July 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Collecting Photobooks


The Guardian was brave enough last Friday to jump into the murky waters of rare book price speculation.  In an interesting, if a tad optimistic, feature on collecting photobooks, the author, Mr. Dewar, discusses photobooks as a potential investment source.  Mr. Dewar references the recent spike in photobook prices and offers some tips to would-be photobook investors looking to start their first collection.

"Despite the scarcity of signed or inscribed books and the high plateau in prices on the seminal works, there is hope for the average collector with a modest budget. In fact, even if you're a complete novice, there is a good opportunity to combine learning about the art form with a sound piece of investing by collecting new editions."

Mr. Dewar's sound advice: buy self-published books from emerging photographers.  

In example, Ed Ruscha's Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, published by National Excelsior Press (Ruscha's own imprint) in a run of 400 copies in 1963 originally sold for $3.50.  Now the cheapest copy on abebooks.com is $17,500.

Of course, only a handful of emerging photographers will achieve Ruscha's level of fame and demand, but the tendency for photobooks to be issued in small print runs that quickly go out of print increases your odds of buying an eventual collectable.  As with any area of book collecting, the best advice is to buy what you know and like.

A good resource for self-published photobooks is theindepentphotobook.blogspot.com which highlights books not available through standard outlets such as amazon.com.  As a result, you can find cheap and interesting photobooks, then purchase them (in most cases) directly from the photographers.

As for my part, one of my favorite recent self-published photobooks is from Adam Ryder, with his architectural images of a civilization that never existed: Areth: an Architectural Atlas.  Issued in a print run of just 25 copies, you can buy the book directly from Mr. Ryder on Etsy.