Here Be Dragons – And Map Lovers

I used to love collecting things like snow globes, comic books, miniature figurines. However, it never crossed my mind to collect maps. In the article, Here Be Dragons – And Map Lovers, people actually pay over hundreds of thousands of dollars on early century maps of North American territories. The highest price paid ever for a map was $10 million, paid by the Library of Congress to Price Waldburg-Wolfegg of Germany in 2003, for the 1507 Waldseemüller map. (See here.)

December will be a busy month for map collectors. There is an auction, set on December 5by Arader Galleries in New York, dedicated to incorrectly plotted maps, globes, atlases and other related objects. They will be offering 50 maps with prices ranging from $450,000 to $600,000. On December 6, the very next day, Swann Galleries will be hosting an auction with over 250 pieces to sell. On December 7, Christie’s will host an auction with a Revolutionary War-era map of the New York region for an estimated $700,000 to $1 million.

Many of the maps were interesting to look at; especially the lion shaped one by Hessel Gerritsz. It is interesting to see how people depict places they have never seen. There are so many different shapes the land masses transform into. The maps really demonstrate the process of geographic discovery and progression over the centuries. Personally, I do not think it is worth the money everyone shells out for them. What is the point in investing in a map that will not get you to your destination and will most definitely get you lost? Is that not what a map is conventionally used for?

A well-known collector is Ned Davis who claimed, “It’s just kind of cool to think about what it would be like if California really was an island.” What value do you think collectors find in collecting maps with mistakes? Is it just for those who want to satisfy their imagination? Would any of you consider collecting maps? Do you think this can become a popularized form of art?

13 thoughts on “Here Be Dragons – And Map Lovers

  1. I think collectors get maps with mistakes because they provide an interesting look into the past. I think collecting maps is something I might do, but I doubt it will ever be very popular.

  2. Why would anyone pay so much for any one map or collection of maps? Unless these maps lead to some kind of treasure, such as riches, truths, or new discoveries, or hold some kind of sentimental value to their purchasers, the prices are far too exorbitant. I don’t have any interest in collecting maps, but maybe that will change in the future due to the flying cars we are supposed to get in the near future. I would want to save a few maps of the MTA just for nostalgia.

  3. I think that like collecting paintings and sculptures, collecting maps can be a rewarding hobby as well. Maps have changed over the years from when people still thought that the world was flat to the different types of topographical maps that we have today. I think that collecting maps could show an interesting change over time in human perception. As well, there are many different types of maps that a person can collect. There are subway maps, treasure maps, maps of the world, maps of certain countries, etc. Collecting a map with mistakes can have value, because it shows a bit of history or a different perception that was held by people years ago. Though I would never pay such an exorbitant price for a map, I think maps are just as collectible as trading cards and comic books.

  4. Wow… that’s a ridiculous amount of money to pay for maps. Of course, if you have the money and the interest to spend millions on ancient maps, I can’t criticize you, but I really can’t relate to the mindset required to be one of these collectors.

    • I totally agree with you. Collectors tend to be people with either enough money or time on their hands.

  5. I can see that it seems bizarre that collects are willing to pay so much for a map, but these maps are unique. They have mistakes in them and there won’t be another one like it. There are thousands of copies of maps that we use on a ordinary day, but those maps with mistakes are one of a kind. Just like Artworks, what makes maps valuable to collectors is that those maps are one of a kind. However, i do think that paying $10 million dollars is kind of ridiculous. I have to agree with Anton that collectors tend to be people with either enough money or time on their hand.

  6. I think it’s interesting that the collector said his incentive for spending so much money on the map was so he could imagine California as an island. I don’t think you need to shell out that much cash to use your imagination. I think the incentive for the collectors is that the maps are one of a kind. It’s more for them just to say that they may have the only map that shows California as an island or something like that in my opinion.

  7. I can’t relate to map collectors who would spend lots of money on old, unusable maps. I do, however, understand that those maps are ancient and have historical value. It can be interesting to see how people mess up in maps and such. Maps can be art if the delivery is done creatively. By that I mean if something is added to the map to make it unusual or odd. A person could possibly ‘map’ a city or place but focus on highlights or perception instead of accuracy. There are interesting possibilities.
    The maps could also be bought and sold off later at a similar price, just as how some art pieces are bought for relatively fixed value in bad economic times, as mentioned in Garrett’s post.

  8. I understand how some people can find it ridiculous to see others spend such a large amount of money on a map, but there’s the saying that one man’s trash may be a treasure to someone else. We might not look at maps with high value, but to map collectors each map might have a different significance or story behind it. I think looking at maps can also be insightful at times because they show us how the world, or even our neighborhood, has changed over the years.

  9. I think map collecting is really cool. Even if the maps are wrong, they are still valuable artifacts that can actually help us understand the progression of history. If I had hundreds of thousands of dollars to shell out on old maps, maybe I would. Who knows? I don’t think this is a pointless art. The map that you hyper linked into the article was so beautiful and detailed. I think it would look nice hanging in someone’s home, and if someone can afford it, then why not?

  10. It is really surprising how maps are collected and sold at such prices. Though, many people views maps as artifacts and important records of history. Others may think maps are pieces of art, and if people are willing to spend millions of dollars on paintings, why not maps? These old maps are also unique because they are not replicable. In current society, everyone is so “knowledgeable” about everything; it might be interesting thinking about how mysterious the world is to others years ago.

  11. Collectors are indeed quite unique. They are willing to spend such high amounts of money for their collections and find the fulfillment in doing so. I respect that and all because passion is what drives us as humans. Spending millions of dollars for such passions may seem too much for me though. I neither have the time nor money to chase after such treasures.

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