Jump Into Collecting Books: Investing in Modern and Current First Editions

First edition of “Carrie”

First edition of “Carrie”

If you are looking for an investment you can enjoy on a rainy day is relatively easy to get into and doesn’t require a broker or bank, then give first edition books a go. Most people think that collecting first editions is an expensive hobby for the high-income earners with large paneled libraries and leather armchairs. Contrary to this popular belief, collecting first editions doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, and even books by well known authors can be very affordable.

As with most items—whether antique or collectible—condition counts for just about everything when purchasing a modern first edition. The book itself, as well as the jacket, should be free of defects such as tears, bumped corners or soiling. The book should look almost “as new.”* A good way to start is begin a relationship with reputable dealers who back their stock and issue proper receipts fully describing your purchases.

Books, like many other collectibles, are priced based on supply and demand. The first books of an author who goes on to become a best seller can often be very expensive because the first editions are often printed in a far lower printing than the ones by the same author published later. For example, Stephen King’s first book, “Carrie,” published in 1974 and signed by the author can sell for more than $5000 if in “Very Good” condition. Meanwhile, a signed first edition copy of one of his later books, such as “The Tommyknockers,” from 1987 can be found for less than $125, and unsigned examples often sell for less than $25 at a bookseller. As an added bonus, if the author you collect, like King, is still alive, you can make a quick improvement in your investment by having it signed when the author is on tour promoting their books.

First edition of “The Sun Also Rises”

First edition of “The Sun Also Rises”

Even the works of very famous deceased authors that are institutions such as Earnest Hemingway need not be considered too expensive for beginner’s tastes. While a good first edition signed copy of his first book, “The Sun Also Rises” lists for $5000 with some booksellers, a first edition his last book, “The Garden of Eden,” published after his death lists for about $85.

* The various conditions normally used by book sellers to describe books are listed as can be seen below:

As New”: Means just that; flawless right from the store.

Fine“: Close to the condition “As New,” but not as crisp. Still, there must also be no defects.

Very Good“: Describes a used book with some small signs of wear but no rips or tears on either binding or paper. Any defects will be noted in the description.

Good“: An average used and worn book that still has all pages or leaves. Any defects will be noted in the description.

Fair“: Describes a worn book that has complete text pages including maps or plates, but may be missing end papers. The binding will generally be worn in spots, and any defects will be noted in the description.

Poor“: A book that is so worn that its only rates as a reading copy with a complete text, but it could have missing maps or plates, exhibit loose joints or bindings. These examples also tend to be scuffed or stained, and any defects will be noted in the description.

Ex-library“: Former library books must always be listed as such no matter what the condition of the book. Any defects will be noted in the description.

Binding Copy“: Is a book in which the pages are perfect, but there could be damage to the binding or the binding could be missing

Book Club“: Editions are always listed as such regardless of the condition of the book.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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