In every issue of The Avid Collector, our Expert Booksellers will answer your questions on rare and collectible books.
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Signed Books vs. Bookplates

Q. What is the difference in value between an author-signed book and a book with an author-signed bookplate? All other things being equal, is it worth it to buy author signed bookplates and place them into books by that author? - Annette


A bookplate signed by mystery novelist Laurie R. King. [Find this Bookplate]

A. An author-signed bookplate (unless it indicates that the book came from the author’s personal library) is typically worth the same as any other kind of straight autograph. Gluing the bookplate inside a book, however, can actually hurt resale value, as many collectors consider such additions to be defacement.

Books directly signed by an author are usually worth more than the same book with a signed bookplate laid in. The reason why may have something to do with the mystique associated with the author actually handling the book in question, holding pen in hand and scrawling her signature inside. If the recipient is fortunate, the author may include a bit of wisdom or a wry comment along with the signature. Bookplates are perceived as somewhat antiseptic and more distant than the personally signed book. As to whether it is worthwhile to purchase a book accompanied by an author-signed bookplate, we would offer a guarded “yes.” It is quite pleasant to have an author’s signature, even if it’s on a bookplate. But if your intent is to get as close as possible to the mystique that often exists between authors and their devoted readers, the premium associated with a signed book is, in our opinion, always worthwhile.

Many authors are happy to autograph books through the mail, if return postage is provided. An enthusiastic request to have a book signed, sent in care of the author’s current publisher, may well result in an invitation to send the book to be signed.
-- James P. Bixler, Spirit Dancer Books, Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Click here for an interview with James Bixler

How to Get Started in Book Collecting

Q. I would like to collect books. Can you give me some advice about how to get started without getting ripped off? I love to read and would love to have a collection for my children to look forward to. - Kira

A. The best advice for any collector is to only collect what you want to read. Anything else will eventually become boring and an expensive chore that you will abandon easily. But if you steadily buy books that interest and excite you and that you eagerly read and then add to your bookshelves, you will build up a collection that will in turn be of interest and value (not just monetary value) to your children. You can collect an author or a subject or a genre, whatever most appeals to you. It’s important to collect a subject or theme that intrigues you so much that you want to learn more about it.

Knowledge is the name of the game and will help you to make wise buying decisions. My advice is to buy from sellers with listings on AbeBooks that describe a book’s condition and edition properly. Generally, the rip-offs are the books with very minimal descriptions and tell-tale meaningless phrases such as “good condition for its age.” If a dealer took the time to provide a detailed description of a book, the bookseller is probably reliable. Always buy the best condition copies that you can afford. Worn copies might be cheap, but they seldom appreciate in value.
-- David Anderson, Narnia Books, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Deciphering Book Search Results

Q. I came to AbeBooks.com after searching for Silvercraft (Leisure Crafts No. 50). I note there are many copies for sale but cannot understand why some are $1 and some are over $200. Why the difference? Am I missing something important? - Mary

A. When you arrive at AbeBooks.com from a search engine, you’ll see a list of books related to your query, but they may not be exactly what you want. In that case, try AbeBooks’ Advanced Search option. Books that are part of a series, like the one you are looking for, can be tricky. Some dealers will put “Leisure Craft” in the title. Some will use “Silvercraft.” No. 50 can be written #50 or Number 50. Anytime you want a hard-to-catalog title, use the Keyword field, and don’t put too much information in it. The keyword field will search title, author, and description all at once. Searching for “Silvercraft Leisure Crafts 50” (without quote marks), generates just three responses, priced from $1 to $8. What a deal! With different searches, I was able to find the $200 books you mentioned. These may be slightly different books, or they could reflect wishful thinking on the part of the bookseller. The key to getting a good deal on AbeBooks is doing the right kind of search.
-- Scott Brown, Editor, Fine Books & Collections magazine


Buying a Book as a Gift

Q. I am looking to buy my girlfriend a book for her birthday. I’d like to get her a nice copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I have up to £100 ($200) to spend but have never bought anything like this before. Do you have any tips? - James


Slipcased edition of The Importance of being Earnest, limited to 500 numbered copies on Lee paper at the Anthoensen Press.
Find this Copy | More Slipcased Editions

A. Whether you’re buying a gift in person or on AbeBooks, you’ll want a book in fine or very good condition. These are terms of art used by booksellers in describing their wares. Fine is book that has no blemishes and that can stand proudly on a shelf or displayed on a coffee table. Very good denotes a book that may have minor flaws.

We recommend that you comparison shop when searching. AbeBooks.com makes this very easy. After clicking on Advanced Search, one can key the title and price range before hitting the “Find Now” button. If you’re willing to spend $200, you might look for books priced between $100 and $300, for starters. Read the various descriptions, looking for books bound in leather, or in a slipcase (a special box), or with color illustrations. These kinds of books often make better gifts than first editions or other volumes that appeal to collectors.

Many book dealers also provide photos of the book; and when they don’t, many will send a photo by email if asked. And remember, most book dealers will understand your situation (buying a gift) and will gladly tell you whether the book in question is suitable.
-- Barrie Pribyl, ABCD Books, Camden, Maine

Gift editions of The Importance of Being Earnest currently offered on AbeBooks include slipcased editions and editions featuring color illustrations, signed by the illustrator.


Appraisal: When the Antiques Roadshow is stumped, AbeBooks turns to the Book Guys

Q. We have a copy of a Bible that was printed for the coronation of King Edward VIII, which was due to take place on 12th May 1937, but never happened. The Bible was originally given to my mother-in-law by a representative of Collins Publishers in 1936 or 1937. When Antiques Roadshow paid a visit to our area, we went in the hope of learning something about the Bible. The appraiser we spoke to said that, although he had never seen one, he assumed that thousands would have been published. We rather doubted that, given the fact that Edward abdicated, and we decided to contact the publisher. They have been most intrigued, but even they do not seem to have any record of it. Can you tell me if many copies exist and do you have any idea of its potential value? - Sue

A. This was a very interesting appraisal. Your Bible is a scarce book. No copies are currently listed on AbeBooks.com, and I could not find a copy in any library. I agree with the Roadshow appraiser that Collins must have published thousands of copies, and I have a theory about where they went. But first, some background.

In 1930, Edward, Prince of Wales, the heir to the British throne, met and fell in love with a married American woman, Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Edward, who had previous relationships with other married women, was determined to wed Simpson once she obtained a divorce. After the death of his father, King George V, Edward ascended the throne on January 20, 1936, taking the name Edward VIII. Preparations began at once for Edward’s coronation, scheduled for May 12, 1937. British tradition had established spring as the appropriate time for the royal coronation. Manufacturers immediately produced souvenir items emblazoned with Edward VIII’s name and monogram, including Collins Clear-Type Press, which published the commemorative Bible you own.

Wallis Simpson obtained her divorce in 1936, and Edward, forced to make a decision between the crown and Mrs. Simpson (who, as a divorcee, could not become queen), chose to execute an Instrument of Abdication on December 10, 1936. The throne passed to his brother Albert, who took the royal name George VI.

Most Edward VIII coronation commemoratives are very common but the Edward VIII Bible seems to be an exception. One possible reason is that Collins may have taken the Edward VIII Bibles, removed the covers and the first few pages, and replaced them with George VI material. Scott Brown, the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine, contacted the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University, which owns a George VI coronation Bible. Bridwell’s librarians examined their George VI Bible and concluded that it is entirely possible that Collins simply extracted the photograph of Edward VIII and changed the first page to read, “To commemorate the coronation of their most gracious majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, 12 May 1937.” A careful, side-by-side examination of the Edward VIII and the George VI Bibles would be necessary to confirm this theory.

Copies of the Bible commemorating George VI are common and can be purchased for around $20 in very good or better condition. Conversely, Edward VIII editions are scarce. Some pre-publication copies were distributed, but it seems the majority of the print run was either pulped or converted to the George VI edition. There is a great surplus of Edward VIII coronation material–spoons, mugs, fans, you name it–available for inexpensive prices, but the Edward VIII Coronation Holy Bible does not appear to come up for sale with any frequency. Based on the relative scarcity of the Bible and the interest in collecting memorabilia relating to British royalty, I would estimate the value between $400 and $600.

-- Allan Stypeck, a professional book appraiser and owner of Second Story Books in Rockville, Md., also co-hosts the nationally syndicated Book Guys radio program. The Avid Collector asked him to investigate this mystery Bible. Do you have an appraisal question for Allan?

See our feature on collectible Bibles

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