Valuable Contemporary Books for the Casual Collector

I love the idea that ordinary objects that could be found by anybody can become significantly valuable and that with a little bit of judgement and a certain amount of “Luck”, any one of us could stumble across a collectible or valuable item and the key really is knowing what to look for (see my other hub – Check Your Change! As another example). How many of us have rummaged through piles of books in a car boot/garage Sale or Charity Shop and in hindsight, there is every chance that we might have passed over a book that could have been the deposit on a new car!!

There are a number of contemporary books that have significantly gained in value since their issue. Most of these books or genres may well be familiar to you and you may even own a copy of one of them, however it is usually the first edition that in most cases is the version that is likely to be the most valuable, as often the first print run is sold before the book becomes popular of goes onto become a modern “classic”. The first print runs of many now “classic” books in the last 40 years were often distributed out to local libraries and quite often, in time, many books where sold onto the public domain, so whilst copies might not be in perfect condition, they may still hold a good value. Unlike classic antique collectible books, that are usually the preserve of knowledgeable dealers and auctioneers, there is a possibility that some of these books could be found in a car boot sale, charity shops or eBay, having been deemed surplus to requirements by some unsuspecting owner. Although with such channels as eBay, items usually sell not far off their value, as is often the case on such platforms, if you are in the right place at the right time and you know what you are looking for, sometimes bargains can be had, all of which, puts such items within the reach of us mere mortals, but I always find it quite exciting if I spot a copy of a certain book in a charity shop or similar, you experience that brief “what if” moment!

Here are my current pick of favorites All values are an approximate guide , based on prices around late 2012/early 2013 and as with all “investments” and commodities, have that values can go down as well as up, depending on supply and demand!

Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone
Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone

JK Rowling – The Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter franchise created by J.K.Rowling is a global phenomenon and I suspect there are few people on this planet who have never heard the name. When the first print run of “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone” was initially published in the UK by the publishers Bloomsbury in June 1997, as is normal, the initial print run was limited to 500 hardback copies, 300 of which were sent regional libraries and the rest to booksellers. Although most of these copies are likely to be in private collectors hands by now (it is still possible to purchase a copy, one dealer in the US has it on offer for a cool £25K/US$40K!) it may be possible to come across the first edition paperback which would have a value in the £500-£600 region and also second and third print run copies will hold a good value. . The first US Version – re-titled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was published in October 1998 by Scholastic Press and whilst not as valuable as the UK edition, a good first edition should still expect a value in the region of £1000-£1200, the value’s would be far greater if signed by the author. There were also some other early editions including a limited run of unedited proofs (which would be valued at around £20K) but I would imagine it be unlikely these would be surfacing in the public domain.

So what to look for? As in all books, two or three pages in will have the publishing and copyright details and there will be a unique code to indicate the print run, a true first edition will have the code “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”, subsequent printings will show the last number increasing. In the case of the original Harry Potter it will also read “Printed and Bound in Great Britain by Clays ltd, St.Ives” and obviously the publisher will be Bloomsbury.

Following the success of the first book, the subsequent books in the series have a sliding scale of value, purely because of the increase in volume of print due to the increasing popularity of the franchise, however the First Edition of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” would still be worth in the region of £1000 and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” Hardback worth anything between £60 to £100, depending on condition and again, much more if signed, however there is an early run that had a print error in the first History of Magic chapter in which an extra line was included and these versions would be valued in the £1-£2000 range. First Editions of the later books would probably only have any significant value if autographed by the author.

Terry Pratchett - The Colour of Magic
Terry Pratchett - The Colour of Magic

Terry Pratchett - Discworld

The (now sadly late) British Author Terry Pratchett’s hugely successful Discworld novels are enjoyed across the world and therefore it is not surprising that some of the early editions are increasingly valuable. First Edition Hardback’s of “The Colour of Magic”, the first novel from the Discworld series, published in 1983 by publishers Colin Smyth, Gerards Cross, of which only 506 copies where printed of this edition, and as is normal, many going out to regional libraries. If in good condition with dust jacket these versions are highly collectible with copies generally valued between £6-8000UK/$9700-12900US. Alternative editions of “The Colour of Magic “such as the first US edition can also command valuations in the region of £500/$800. As is usual, the value will generally be higher if signed or dedicated by the author. Other First Edition Hardbacks of early novels in the Discworld series, such as Mort, Eric and Sorcery can often achieve values in the £500/$800 region although as the success of the series grew, so would the first print runs, so later first prints are not nearly so valuable.

Patrick O'Brian - Master and Commander
Patrick O'Brian - Master and Commander

Patrick O’Brian – Aubrey-Maturin Series

The late author published a number of books in his lifetime, but it was perhaps the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels, centered around lives in the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, that he became best known for. Most will probably be more familiar with the series via the 2003 Movie, starring Russell Crowe, based on the character's, although not necessarily the plot lines, from the Aubrey-Maturin series. The earliest book – Master and Commander was published in 1969 , and additional novels were published throughout the following 30 years. Many of the first editions from this series are very collectible with values regularly reaching the £6000/$9700.

Ian Fleming - Casino Royale
Ian Fleming - Casino Royale

Ian Fleming – James Bond Novels

Although going back a bit further than what many may regard as contemporary, although certainly worth mentioning, are the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, early editions of which are frequently available in eBay and I have spotted some at Car Boot (Garage) Sales.

It is fairly common knowledge that early Ian Fleming James Bond hardback novels are highly valuable with even some poor condition versions fetching prices of nearly £1000/$1600 (although good versions of Casino Royale have been seen to sell in recent years for nearly £30K/$48.6K).These early editions are published by Jonathan Cape, London throughout the 1950’s and 60’s and the titles will be familiar to most from their film versions, it’s also worth mentioning that some of the early paperback versions, published by Pan or Perma from the 60’s and 70’s can also reach values of £60-100/$100-130 for the right condition.

Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses
Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses

Ian Rankin (Also writes as Jack Harvey for Non-Rebus novels)

Popular Scottish Crime author Ian Rankin, famous for his Inspector Rebus novels, has a large fan base and First Edition hardback versions of his novels are often sought after. Early First Editions such as “Knots and Crosses”(Published by Bodley Head in 1987) and “The Flood” (Polygon Edinburgh 1986) commonly commanding values of £1-3K/$1600-$4800.

Dean Koontz - The Good Guy
Dean Koontz - The Good Guy

Dean Koontz

Best Selling American Thriller writer Dean Koontz novels are immensely popular and as such, First Editions (particularly signed versions) are very collectible, even some of his modern novels from recent years. Signed Hard Back Limited Editions of recent novels such as “The Good Guy” and the “Darkest Evening of the Year” would be worth around £1500/$2500. First Editions of his earlier novels from the 70’s and 80’s are typically valued in the £1000/$1600 region and First Editions of books from the early millennium can attract values of £100-£300/$160-$480.

E.L.James - Fifty Shades of Grey
E.L.James - Fifty Shades of Grey

E.L.James

E.L.James’ “Fifty Shades” Trilogy have become a Global publishing phenomenon in the last year or so, so it is unsurprising that First Editions, (particularly signed versions), signed First Editions are already attracting relatively high values considering the short time lapse since publication. First Edition Hardback signed Trilogy Box sets are already being valued in the £300-500/$480-$800 region and single editions being valued at £60-£80/$100-$130. It would be surprising if these didn’t appreciate in value over time.

There are a myriad of authors and books which are very collectible (and therefore invariably valuable) and the general rule is the more popular the author, the more valuable the book (stating the obvious there!), and invariably awards and recognition for the author (such as the Booker or Pulitzer) will always increase demand and value for the books in question. Although the vast majority of the books mentioned above and others which are deemed valuable or sought after invariably fall in the hands of knowledgeable dealers and therefore fall into the exclusive circulation of the dealers and collectors world’s, there will always be a few that will slip through net!

Remember, it’s the thrill of the chase and Happy Hunting! Always Very Happy and Grateful to hear of any success stories you might like to share? Best of Luck!

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Comments 2 comments

nuffsaidstan profile image

nuffsaidstan 3 years ago

Sound article, i love rummaging round the car boots for stuff like this, i rarely find much but did find Captain America # 100 and 102 in near mint a couple of years ago, must do some more research on books as i think they are easier to find at car boots than comics.


kcent247 profile image

kcent247 3 years ago from Devon, England Author

Thanks nuffsaidstan! Great Finds! I've managed to pick up a few old Marvel comics in charity shops here in the UK (although I don't think they have much value!), it is good fun checking out the charity shops and car boot sales, although many are getting wiser to what might be valuable and what's not but the fun is in the chase! Best of Luck!

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