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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.
Selling your Rare Materials
My main purpose in creating this Internet site is to attract books to build my collection. If you have a rare book that you purchased, or inherited, there are important reasons to sell your book to a person like me:
The kind of people who sell to me
I have purchased three dozen copies of the first edition Book of Mormon (Palmyra, N.Y.: 1830) from diverse sellers, just a small portion of about 500 copies that are believed to exist from the 5000 originally printed. I have no ability to control the market (there is a sufficient demand and a sufficient supply for a market to exist without me), however the quantity that I have bought indicates that I do pay more than others pay. The sellers included many private individuals like you, but also all the major dealers of Mormon Americana, dealers of Western Americana, dealers of Bibles, auctions, and even libraries. Many were everyday peoplechurch members in Arizona, California, Idaho, or Utah who are still Mormon, people in the Midwest whose ancestors were Mormon, or people in upstate New York or on the East Coast whose ancestors received books during encounters with early Mormons. My objects come equally from across the country; and I am probably about to visit a city near you (see Places that I have recently visited). If you are considering selling your book through any dealer or auction, or donating it to a relative or institution, I am likely to purchase the book eventually with a middleman receiving most of your money. So, I am hoping that you discovering me through this Internet site will encourage you to sell directly to me at full prices.
Why I started collecting
I simply enjoyed the history of the Book of Mormon, which I believe is an vital American book. I began collecting unusual Mormon books in 1980, and bought my first Joseph Smith-period Book of Mormon from a Salt Lake City dealer in 1982, when I was just a teenager. Since then I have bought many books even more important. I am especially interested in the earliest years of the church, the Joseph Smith-period from 1830 to 1844. Back then the Mormons were settling near my home in the Midwest, in the states of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. I am particularly intrigued by the assassination of Joseph Smith and the succession crisis of 1844, and the societal implications of lesser-known Mormon settlements in the Midwest. But I collect anything great, especially Mormon artifacts, paintings, rare books, and autograph documentsparticularly high-end items, those valued at $5,000 and up, printed before 1880.
My reason for collecting books is historical, not theologicalmeaning I am very broad in my tastes and methodical in my style. In keeping with that objective, I buy books related to any of the diverse people that share the Mormon heritage; and books which are standard, dissenting, or even opposing, as early Mormonism had not yet settled every issue of faith. In addition, I buy the most substantively obscure and physically tattered pamphlets and periodicals that have little appeal to mainstream collectors. They are all necessary to an erudite understanding of the sociological and cultural relationships of the movement. If I already have a copy of an early book, I probably know someone else who needs one.
Morality of selling your religious books to me
Selling Mormon books at first makes heirs
uncomfortable. They sometimes wonder about the propriety of selling religious books for
financial gain. In this
section, I will examine some of the criticisms and respond with
logical reasons for selling your church books.
My object in addressing the subject is to build confidence in the market
and to attract clients from whom I may purchase books (and other imprints, autographs,
art, and relics, collectively known as Mormon Americana).
As a philosophical rebuttal, I suggest that buying is the converse of selling; and that in computational symbolism the difference is merely in the plus or minus sign used to show relation. That is, sell is the mathematical opposite of buy. If it is normatively wrong or economically unprofitable to sell a book at a certain price, then it is also right and profitable to buy the book at the same price, disregarding negligible transactional costs. Hence, any critic of book selling is welcome to start buyinganyone too insecure that the price may rise after they sell their books, should instead invest in more books; anyone who fears their heritage will be lost, should buy the complement to their collection; anyone who thinks that this is profitable, is welcome to compete. The prospects for new throngs of activity in the marketplace could be cheering, but I anticipate only that I will be a lonesome gatherer.
The profitability of the Book of Mormon
Legend deters some Latter Day Saints from selling to me artifacts obtained from their ancestors. The Mormon story began with a set of ancient records inscribed on gold tablets, or plates. They were supposed to have been handed down from father to son, from Lehi to Nephi, and so on to Moroni, who buried them. Joseph Smith Jr. said that he was given the plates, but was commanded by an angel not to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. Instead, he finished translating and returned the gold plates to the angel, according to Latter Day Saint beliefs.
Nevertheless, the printed Book of Mormon is merely a copy, manufactured with purpose to be sold. Joseph Smith once owned five thousand copies of the first edition Book of Mormon, which cost him three thousand dollars to print. He said that he was divinely instructed to sell them for between $1.25 and $1.75 each. Since the derived cost of the books was 65 each, Joseph was therefore commanded to make a profit. Even at that reasonable profit, Parley Pratt recognized the propriety of accepting more generous offers, when he recounted that in 1831: One gentleman offered as high as ten dollars for a copy of the Book of Mormon; but, unluckily, I had none with me.(1)
There is no parallel between the original records which were anciently engraved on metallic plates, and the mass reproductions printed with ink and paper in the 1800s. Anyone who considers plates to be sacred believes that, whatever their material (even brass), they were divinely protected from oxidation, corrosion, or tarnish: Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.(2) The first edition Book of Mormon was printed on bright white cotton paper; and though its words might be as sacred as those on the plates, the physical materials themselves do not have the same promise: And now behold, if they [the plates] are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ.(3) The proof that this does not apply to printed books, naturally, is that in the examination of any copy of the first edition Book of Mormon, the book is found sprinkled with foxing or brown speckles, which has caused the cotton to lose its brightness. The foxing is the result of combustion by the atmosphere and impurities in the paper, and is often aggravated by acidic materials tangent to the book, or acidic moisture seeping into the book. The process is akin to the tarnishing of brass, and the lost brightness divulges that the paper has no sacred aptitude to outlast perpetuity. If the printed Book of Mormon may be sold, more so the polemical tracts, broadsides, and periodicals printed since the Book of Mormon.
Along with the myth that paper is sacred is the fallacy that rare scriptures are unique like the plates. Of the five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon printed in 1830, innumerable copies survived. Books were expensive to purchase in 1830; the Book of Mormon was sold like any other book, and consequently not discarded. Within twenty-five years after its publication, the first edition was already treasured. The locations of two hundred and fifty copies are known today with certainty, and as many more not identified or publicized. Even of the most elusive Book of Commandments, there are twenty-seven copies known including one hitherto unknown copy purchased by me. Rare books are not unique, for by their tactile disposition they are reproductions designed to be sold.
Reaction to my collection
Variously estimated as high as twenty-five thousand volumes, my private library was once the third largest collection of Latter Day Saint imprints and documents in the world, behind that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City and Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. It was therefore the largest outside Utah and the largest held by an individual.
Most people respond to my Internet site by selling their books to me. But the reaction of some people is to presume that their books are too highly valued by themselves to sell, before even talking to me, and they never even learn what I would have paidI therefore amiably urge you to talk to me. Find out what you really have, and just how high the value is, and make an informed decision. You never know when a single book will pay for your college education, a car, a home, or a retirement. Moreover, I guarantee that my purchase prices are the highest in any U.S. market (my record of high prices is established in California, Utah, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and throughout the nation, both in private transactions and at auctions), and I will outbid any other legitimate offer. Finally, I do not take books on consignment, like dealersinstead, I pay with a cashiers check in advance, and always have.
Other people learn about my high prices, and they panic and hoard their books. A sociological phenomenon exists in the antiquarian market: There is an inverse relationship between the amount you offer someone for something, and the likelihood that they will sell it to you. Was I, for example, to offer someone twenty-five dollars for a battered volume of the Times and Seasons, they would probably sell it without much deliberation. If instead I offered twenty-five hundred dollars for the same book, the startled person would be expected to examine the book carefully, and become suspicious that the height of its real value might be indeterminate or limitless, or they would have an otherworldly imagination of its unalterable real importance. Inevitably, they decide that the cautious solution to indecision is to remove the book to their safe deposit box, whereas they previously did not have any care about the book. In order to remain ethical, I have constantly offered full market value anyway, accepting the possibility of being declined. Because I offer as much as practical, it limits my emotional interest in the transaction, I am always at my level of indifference, and the person declining me never hears a repetition of my offerthey have the simplistic and unfortunate misunderstanding that they have discovered some precise, universal, and recognized price for their book that they can attain from any less-interested person at a random time of their own preference.
Book owners who contact me will receivefree of chargea full evaluation of their books, an explanation for why the books are significant relative to their literary content or printing history, a summary of the market precedents for the sale of similar books, and confidence that my prices are the highest in the market. They may invite me an intrastate or interstate visit from me, or come to historic Independence and stay in my guest suite comfortably designed for friends and book lovers. All inquiries and transactions are kept strictly confidential, for whatever income and inheritance considerations are had by my clients, unless they give express permission. After obtaining free knowledge from me, they still have the prerogative to donate their books to a not-for-profit organization, or sell the books and donate the money that those organizations really need; or they may bequeath them to their uncaring children. But whatever alternative is selected, I will be gratified that they will make an informed decision.
1. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley Pratt Jr. (New York: Russell Brothers, 1874), p. 87. For other precedents for selling the Book of Mormon at a profit, see Messenger and Advocate, May 1835; Eber Howe, Mormonism Unvailed [sic] . . . (Painesville, Ohio: 1834), p. 252; Naked Truths About Mormonism, April 1888; and Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1867), p. 55. See also Times and Seasons, 1 November 1840, for an advertisement to sell the Book of Mormon (Nauvoo, Illinois edition) with a wholesale price of $1.00, and a retail price of $1.25.
2. Joseph Smith Jr., trans., "First Book of Nephi," The Book of Mormon (Nauvoo, Ill.: Printed by Robinson and Smith, 1842), p. 17 (1 Nephi 5:19).
3. Joseph Smith Jr., trans., "Book of Alma," The Book of Mormon (Nauvoo, Ill.: Printed by Robinson and Smith, 1842), p. 318 (Alma 17:34), emphasis added.
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