Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Edition BOOK OF MORMON [1830]: What are the two most important factors in determining value?

There are several factors that influence the value of a first edition Book of Mormon [1830].  However, the two most important factors are condition and provenance. Almost everyone understands the importance of condition, however, the added value of the "provenance" is often underestimated.  Provenance is the history of ownership.  The history of "who" owned the book can make a big difference in its value.  

I was recently contacted by a television station back East.  They were doing a story on a woman who found a 150 year-old Bible in her attic that was supposedly worth over $100,000.  I was asked for my opinion before the story aired on TV.  My first question to the reporter was, "What's its provenance? Who owned the Bible?"  The reporter then responded, "Why do you ask?".  I told the reporter that there were over 100 million Bibles printed in the 1800s--that most Bibles printed in the 1800s sell for a few hundred dollars--except those with exceptional provenance.  I asked the reporter if it was Abraham Lincoln's copy.  When he said, "no".  I told him that the Bible he was inquiring about--without important provenance--would not be worth over $1,000.  I recommended he do a quick check of prices on eBay.  Long story short, the news story was cancelled.  Without any significant provenance, that particular Bible did not have much value.

I recently acquired a first edition Book of Mormon that belonged to Emily Partridge--one of Joseph Smith's plural wives and later a wife of Brigham Young.  This book, with Emily's name in ink, also has the very interesting notation that was later made by Emily's son, "Mother brought this book from Nauvoo and left her own behind as it was not so good".  A book like this--with its close association to the man who translated the Book of Mormon (Joseph Smith), and later the man who led the Mormons West (Brigham Young); which was also owned by the daughter of the first Mormon bishop  (Edward Partridge) has excellent provenance.  This provenance increases the value of this book substantially.