for reasons of speculation, it will be part of it because I decided it is worth it. It’s a wishful thinking that some potential interested persons here in the forum could decide the price development of the market. This would be utopia. Being in correspondence with the seller, some more inquiries were made by other interested people, so it would habe been sold with some likelihood.
It’s definitely not easy nowadays to decide if you would like to purchase a desired book, but this could be only your own judgement.
Nevertheless, I found it frustrating, too, that prices are increasing so much.
May 3
2021/5/3 14:41:29 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:

Khamûl wrote:

Let's be honest, if the handful of people who give two hoots about these niche copies on this site would just stop paying hundreds of pounds for copies, prices wouldn't be so ludicrously high!

Seriously guys, just stop buying them.

What happened to “a book is worth whatever one is willing to pay for it”? I've seen just about every long time member here use that response when collectors are looking for valuations.

Not from me you haven't. This argument has been had many, many times on this site before. By this rationale PoME is worth the £800 someone paid ADCBooks for it however many years ago that happened. It isn't worth £800. It wasn't worth it then, it isn't worth it now. That was massively overpaid for.

I think we can all except that uncommon editions are hard to value. But people, right now, are paying lunacy money for HarperCollins editions that just are not uncommon. There is no need for this. These books, by any measure, are not worth hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

Prices paid within a bubble are not really reflective of long-term value or pricing. And we're in a bubble.
May 3
2021/5/3 15:37:33 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I also feel like we are in a bubble, and for my personal collecting I've been mostly focused on small fun little surprises rather than paying going rates for scarce books that could fill holes I've wanted to fill, but prices currently make me me uncomfortable. I've been through a couple of collecting bubble/waves at this point, and I feel confident that I will have more opportunities at better prices in the future for what I am looking for. I could be wrong, but that doesn't worry me.

It is really hard to avoid FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Collect for what interests you personally, not to impress other collectors.
May 3
2021/5/3 20:37:40 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I'm not personally super bothered that prices are increasing, as the bulk of my collecting was done years ago anyway -- I just find the bubble to be especially funny this time around (Silmarillions for £100, indeed). Honestly, I still wouldn't be collecting a whole lot even if prices were lower, as affordability per-sé is not really the issue for me. Collecting is more a social thing. Put it this way, I boxed up a whole load more of my books last weekend, including all of my paperback boxed sets, newer HarperCollins LoTRs, etc. I don't want Tolkien to spread into my house from its one spot, as I'm a Tolkien collector, rather than a Tolkien fanatic (for want of a better way of describing it). I also don't like multi-stacked bookcase shelves (I'd have rather less, nicely displayed)! At some point, I will get built-in bookcases for one wall of my office and everything will go neatly there, and what doesn't fit will stay boxed. Realistically that means that at this time there is no point in buying something unless it *really* takes my fancy. I'm absolutely confident prices will collapse (or slowly deflate) as they have in previous Tolkien bubbles, and if I still want a book whenever that revaluation happens, I'll get it then. If not, then nothing was lost anyway, as it means I avoided buying something I didn't desire long term, anyway.

I don't think there are especially many collectors that manage to keep focus or interest forever and at some point their books start to cycle back into the market. Anecdotally from watching people on here over the last 14 years, the people who collect like mad tend to disappear after a couple of years, and the slow-but-steady collectors (and those that have a passion for the material rather than just a collecting drive) seem to hold on a lot longer.

All that being said, if someone wants to pay £350 for a PiR Hobbit, and it brings them enjoyment commensurate with what the £350 means for them (bearing in mind £350 for one person might be equivalent to £3500 for another, and £35 for yet another), fair play to them.
May 3
2021/5/3 21:28:37 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I'd be interested in hearing about the LotR PJ film bubble deflating. How long did it take and when prices start to drop? I wasn't collecting seriously then (unless one would call owning ~100 Tolkien books of next to no value and not knowing how to discern a first edition or print serious collecting, I wouldn't). I realize this has been discussed before, but for the newcomers and people that can't remember what they had for breakfast today (that's me), maybe someone with a clear memory wouldn't mind elucidating (again)? It's certainly relevant right now (or will be).
May 3
2021/5/3 21:36:37 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:

I'd be interested in hearing about the LotR PJ film bubble deflating. How long did it take and when prices start to drop? I wasn't collecting seriously then (unless one would call owning ~100 Tolkien books of next to no value and not knowing how to discern a first edition or print serious collecting, I wouldn't). I realize this has been discussed before, but for the newcomers and people that can't remember what they had for breakfast today (that's me), maybe someone with a clear memory wouldn't mind elucidating (again)? It's certainly relevant right now (or will be).


I am not the person with the clear memory, but I would say things slowly started to normalise a couple of years after the last movie, and then it took 5 years+ to correct. Certain titles were very obviously affected -- principally HoME was the real barometer that jumped higher and subsequently fell further. It certainly was not a rapid correction, just a slow reversion to mean.

If this bubble lasted 10 years from start to end, it would not surprise me. Unless the TV series ends up having a poor reception, in which case it would be quicker.
May 3
2021/5/3 21:46:06 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:

I'd be interested in hearing about the LotR PJ film bubble deflating. How long did it take and when prices start to drop? I wasn't collecting seriously then (unless one would call owning ~100 Tolkien books of next to no value and not knowing how to discern a first edition or print serious collecting, I wouldn't). I realize this has been discussed before, but for the newcomers and people that can't remember what they had for breakfast today (that's me), maybe someone with a clear memory wouldn't mind elucidating (again)? It's certainly relevant right now (or will be).

I started collecting in 2002 - but in general I have seen prices of the genuinely less common editions steadily rising in price over time (with the usual dips and pops in prices during periods of time).

Prices of the more common editions have had their peaks and troughs (probably most noticeable in the HoME 12 Vols and the 1997 Deluxe LOTR. And there have been certain editions which have seemed to pop into fashion at times and commanded relatively high prices only to fall again.

But in general - from my perspective - I have seen prices of the less common editions rise (and also much less often found for sale).
May 3
2021/5/3 22:07:08 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Stu wrote:

I'm a Tolkien collector, rather than a Tolkien fanatic


I found this very interesting! I assumed everyone here was both (although the division is a bit unclear).
May 4 (edited)
2021/5/4 0:05:14 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Ligandil wrote:

Stu wrote:

I'm a Tolkien collector, rather than a Tolkien fanatic


I found this very interesting! I assumed everyone here was both (although the division is a bit unclear).

I think what I mean is that Tolkien has its small and self-contained part of my existence (I love reading the ME books and I enjoy their physical manifestation as pieces of art and history), but it doesn't really extend hugely beyond that. I'm not [especially] interested in the minutiae about the man or having every part of my house a shrine to things-Tolkienesque. I consider most of the non-book collectables to be "crap", and most (but by no means all) things created specifically to be collectables to be uninteresting. I have the most respect for things created to be used, which end up happening to be collectable (so a PiR Hobbit means a lot more to me than, say, a "Deluxe Collectors Edition Hobbit').

I have defined boundaries outside which Tolkien (for the most part) does not escape. Outside the - now locked - glass-fronted bookcases in my old office (which is now a Toddler bedroom), you would not find a single Tolkien item in my house. You wouldn't find anything dedicated to anything else, either, mind (other than cats -- I love cats a LOT more than Tolkien books)! I don't want to inflict my interests on my wife, and cats are a shared passion.

I know some people (especially collectors) are a bit more holistically "into Tolkien", and they also love the non-book stuff and nothing wrong with that at all.

For me it is more about the fun of the chase, finding aesthetically pleasing items at prices that I feel reflect some kind of notion of "fair value". Throwing unlimited money at collecting takes away the enjoyment for me. For me, it then just becomes transactions on a balance sheet, rather than an exciting lucky score or something that took years to find at an acceptable price. There are vanishingly few genuinely rare Tolkien books and a big enough wallet will get all of them pretty easily.
May 4
2021/5/4 7:13:11 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:

I'd be interested in hearing about the LotR PJ film bubble deflating. How long did it take and when prices start to drop? I wasn't collecting seriously then (unless one would call owning ~100 Tolkien books of next to no value and not knowing how to discern a first edition or print serious collecting, I wouldn't). I realize this has been discussed before, but for the newcomers and people that can't remember what they had for breakfast today (that's me), maybe someone with a clear memory wouldn't mind elucidating (again)? It's certainly relevant right now (or will be).

I've got old notebooks with prices that I'll have a look at...

I still think there are some oddities right now which clearly point to fads in collecting. The first edition of Smith, for example, seems to attract very little attention. I see copies of the first impression all the time going seemingly unsold; and the prices being asked are about the same as 20 years ago. Family Album used to be niche collectable & rather (in my mind) overpriced. Now... doesn't seem to attract discussion or attention. I'm sure there are others.
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