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Since 1981, he has been writing about rare Mormon documents.
Since 1991, half of all new discoveries in Mormon history have been by him.
Building Your Own Collection
Great reasons to collect
You should collect. I am glad to give free advice as you begin, particularly if your interest is in high-end items (those valued at $5,000 and up). I closely watch all activity in the Mormon collecting community, and I can tell you who is selling the item for which you are looking, and when a book is a good value.
Mormon collecting has always been investment, in contrast to consumption. In the time that it takes a new car to depreciate to nothing, a equally priced group of Mormon books might increase ten-fold in value. Since 1968, Mormon books and artifacts have kept pace with the S&P 500, with no volatility. But you cannot display your stocks like you can show your Mormon Americana collection. Mormon books are a great way to demonstrate your strong faith, your sophistication, your heritage, and your conservatism. Prosperous Mormons should build refined libraries or even walk-in vaults into their homes, as a display of conspicuous investment, or a heritage one never inherited. Many collectors enjoy this prestige, taking books to presidency meetings, and sharing them with General Authorities; others feel a mission to preserve their heritage and church history; or stir-up others to become more interested. Wives often develop their own interests, often tiny hymn books with the first Sacred Hymns. Rare Mormon books can also be a conservative, low-profile, transportable and discreet asset, with minimal recordkeeping, unlike stock or other financial instruments. Many successful Mormon businesspeople have diversified by including rare books for at least 5% or as much as 20% of their investment portfolio.
Typical Mormon collectors include people from every income range, but typically include doctors, lawyers, professors; small-business entrepreneurs; and billionaires. For about $25,000, a collector can build a basic Mormon reference library, including some of the most important early books. For about $250,000, a collector can own all of the high-spots of Mormon collecting, including all of the essential first editions. For about $2? million dollars, a collector can assemble one of the top-ten private collections in existence. For more information on the economics of collecting rare books, see Market.
Even non-Mormons have been collecting rare books. Anyone who collects great American books, especially Western Americana, also collect Mormon books. Bill Gates is said to have a first edition Book of Mormon, and there have been other famous collectors of Mormon books like Newberry, Coe, Eberstadt, DeGolyer, Streeter, and Huntington, who owned the finest Mormon books of all but were never even Mormon. One successful church member could make a significant impact in the book market, perhaps building a collection for his alma mater some day. Many great universities still lack Mormon collections, including places like Stanford University, Brown University, University of Florida, University of Pennsylvania; or BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho, for that matter. The academic world needs such philanthropists and benefactors, who can enjoy their collections and gift them in their entirety some day.
What to collect
Everyone has a favorite part of history, and can begin a respectable Mormon collection by choosing a scopethere is something for everyone in every price range. Be sure and browse My Collection, to see if your interests match mine, and please come to visit me at my home in historic Mormon Missouri or at my historic house in Burlington, Wisconsin. Here are some more ideas:
I am willing to give advise at no charge for anyone collecting items valued individually at over $5,000 or printed before 1880.
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