A Price-less Rarity of a Book

January 29, 2018
by Noriyuki Morimoto

Books with historic value, an extremely small number of existing volumes, and very low chances of being found in used bookstores are classified as rare books. Whenever they happen to appear on the market, they are likely to be traded at extremely high prices?or are they?


There is a book written by Takashi Negishi, a renowned economist and honorary professor of the University of Tokyo who was awarded the Order of Culture, titled The Time Tunnel of Economics (1984). This is an exciting collection of reviews on 24 selected classic works in economics, although the book itself is not rare.


One of the books introduced in the above book is “seldom found in the lists of used bookstores, and doesn’t fetch a price because the volume is so rare”. It is Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s Study on Keynesian Economics (1953).


Dr. Negishi described this book as “one of the earliest works in Japan featuring a full-fledged academic study on Keynesian economics: it is not only a good guide with excellent interpretations, but one of the best in terms of raising questions,” adding “I think I have been affected greatly by this book, at least at a subconscious level”.


Since it was such a good book, a new edition was published in 1999 after Dr. Negishi wrote about it. Becoming a rare book means there is a strong demand for it among economic scholars, so from the publisher’s point of view, a new edition likely had prospects to sell.


When a new edition is published, it seems that the price of the original edition is likely to fall, but what actually happens is not clear. As Dr. Negishi mentions, it is so rare that the book isn’t even properly priced. Put simply, without a book there is no transaction, without a transaction there is no price, and without a price, there is no way of knowing the price changes.


Actually, I am the owner of this extremely rare Study on Keynesian Economics. I didn’t buy it expensively: instead I picked it up very cheaply from a box in which the used bookstore had thrown all kinds of worthless books. It was a moment of joy and excitement as a book lover.


When Dr. Negishi says the book is so rare that it doesn’t fetch a price, it is only a presumption to interpret it as being extremely expensive. The reality of being price-less may be that it is totally forgotten and therefore available for almost nothing.

Noriyuki Morimoto
Noriyuki Morimoto

Chief Executive Officer, HC Asset Management Co.,Ltd. Noriyuki Morimoto founded HC Asset Management in November 2002. As a pioneer investment consultant in Japan, he established the investment consulting business of Watson Wyatt K.K. (now Willis Towers Watson) in 1990.