Financial Reasons to Collect the Wizard of Oz Books

The Wizard of Oz book is not your average rare collectible book. Usually, investment in rare books does not yield better returns than investment in stocks and bonds. Instead, the main purpose of collecting should be the sheer joy of conceiving, searching, buying and then completing a collection on whatever may subject interest the person and gives him or her great pleasure in the accomplishment.

Yet many people, including myself, choose to collect Oz books in general and the Wizard of Oz book in particular not only for the purpose of intellectual enjoyment but also for sound business reasons, because in my opinion the Oz books defy the general rule of investing in rare books. Why do I believe that these particular books will in fact appreciate over time?

Let me start by pointing out that the Wizard of Oz book has a great appeal not only to children, but also to adults. Our day-to-day phrases include everything from “You are not in Kansas anymore” to references to “Yellow Brick Road” in Oprah’s most recent announcement about her show ending next season. The Wizard of Oz costumes are in the top 10 hottest costumes at the Halloween times, and even celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, appeared on ABC as Dorothy:

Paris Hilton

During Christmas time many people place the Oz ornaments on their Christmas trees year after year continuously reminding younger generation about the Wizard of Oz characters. The story inspires many artists, jewelry makers and fashion designers who design everything from “Dorothy” shoes to Tinman-inspired body armor to jewelry pieces by Tarina Tarantino.

The Wizard of Oz story has not only the US appeal, but is also widely known internationally. Look at the graph below indicating the number of people searching for the Wizard of Oz subject worldwide using Google search (note that Australia is second on the list. No wonder it is often referred to as the “Oz” country meaning an unreal, magical place!)

I also would like to share with my readers some interesting statistics related to the popularity of the Wizard of Oz searches within the United States: This is a list of top US cities where people are searching for the Wizard of Oz books the most. It is eye opening to see that New York and Los Angeles are not on the list!

It should also be noted that the number of searches for the Wizard of Oz subject (including, but not limited to, books) increases in the last quarter of every year mostly due to Holidays shopping.

Extrapolating only the number of searches for the Wizard of Oz books, the list of countries and cities within the US looks differently:

With the interest in the Oz subject in general and the Oz books in particular still remaining strong, is now the good time to invest? I do not have a crystal ball and certainly do not want to create an impression that I am offering an investment advice. I can only share my thoughts on the matter based on my expertise and experience.During the times such as the ones that we are experiencing now when stock markets are in a slump and the economy is shaky, people turn to investing their monies in commodities that they perceive to be stable and safe investments. A large number of new entrants to the collectibles market suggest that this market is seen as a safe market for investment. The prices for the Oz books are presently fairly low due to the current environment. Look at the chart below which indicates median prices for the past several years for books sold at auctions:

These are median prices for the same time period as compared to those prices a year ago:

Percentage of lots sold for the past 12 months

Even though a large number of investors find antique books to be a safe investment, there are still at least two factors that will influence the investment potential of any collectible item:

1. There must be a limited supply of that particular item; and
2. The current demand for the item must not be based on short term speculation but that there will be a growing demand for the item over the long term.

Let’s discuss these factors in greater detail. As far as the first factor in concerned, it is obvious from the new "Book Collector’s Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz" that the Oz books were not printed in large quantities. According to the latest publisher’s findings it was discovered that only 35,000 copies of first edition of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz were printed (originally, it was erroneously believed that 90,000 copies were printed based on the references in “To please a child").

According to the same source there were even less number of copies (only 12,700) printed in 1917 of another Oz title, Lost Princess of Oz (see the text on the left).

Thus, it is clear that the supply of the Oz titles is very limited. In addition, it is even more difficult to find these books in good condition considering how old they are and the fact that they are children’s books.

The second factor is much more difficult to evaluate. Will there a continuing, and more importantly, growing demand for Oz books? There is always the very real risk that what collectors regarded as an absolute must-have today will be forgotten by tomorrow. However, in my opinion and based on all the factors and statistics and graphs that I outlined in this newsletter, the Wizard of Oz as a subject matter, including the Oz books in particular, is the subject that will continue to interest people of all generations. I am amazed how many of my clients are people in their thirties who buy books for themselves, to read to their children, and to remember stories they listened to when they were children themselves.

I firmly believe that the best things to collect are those things that are on the horizon. I think in the short term that the next peak in Wizard of Oz books’ series will be within next three years after Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of the Wizard of Oz musical hits the Broadway and the film about Judy Garland’s starring Anne Hathaway hits the movie theaters.

In the long run, I believe that with all advancements in cinematography and reduced cost of making films, someone eventually will produce a whole series of Oz books that will impact public awareness of Oz series taking the investment in Oz books to a new level. Trends are temporary, but books that tell the stories that we know and share hold their value. There can not be a Halloween without scarecrows and pumpkins, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will always be firmly on the list of most popular songs ever created, the State of Kansas will always be known as the state where Dorothy lived, and the Oz books will always be treasured by generations to come.

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