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Investing in Antique Maps 2

 Desirable, uncommon, inexpensive - and overlooked. But not for much longer.


The main sources of antique maps are atlases, or books containing maps. Since 1946, atlases have increased in value by 250% every 10 years. Why is this? From the late fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, only small quantities of atlases were printed because production costs were high. Each map was engraved on a copper plate or wood block, which took months of painstaking work. And more than a few hundred copies could not be printed because copper plates or wood blocks were relatively soft and deteriorated after each impression in a printing press. Only the wealthiest people could afford to possess an atlas.

Recently, major investors have begun to notice these atlases. For example, in 2005 an early atlas was sold for a record-breaking £2.2 million auction price. The prices of other early atlases doubled in value. Consequently, single maps, which originally were part of these atlases, have doubled in price. Soon the prices of all atlases will be affected by increasing investor interest.

University libraries and other public institutions collect antique maps of specific regions. Such collections do not return to the market place, regardless of commercial economic realities. And the budgets of these institutions are increasing as the economies in many countries in Eastern Europe and the Far East continue to grow. This means antique maps in general continuously become harder to find and more valuable. Note that during the 1930s depression and the following world war, antique maps rose in value - for investors who understand their historical significance they are an 'intellectual property' safe haven.

And owning an antique map collection has another bonus; collectors like to display them as impressive objets d'art.

Many investors collect maps of a single region, which can range from the entire world to a single city.  Don't forget that maps of all time periods are rising in value because of their historical significance e.g. they can be the first to show surveyed coastlines, new towns, boundaries etc. To get an idea of the costs involved you need a catalogue of all the maps published of the region you have chosen and their current prices. The only catalogue in existence, from the year 1472 to 1850, can be found by clicking 'Region' above and scrolling down to the region that interests you. Or you can learn more about the 24 regional catalogues in general by going to 'Collect Antique Maps' above. You can see our 'Maps of the Week' by clicking 'Home'.