Trash or Treasure: Age and rarity increase religious items value
Mary Olson is lucky to have a number of items passed down through her family that she can trace back as far as the 1600s to Gov. John Webster of Connecticut.
Not all of her heirlooms come with complete information, however, a fact that has left her both curious and frustrated. She recently brought a few of her more historic items to the Michigan Design Center where Brian Thomczek took a look in an effort to fill her in and give her some idea of the items’ value.
One is a vintage Bible concordance that dates to 1682. “I don’t know why we have this,” Olson told the appraiser, adding that it could go back as far as her Connecticut ancestor, but she just doesn’t know. She has a number of religious items, including a vintage Bible with a red woven cover that she speculates may have been a mate to the concordance and may date to the same era.
A concordance is an index-like tool of words, usually alphabetical, designed to help readers find specific Bible passages.
The site booklibris.com has information for families curious about inherited vintage Bibles, including that any value is determined by desire — “in other words, does anyone want it?,” any connection to historic events or people, and finally, the condition. “Just as “location, location, location” is the mantra in the real estate world, condition makes or breaks a collectible Bible,” it explains, adding that most Bibles fall in the $10 to $20 range because so many were made and so few are in pristine condition. “The Bible is also the most printed book in history and many old copies have survived,” it states. “Consequently, few old Bibles have any monetary or collectible value.”
More information on the topic can be found on the fascinating and thorough www.regencyantiquebooks.com, which restates that value is based on how old the Bible is (1800 or earlier is best, it says), its condition and ultimately, its rarity. “Old Bibles published between 1900-2000 are almost exclusively considered reading material and unless your copy was owned by someone famous, it is not worth further research,” the site explains, adding “Elvis Presley’s personal Bible, published in 1977, sold for $94,000 at auction in 2012. The exact same Bible, not owned by Elvis Presley, is worth $10 or less.”
By those rules, Olson’s early books are among the more valuable. Thomczek said her concordance, while in less-than-perfect condition, could be an exception to the general rule. “The condition is to be expected with a piece this old,” he explained. The binding could be fixed and it could be cleaned without affecting the value,” he said. “It’s definitely a collectible book because of the age… I’d say at least a few hundred, maybe more, but you’d have to put some money into it first.” He said her vintage Bible is a similar case.
He recommended consulting a specialized dealer if she was interested in pursuing selling or restoration, suggesting John K. King Used & Rare Books as a possible place to start. “He might know someone who can steer you in the right direction,” Thomczek added.
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: firstname.lastname@example.org or The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure? 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime phone number. If chosen, you’ll need to bring the item to a free appraisal session and be willing to be featured with your item in the column. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.
About this item
Item: Bible concordance
Owned by: Mary Olson
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated Value: $200 and up