When people think "alternative" investments, books don't usually come to mind.
Like wine and coins, collecting books is considered more of a hobby than an investment move...
But every few years, a genuine opportunity pops up in the book world. The trick is to spot the catalyst before everyone else does.
One of the best opportunities today is when a book makes the jump to the big screen.
For example, Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men was popular before the film. But when it turned out to be a surprise hit and Oscar-winner, demand for first edition books skyrocketed.
Rare editions fetch up to $3000, with standard editions bringing in a minimum of $300 — not bad for a book published in 2005 with a sticker price of $19.95.
There are more dramatic examples, of course. First editions of the Harry Potter books fetch $3,000 - $5,000 for a standard U.S. copy. Limited editions have been sold for up to $55,000, depending on condition and rarity. You can imagine how the poor parents who let one of those go in a garage sale feel now...
It turns out one of my favorite novels, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, just wrapped a pilot for HBO.
A 'pilot' is a test episode for which the network assembles a full cast and shoots an episode. If the execs approve, they give the go-ahead to film an entire season. HBO will make their decision regarding Game of Thrones by the spring season.
If it's a hit, I think the value of first editions will go through the roof.
The pilot is currently in post-production. It was shot in Ireland with a core cast of 18 and 100+ extras. If HBO gives it the green light, the plan is to shoot one season per book. (The series currently has 5 books, with 2 or 3 more in the pipeline.)
I'm a fan of the author and the books and so have been following production news. I'm hopeful that HBO will do it justice. If they do, the first edition books I own should spike in value, too.
Since its publication in 1996, Game of Thrones has gathered a loyal following. There is already an active market for first editions. The American printings sell for $50-$300 these days. The British version is rarer and brings in $300-$800. There are limited editions that go for even more...
Spotting these trends in advance isn't easy, of course. There's always risk involved. If things don't play out as you hoped, the book's value will stagnate or even fall. But it can be a fun hobby — and profitable to boot.
Where to Buy
The best place I've found to buy these editions is Abebooks.com. (Please note: Wealth Daily has no relationship with AB.) It's owned by Amazon.com and the site works essentially as a broker, allowing booksellers to list their inventory for buyers.
If you decide to take this route, just be sure to check a merchant's customer ratings before ordering.
Abe Books has a great search feature. Put in as many details as possible, including the author's last name, book title, and "first edition" as a keyword.
Rules for Buying First Editions
#1 - Books need to be both first edition and first printing. Such books are marked usually marked "first edition" and may include "first printing."
#2 - If the book is part of a series, you want the first book in the series. With few exceptions, later parts of the series are only worth a fraction of the first. By the time a series is popular, too many books have already been printed.
#3 - Be wary of "preview" editions. These freebies are sent out to publishers and stores in advance of a book's release. Sometimes they are passed off as first editions. Make sure you read the fine print in the listing. The BBC has a detailed guide for spotting first editions here.
#4 - Buy the best quality you can. Books that are torn or damaged are worth far less than mint conditions.
Another book that could spike in value is Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which will be released on the big screen soon. This book has been on best seller lists since its publication in 2006, and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. The film version is directed by John Hillcoat and is set to hit theaters this week.