The New Guess Who was passed down within my family through all of my sisters. We have the 1962 addition. And even though I am a 90’s baby, I can credit this classic piece of literature for teaching me the fundamentals of reading.
As we begin to mature, many set aside the Dick and Jane and replace it with Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tale of Two Cities and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Through school curriculums, we have become well acquainted with the classics.
But rewind back in time, and who would have ever known that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird would shine light on racial tensions in the South? And I’m sure no one would have guessed that a small town boy from Florida, Missouri would go on to become the great Mark Twain.
If we knew then what we know now, we would go through drastic measures protecting the legacy of these national treasures. We would stop children from doodling their hand me down Dr. Seuss, and we would ignore our teacher’s requests to annotate in the margins of the book.
Luckily, there is a refuge for these treasures and that is at Bauman Rare Books. Since 1973, Natalie and David Bauman have delighted book lovers and history buffs with quite the impressive collection. With locations in Philadelphia, New York, and most recently Las Vegas; Bauman Rare Books has introduced many to the unique world of rare book collecting. From historical artifacts such as a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King to the classic first edition of Cat in the Hat, Bauman has seen just about everything.
However, before you go rummaging through your house for rare artifacts, it is important to note that Bauman doesn’t take just anything. These rare finds are in the most pristine condition, which means that my scribbled up copy of The New Guess Who is more than likely worth nothing. However, if I just so happen to be harboring a first edition copy of the book, I may be on to something.
With rare finds, comes quite the hefty price tag. Some books and artifacts can cost up to $300,000. But if you are on a budget, you may be able to find something in the hundreds of dollars.
So what makes these finds so valuable? When I talked to Dave at the Madison Avenue store, he shared with me that there is a variety of factors into play. Such as historical significance, condition, and uniqueness. One of the ways to check if you have a rare edition book is to check the first pages that mention the publishing date and location. For example, let’s say you have an old copy of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat. This cover has remained the same for years, so you can’t base it on cover art alone. Instead, in the first opening pages you are going to check the date it was published. If the date says 1957, congrats you may be sitting on a goldmine as you have a first edition Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat. Anything past this date decreases the value, as it’s always the first edition that is the most valuable.
When I asked about the possibility of one of my childhood favorite books Harry Potter becoming a historical, Dave shared that since so many copies were made after the book became popular, it would be next to impossible to find the first edition Harry Potter book that was originally printed in London and not the US. And as far as determining the value of a historical document, an Abraham Lincoln document is going to hold more value over a Millard Filmore letter. While both US Presidents, one had more of a lasting legacy. Everyone is familiar with Lincoln, but it takes a little digging to find out about Millard Filmore.
The art of rare book collecting is indeed an art to be marveled at. Collectors travel across the globe and use their keen knowledge of literature and history when scoping out these rare finds. It may also require a bit of patience as it’s not likely you stumble upon one of these finds in your home. However, you could try your luck at a garage sale. To make the search a little more focused, some collectors even specialize in what items they collect. Since I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, if I began collecting books I may search the globe for the rarest works of Poe. However, Dave told me that this would be quite a tricky task for a variety of reasons. Since Poe had the notorious reputation of being incredibly difficult to work with, many publishing houses refused to publish his works. Finding early works of Poe would be quite a tremendous feat. And if you do come across Poe, it might be best to have the bank account of Bill Gates. If I begin collecting books, I may just do what Dave’s teacher did and purchase books with gorgeous covers. I think, I would be a lot more successful in that endeavor.
While rare book collecting is done best by the pros, it’s never too late to start building a rare book collection of your very own. One doesn’t have to be a literary aficionado to appreciate the timeless books of our past. Who knows? That author currently topping the NY Times Best Sellers list may go on to become a literary genius 100 years from now.
If you want to take a stroll through literary history, I highly recommend perusing through the bookshelves of Bauman Rare Books. I guess I have a newfound appreciation for all of the literary pieces that I was forced to read in school. Let’s just say, it’ll be hard for me to come across a Dr. Seuss or a Charles Dickens book without first checking the publishing pages secretly hoping I have found a rare edition book.