What's It Worth? Age Influences Value ... On Many Levels

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What's It Worth? Age Influences Value ... On Many Levels

Sometimes the past that got us into this business has a way of coming back to us in pleasant ways.

I first read Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau, when I was in eighth grade. I reread it in college – and of course, it had a completely different meaning to me those eight years later. I have reread it a couple of times since then, but not in the last 20 years.

Recently we were sold an actual first edition printed by Ticknor & Fields in 1854. Even though it wasn’t a good copy, it was still the first edition of my favorite book, and before selling it, I took it home to read one more time. Naturally, the content moved me in a completely different way than when I had read it 40 years earlier.

My favorite passages are the oft-misquoted “men leading lives of quiet desperation” and “the life which man praises as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of others?”

As to value, the several days I spent reading an old-fashioned book with pages, leather binding and that musty old-book aroma were priceless. The condition renders its value just a few hundred dollars above the $1,000 we paid for it. In much better condition, it could have an auction estimate of $2,000-$3,000, and retailers would probably ask double that.

Keep in mind that condition is everything in books, and this first edition has the original maps to Walden Pond, which are often missing.

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