1848 Mitchell’s Universal Atlas

Value (2013) | $3,200 Retail
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GUEST:
My father gave me the atlas. He found it sometime during the mid-1980s, Upstate New York at a yard sale. And he found it at the bottom of a dusty old trunk and he purchased it for five dollars.

APPRAISER:
Well, that's pretty good. It is pretty beat up, which we'll discuss a little bit later, but the glory of it is inside, so let's open it up to the title page, and here it is, "A New Universal Atlas," and it is published by a guy named S. Augustus Mitchell, and you can see down on the bottom there is his name and the date, 1848. It is actually one of the most important atlases of American history because 1848 was the time that America gained its last major acquisition of land. It was the end of the Mexican War, when we gained what is now California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. That's an important time, and this atlas was issued right as that's going on, so it's kind of interesting. If we look at it, Mitchell tried to keep his atlases up to date, but if we look at the United States map, this is just before the United States got that territory, so you can see down here this whole area is still shown as part of Mexico, but by the end of 1848, that was part of the United States, so that's kind of anachronistic. But one of the great things is that he was doing regional maps, and he added this very important map that shows Oregon, which had just become officially part of the United States two years before in 1846, and upper California, and that was acquired by the United States. So this is in effect the new part of the United States, where it gained that last big area. It wasn't until 1850, a couple of years later, that this whole area was divided up. Now generally, and I've talked about this a lot of times, value of maps comes from their historical importance, their connection with history. Well, you don't get more immediate than this. This just happened, Mitchell issues this map of what the United States just gained, so people are fascinated by this. So when you look at the map values, this is going to be one of your most valuable maps.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Now, the value of this atlas comes from actually the individual value of the maps. One of the reasons for that is, as you know, it's not complete. It's missing the map of the United States. So it's kind of falling apart and it's missing a map. Now, you could as a collector put it back together and try to fix it up, but mostly this is what we call a breaker, which means it's something that if it came to a dealer, they would probably take it apart because it's no longer as it was originally, and they would sell the individual maps. Now, if you went to sell it, okay, you're selling it at wholesale, the value of the whole would be about $3,200. However, if you start looking, it's kind of interesting: where does this $3,200 come from? If you look at the individual maps, there are over 70 maps in here. This particular map by itself would sell in a retail shop for about $850. This map of Texas, because Texans love Texas and it's just a couple of years after it became a state in 1845, this would sell for about $950. Now, if you started adding up $850, $950 and you think they're all like that, you get a lot of money. However, most of the maps don't sell for that. If you just take a common map like a map of Illinois or something like that, that might sell for $250, $300. If you add up all the maps together in here, you're probably looking at a retail value, if you sold them all, for about $12,000. So why is it only going to... you're only going to be selling it for about $3,200? Because you have to sell them all to get that.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Some of the maps, the Oregon map, the Texas map, they would sell readily, but some of these other maps would sit around for a long time, so that's why you have the difference.

GUEST:
I think that's great. I think I will keep it as a complete atlas...

APPRAISER:
That's great.

GUEST:
And just enjoy it in almost complete condition.

APPRAISER:
As an atlas, if it were complete and it was in a little better shape than this, it would probably sell for about $5,000 to $5,500 in a retail environment.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Some of the maps, the Oregon map, the Texas map, they would sell readily, but some of these other maps would sit around for a long time, so that's why you have the difference.

GUEST:
I think that's great. I think I will keep it as a complete atlas...

APPRAISER:
That's great. And just enjoy it in almost complete condition. As an atlas, if it were complete and it was in a little better shape than this, it would probably sell for about $5,000 to $5,500 in a retail environment.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
The Philadelphia Print Shop West
Denver, CO
Appraised value (2013)
$3,200 Retail
Event
Baton Rouge, LA (July 27, 2013)
Period
19th Century
Form
Atlas
Material
Paper

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