A few thoughts on collecting vintage paperbacks July 4, 2015 18:42

Through the 60s, you couldn’t give away used paperback books. They had very little resale value with a few exceptions for classics and best sellers. Starting in the 80’s, collecting paperbacks from the 40s and 50s was popular and the value of the books increased. Books were sold by specialty book stores and through the mail with booksellers producing full color catalogs. Collectible volumes were thought to be in limited supply which drove prices up. This continued through the early 90s.

Then Ebay, Amazon and the internet came along and changed the game. Suddenly the discovery and availability of old paperback books dramatically increased. The specialty booksellers and catalogs disappeared and the value of vintage paperback collections plummeted. Die hard collectors continued to collect and enjoyed the increased availability of collectible volumes. Collecting became more affordable but less of an investment. Note, collectibles are rarely good investments.

At the same time, the generation that originally bought these books started to retire and boxes of old books turned up at estate sales and donated to charity. Along with the internet, Amazon, and Ebay, this drove prices down but availability up. Again, good times for die hard collectors.

It looks like the supply side has topped out. There will still be a few storage unit finds and estate sales but the vast majority of collectible paperback books should be in the market. If true, that should stabilize prices and may lead to a slow increase in the value of books in collectible condition.

My own experience in securing inventory, the ‘wholesale’ cost through all sources has increase by roughly 40% over the last 5 years. At the same time, the retail value has been fairly stable with maybe a 2 to 3% increase. This is all good for the collector. Large availability and stable prices.