A first edition Book of Mormon, valued at $100,000, was stolen from a bookstore in Mesa, Arizona some time over the Memorial Day weekend.
Helen Schlie, the 88-year-old bookstore owner of Rare and Out of Print Books and Art, said she discovered the book was missing on Memorial Day when two LDS sister missionaries stopped by the store to have their pictures taken with the historical book. Schlie said the last time she saw the book was around 7 p.m. the preceding Friday.
Schlie said the book was special to many people and the store was frequently visited by people wanting to see the book that is the foundation of their faith. She said she fears the book was most likely stolen by someone she had previously shown the book to.
When it wasn’t on display for the public, the book was kept in a small safe held inside an unlocked filing cabinet. Unfortunately, the book was not insured.
A total of 5,000 first edition Books of Mormon were printed in 1830. Experts say there are only about 500 copies left today.
Schlie, a convert to the LDS church, bought the book with her husband in the late 1960s. Since then, the book has skyrocketed in value.
John Hajicek is an expert on American religious artifacts and is based in Jackson County, Missouri. Hajicek said the value of a first edition Book of Mormon has increased from decade to decade. Valued at only $100 in 1950, the price quickly reached $100,000 by the year 2000.
Schlie had sold around 40 to 60 of the pages from the book as individually-framed relics, so it was not in extraordinary condition. However, Hajicek said through email even though pages have been removed from the book, it is still worth a lot.
“Given the audience and the fan following she had, I have no doubt she could have sold the book for $100,000,” Hajicek said. He continued, stating extraordinary copies have peaked at $180,000.
Hajicek said experts estimate by 2020 even ordinary copies will sell for up to $250,000.