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Private collection of Church documents, including 3 first-edition copies of ‘Book of Mormon’ for sale

Part of a collection for sale (Business Wire)

SALT LAKE CITY — A private collection of letters, documents, books and art relating to Utah’s religious and old-west history — including three first edition copies of “The Book of Mormon” — is for sale.

“This is one of the most valuable and expansive LDS collections in private hands today,” Jerry Erkelens, Personal Property Appraiser at Intermountain Auction and Appraisal said. “In my 40 years of appraising LDS works, I have never come across anything quite like it. With more than 4,000 items, this collection provides a unique lens into a transformational time for the religion, which helps piece together significant moments within U.S. history.”

Largely focused on historic items related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the items reflect the interests of original collector, the late Ralph Bailey. According to Berkshire Hathaway, the “collection offers insight into the history and the colonization of the America West and the early years of the LDS Church.”

Berkshire Hathaway said the collection is valued at $3.2 million and is being sold as a single lot

“Our father was a treasure hunter with an inquisitive mind who would spend time talking to all sorts of interesting characters in each town, flea market, or garage sale he visited,” Pam Collard, Ralph Bailey’s daughter said. “He loved history and finding interesting clues and documents that shared insight into areas he was passionate about including the U.S. and its religious history.”

The collection includes three first-edition copies of the “Book of Mormon” as well as “many rare books and early LDS pamphlets.” It also includes legal property and society documents and drawings from Jack Sears, a Utah artist. A list of the ten most valuable items in the collection include letters from former Church prophet Brigham Young and the three copies of “The Book of Mormon.”

The top 10 most valuable items in the collection:

  1. First edition Book of Mormon with reference pages found in the well at Hawn’s Mill, Missouri.
  2. Brigham Young letter, dated 8/8/1857.
  3. Brigham Young letter, dated 3/18/1859.
  4. First edition Book of Mormon.
  5. First edition Book of Mormon.
  6. Brigham Young letter, dated 1/6/1858.
  7. Brigham Young letter, dated 12/3/1858.
  8. Brigham Young letter, dated 4/15/1859.
  9. Brigham Young letter, dated 11/26/1857.
  10. Brigham Young letter, dated 2/4/1858.

Moon’s Rare Books states on its website that there are estimated to be approximately 500 copies of  the first edition “The Book of Mormon” that survived from the original print run of 5,000. Of those, an estimated 200 are owned by libraries, museums and universities, leaving 300 that might ever be available for the public.

In 2013 on PBS series “Antiques Roadshow” appraised one family’s heirloom copy of one copy of “The Book of Mormon” at between $75,000 and $100,000 from an episode filmed in Boise, Idaho. Long-time Utah book dealer Ken Sanders offered the appraisal.

Questions about the collection can be sent to

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