Ask The Experts
In every issue of The Avid Collector, our Expert Booksellers will answer your questions on rare and collectible books. Ask the Experts is compiled in cooperation with Fine Books & Collections magazine. You can save 43% on a subscription to Fine Books & Collections. Learn More
Big Value in Paperbacks ?
Q. Do old paperbacks have any real value? What about signed paperbacks?—Windy
Book Club Editions: Vera Caspary’s Laura
Q. I recently read John Dunning’s bibliomystery, The Sign of the Book. He mentioned Vera Caspary’s book, Laura, and claimed that it was very rare in the first edition. Would this also be one of those infrequent occasions when the book-club edition might also have value?—Suzanne Bogue, One More Time Bookstore, Amarillo, Texas, USA
Complete sets of the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series typically fetch $3,000 and up—more if the set is still in the original publisher’s shrinkwrap. The investment return is quite moderate given the present cost of each book. Also note that attaching the accompanying owner’s labels will result in a significant loss in value, often as much as 50 percent.
Perhaps the best values in Easton Press books are the signed limited editions. Since the majority of them are now out-of-print, AbeBooks.com is a good source for these books. Most signed editions come with a certificate of authenticity. This gives legitimacy on the secondary market and also safeguards book values. These editions can bring a handsome return if held for several years. Another solid investment can be the Easton Press sets — U.S. Presidents, Civil War, Astronauts, Philosophers, etc. that range from two volumes to more than seventy, in the case of the American presidents series.
—Robert Hall, Hall’s Well Books, Mount Laurel, New Jersey, USA
For more on Easton Press books, visit our dedicated web page.
Is it Worth Keeping a Bookseller's Description?Q. I have a book by James Patterson with a seller’s description that says the author “laid the signed bookplate in the book!” Should I keep the description? Or does it really mean anything? —Dayton Larson
A. For books I buy online, I usually keep the seller’s description with the book, being sure to fold it so that the printer toner doesn’t touch any part of the book—it might start coming off after enough years. I find this is a good way to remember when and where I bought a book.
Typically, signed books are worth more than the same book with only an autographed bookplate. (You can read more about signed books versus bookplates in a previous issue of Ask the Experts.) A signature in a book indicates that an author once held the volume, if only for a moment. This can be a powerful attraction for collectors. The description you mention suggests that James Patterson once held your book. While this is possible, it seems improbable. Why would he sign the bookplate and not the book if he had the book in his hands? Unless there is a photograph or a published account of the event where this took place, most future collectors probably won’t have much confidence in your seller’s description. On the plus side, it is unlikely to make much difference in the value of the book one way or another.
Collectors of extremely popular authors—Dan Brown, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, etc.—should be very wary of signed books. These writers are mobbed when they appear in public, so they don’t make many appearances. Always question when and where a book was signed. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
— Scott Brown, Editor, Fine Books & Collections magazine
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