Starting a Map Collection – buying the first map.

As a dealer, we frequently work with first time map buyers who are just starting their collections. Guiding new collectors on their first antique map purchase and helping new collectors to focus their interests is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an rare map dealer. While some first time map buyers are very focused right from the get go, others have only a vague idea of what they are interested in and what they are looking for.

The first thing we do is determine what is important to our collectors in a rare map or antique map. Most collectors prefer to build their collections around a theme. In this regard the possibilities are endless. Some popular focus areas are historical periods, geographic areas, a single cartographer, maps made for a certain purpose (say railroad maps), certain types of maps such as pocket maps or wall maps, map styles, etc. Thus, by asking the right questions before making a purchase, a collector can go a long way in narrowing the many options. We generally ask:

  • Are you interested in particular areas?
  • Are you interested in maps from a specific period?
  • Do you like elaborate decorative maps or simpler maps without decorative embellishment?
  • Do you want sea chart or a land-based map?
  • Are you interested in historic value, decorative value, or both?
  • Do you want it to be colored, black and white, or does it not matter?
  • Is your map collection an investment?
  • How large does it need to be, or does it not matter?
  • Is it important that the map names certain regions, towns, buildings or villages?
  • How important is it that the map is accurate ( many of the most valuable and interesting early maps are far from accurate )?
  • How important is condition?
  • Lastly, what is your budget?


Once these questions are addressed, we generally have a very good idea of exactly what a new collector might like to see. From this point, a good dealer or advisor can a suggest range specific maps that will interest a new buyer. Of course, once collectors start looking at actual maps, many find that their aesthetic ideas change and that their interests evolve in new interesting directions. This is part of the learning process and can be expected as a collector and collection matures.

Geographicus is always ready to help first time collectors and gift buyers choose the best map for their particular circumstances. Just call our customer service number for an expert (usually myself) who will be happy to assist you.