1910 Hough's "American Woods" 3rd Edition Set

Value (2013) | $35,000 Retail$45,000 Retail

In 1976, we were living in Massachusetts, where both my husband and I had grown up, and we bought our first house. It was an old sort of fixer-upper, and the attic was full of all kinds of junk, mostly. And in the course of clearing out the house and renovating, we came across a box with this set of books. And we very carefully packed it up and put it away and got on with the business of getting the house together and pretty much forgot about it over the years.

You just don't ever get to see this set in its completeness. This shows American woods. It's actually a project to describe the nomenclature of all the American woods and trees of the day. The book was first published in 1888, and what you brought in today is the third edition of 1910, with the latest changes in botanical nomenclature. And in these 14 volumes, he has actually produced a book that virtually covers almost every known species of American trees by showing how to identify the tree by its wood. And each of these plates shows three different views of the wood. These are actually thinly sliced pieces of the real wood. And to hand-do that and then to print and label them, bind them into these pages and... over the 14 volumes, there are over 1,000 different American trees identified by actual samples of the wood. They're in astonishing condition as well, so you've taken good care of them. Do you have any idea what this set might be worth?

I don't. In the attic, there were also some pieces of old clocks, and we did have someone come to the house to look at the clocks, but at the same time, a dealer offered me $2,000 for it, but we never followed up, and we said, "They're kind of cool. Why don't we just hang onto them?"

That was a wise choice. At retail, this set in this condition would fetch approximately $30,000.

You're kidding.

No, I'm not. I believe that's conservative. The set is in absolutely perfect condition, and it's one of the most sought-after sets of the 20th century.

I'm really amazed. I'm very glad I didn't take his offer.

How much did you pay for the house?

In 1976, we paid $53,000.

Appraisal Details

Ken Sanders Rare Books
Salt Lake City, UT
Update (2013)
$35,000 Retail$45,000 Retail
Appraised value (2009)
$30,000 Retail
Denver, CO (July 25, 2009)
October 10, 2011: After this segment first aired, appraiser Ken Sanders got in touch to let us know that he now realizes he mispronounced the author's name throughout his appraisal of the American Woods set by R.B. Hough. The correct pronunciation of Hough's name is "huff" rather than "how."

Update 12.23.2013: We contacted appraiser Ken Sanders for an updated appraisal in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $35,000 - $45,000 (Increased)

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