In a recent blog entry I wrote about how books rarely become more valuable based on age alone. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, so I thought I’d write about what makes a book become of interest to collectors. The Hobbit is a great example of why some books become very valuable. No one expected this charming little children’s tale to become a smash hit, so only 1,500 copies were printed in 1937. Collectors who are seeking a first edition of The Hobbit are going to have fierce competition. As the valuable first edition copies of the book find their way onto collector’s bookshelves, fewer copies are circulating for sale, so the price continues to snowball. Comic books, which were considered disposable commodities in the early decades, have become valuable for the same reason.
In 2010 a first edition copy of The Hobbit sold for a staggering $120,800.
The main criteria for causing a book’s value to skyrocket are the following:
A First Edition. This is probably the biggest factor in making a book valuable. A first edition of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1899) with the dust jacket and in good condition will sell for around $35,000. A second edition printed just a few years later will sell for less than $40. That first edition is a big deal.
Scarcity. This is why first editions of book from authors who later went on to achieve great fame are so valuable. Tamerlane and Other Poems was the first book of poetry by Edgar Allen Poe. Only twelve copies are believed to be still in existence. In 2009, a copy of this work sold for $662,500.
Cultural or Historic Importance of the Work. A landmark book, especially a book that helped shape history, will be extremely valuable. Although hardly a household title, Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip, New South Wales by William Bland sold for almost $700,000 in 2006. The book is of ground-breaking importance to the discovery and exploration of Australia, and that makes it valuable.
Condition of the book. No one likes ratty, stained, or smelly books. Even collectors shy away from such books, but if you’ve got a rare title in pristine condition, the value will soar.
Signed by a famous author or illustrator. Get your first edition Elizabeth Camden books signed now before I hit it big!