I recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions regarding the current state of Civil War book collecting to Tom Broadfoot, who, for those who may not know, is and has been one of the leading Civil War booksellers and publishers in the country. If you're not familiar with his website, you need to check it out here.
PT: You mentioned once to me that the collecting of 19th century Civil War first editions was a hobby in decline. Generally, older collectors were dying off and/or selling their collections and were not being replaced by younger collectors who had probably grown up in the new digital/video age. Do you still feel this way?
TB: Yes, yes, yes.
PT: Can you describe your typical collector? i.e. gender, age, income, southern, or northern? etc. Are most of your customers just interested in the “data” a book may contain?
TB: Male, 55-60, upper income bracket, Southern, ½ collecting data, ½ collecting collectibles.
PT: The Ken Burns miniseries in the early 90s’s along with Ted Turner’s Gettysburg seemed to generate a marked increase in interest in the Civil War. Do you think the upcoming sesquicentennial will have a similar impact in general, and any impact on Civil War book collecting in particular?
TB: Won’t have any impact on collecting, will have an impact on sales of new Civil War books at Barnes & Noble, etc.
PT: Are there any types of CW books that are especially in demand, or “hot?”
TB: Rare Confederate titles.
I, for one thoroughly enjoy my collecting passion (vice?) and hope it extends well into my golden years. (My wife will beg to differ) Nevertheless, his observations do not bode well for our hobby. I wonder if this situation extends into all fields or genres of book collecting? To take it a step further, are books as we've come to know them slowly going the way of the 78 rpm or LP record?