Sunday, February 8, 2015

Amazing Trends in the Prices of First Edition Economics Books

By Robert Wenzel

The California International Antiquarian Book Fair took place this weekend at the Oakland Civic Center.

I headed over there this afternoon to get a sense for current price trends in economics books.

I learned that prices were strong pretty much across the board, including books by Austrian school economists.

I had a long conversation with Ian Smith of London-based Peter Harrington Rare Books.

Books he had on display included books by Karl Marx, Joseph Schumpeter and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk.

The Mark book on sale was a first edition of Das Kapital. It was priced at $115,000.

A first edition copy of Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy was priced at $11,400. And a first edition copy of  Böhm Bawerk's Kapital Und Kapitalizns, that was originally part of Philip Wicksteed's librarywas priced at $14,800.

Book dealer Ian Smith with a first edition copy of   Böhm Bawerk's Kapital Und Kapitalizns 
Smith told me that all Austrian school economists sell well. He said a first edition copy of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom with a clean dust jacket would sell for $5,000.

He said that in general books by Hayek and Ludwig von Mises sold in the same general price range.

The Peter Harrington catalog lists a third revised edition of Mises' Human Action that Mises inscribed to John H. Taggart, the Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at New York University, where Mises taught for 20 years.

The inscription reads:
Dean Joseph H. Taggart
Ludwig von Mises
February 14, 196
The book is priced at $1,900.

Smith told me that immediately after the Berlin Wall came down, Marx's books crashed in price, but have since rebounded. He said that in 2011, he sold a copy of  Das Kapital that was signed by Marx for $400,000. I asked him if the book was worth even more now.  He replied, "Well, I wouldn't mind having it back."

He said that the only John Maynard Keynes book that sells well is the General Theory, which he said with a good dust jacket would sell for $15,000. He contrasted this with Hayek's books which he said, "All fly off the shelves."

I asked him about more current day economists such as Murray Rothbard and Paul Krugman. He said Rothbard first editions sell for around $200.00. He said he holds some Krugman books, "But there really isn't that much interest."

I spotted at another dealer's table at the fair a first edition copy of  Richard Cantillon's  Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général,  for $45,000.

Richard Cantillon's  Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général 

A first edition copy of Irving Fischer's Stable Money was priced at $7,500.

A first edition copy of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty was priced at $20,000.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics


  1. The Conservative Book Club uses to run an ad in National Review offering the Third Edition of Human Action for free with a subscription to its club.

  2. Oh, the irony! Fed pumping driving up the price of a Cantillon!