I recently visited Bauman Rare Books in Las Vegas. You’ve seen their ads on the back page of the New York Times Book Reviews. It’s the rare book gallery opened by David and Natalie Bauman in 1973.
Bauman Rare Books has its main galleries—that’s what they call them—in New York and Philadelphia, but in 2008 they opened a third Las Vegas location, in the Palazzo Hotel. Open twelve hours a day seven days a week, the Las Vegas gallery is about the size of a mall bookstore–2300-square-feet–but instead of current bestsellers is filled with some of the nicest looking rare books I’ve ever seen, along with ephemera, artwork and maps. The staff were happy to have us browse, even take pictures. One even had a British accent.
Browsing the shop and the catalogs give you a feel for what people collect and how collectibles are valued. A first edition Moby Dick goes for about $45,000, the OED for $23,000 and Catcher in the Rye for $26,000. And I was surpised to see some relatively recent books listed—From Russian With Love for $5,000, Slaughter House-Five for $8,500, A Confederacy of Dunces for $9,200, Stephen King’s Dark Tower set for $28,000, even A is for Alibi for $6,800 (!?). Most are signed, but not necessarily by the author.
What’s hiding on your bookshelf?
The only thing I could afford was David and Natalie Bauman’s nice paperback Rare Finds: A Guide to Book Collecting, which explains the art of book collecting. And according to the Baumans’ guide people collect America, literature, children’s book, sports, history and even economics. And it’s not just first editions that are collectable—maps, photos, and letters. In their catalog I saw Ernest Hemingway’s high school English textbook (with his signature inside) for $16,500 and a copy of the Bell System Technical Journal from 1948 that debuted Claude Shannon’s article “A mathematical theory of communication” for $3,000.
Next chance I get I’m hoping to see the New York and Philly galleries.
Here’s a bonus interview with Natalie Bauman.