Ron writes in with this question:
The recent issue of Firsts magazine has an article on today’s “blue chip” authors for book collectors: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald. It made me wonder who writing today will be a blue chip author in the future. In the next 10 or 15 years, who will have books selling at the astronomical prices many great first editions books command?
I find old books fascinating, but I’m no book collector. It requires a fortitude and attention to detail that I simply don’t possess. However, I was able to pass this question along to an expert, book shop owner Nigel who runs the fascinating book collecting blog, Bookride. Here’s what Nigel had to say:
Predicting which authors will be collected in the future is a good game but slightly risky.
In the past people have tried to suggest authors worthy of financial investment and often got it sadly wrong. E.g. a few years ago Louis de Bernieres was being tipped as a highly collectable author. His prices did indeed shoot up in value so that at one point fine firsts of Captain Corelli were worth as much as $2000, but it is now readily buyable at less than half that. It could be because there has been a move against authors associated with Magic Realism, but also because the book is readily available and copies just keep turning up. The lesson is that however good a writer is – if there are too many copies of his or her works (and not enough collectors) the book will not prove a good bet. Supply and demand. That being said let me try and suggest a few writers.
Of the serious American novelists you should be OK with Don DeLillo, Brett Easton Ellis (especially the UK hardback first of American Psycho), Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, William Gibson, Toni Morrison, limited editions of Vollmann, signed stuff by Hunter Thompson. Of the mass market authors, I cannot see Stephen King falling into desuetude but you need to stick to the early stuff, thriller writers like Michael Connelly, Pelecanos, Lee Child, Laurie King, Ian Rankin are happening and may continue to resonate. The big money is now in photobooks, children’s literature (Rowling, Pullman, Dahl) and artist’s books (Koons, Hirst, Warhol, Emin, Prince). Photographer Robert Frank’s The Americans has more than trebled in value this century now selling for $10000+ in great condition, same goes for some of the young Japanese photographers. Condition is, as always, paramount.
The Irish poets like Heaney, Muldoon, Mahon and Michael Longley are a goodish bet. I like Harold Pinter and think he will rise in value – other Nobel Prize Winners might do well like Gao Xingjian and Jose Saramago. South American writers are a little played out with the brilliant exception of Roberto Bolano (who, perversely, said that most writers who won Nobel prizes were “jerks”). Another great collectible iconoclast is the French enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq. US poet Philip Levine will hopefully be seriously collected, possibly Patti Smith and amongst the Brit poets I would back James Fenton.
A litany of Brit writers like Ian Mcewan, Hanif Kureishi, Julian Barnes and Irvine Welsh are unlikely to flatline and in the “world music” category dig Haruki Murakami, Aime Cesaire, Khaled Hosseini, and Naguib Mahfouz. Of older writers I think Flann O’Brien might well increase in value – his work is said to give clues to the real meaning of [the TV show] ‘Lost’…
Thanks Nigel! If any book collecting types have thoughts to share, please do so in the comments.
Bonus Link: Finding First Editions – An “Ask a Book Question” from years past.