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$150K for First Edition Book

Updated on July 18, 2014

Where to FInd First Editions Books

First Edition Book Sells for $150,000

I have been interested in collecting first edition books as an investment and a means for making money for quite some time now. As one collector said when asked why he bought first edition books "Because I can't afford the second editions!", by which he meant that a second edition book is basically only a second-hand book and therefore will cost you money, whereas a first edition book actually increases in value once you have bought it, provided you take good care of it and above all don't read it ! Where do you find first edition books ? Basically - you can llook around second-hand bookshops and hope to get lucky, or you can go to a site like abebooks or one of the other rare and first edition book sites that you see advertised on book sites and see if you can find a bargain, Ebay also has first edition books on sale and sometimes you can get a bargain, or you can buy books by new authors (make sure they are first editions AND first prints AND signed) then wait and hope that they rocket in price.

In a recent auction held by Gorringes Auction House in the UK an immaculate copy of the first edition of Geoge Orwell's "Down And Out In Paris And London" was bought by a private client for £101,050 (inc. buyer's commission) (around $150,000). The first edition of the book was published by Gollancz in 1933.

The book, which, unusually, had a near-perfect dust jacket (a very important point), was sold by a private collector. The guide price was between £2,500 and £3,500, so it sold for around 35 times its guide price!

The book was signed by George Orwell using his real name, Eric Blair, and dedicated to his agent Leonard Moore, as follows : "With the author's kind regards, to Mr LP Moore without whose kind assistance this book would never have been published. Eric Blair, 24.12.32."

Magyk by Angie Sage

Septimus Heap : Magyk by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap : Magyk by Angie Sage

Aaron Dean of Gorringes thinks the book set a new record "I would be shocked if it isn't a record. The two things that were rare about this were that it was personally inscribed by the author with a nice little ditty. Secondly, it had its dust jacket. No first editions of this book with dust jackets have been seen for 27 years. To put the significance of that in perspective, last year a copy which was not in great condition and didn't have a dust jacket sold for £13,200. This one was an absolutely brilliant copy. The dust jacket had a little bit of wear and tear but, when you took it off, the book was in mint condition."

Bidding started at £5,000 but was immediately raised by one bidder to £15,000 and from there it carried on up, being battled over by 10 bidders, until it reached £86,000 (£101.050 with commission).

The consensus was that it would fetch somewhere between £30,000 and £40,000, so everyone, including the auctioneer and the vendors, was stunned.

Down And Out In Paris And London is an autobiographical work by George Orwell, describing his time as a a down and out bum in Paris and London, where he lived in all sorts of hostels for the homeless etc... And he learned that the secret of a good restaurant was sharp knives.

George Orwell, was actually born into a family which had had money at one time but which he described as "lower upper middle class". He went to the most famous public school in England - Eton - but was financed by scholarships as his family couldn't afford the fees. "Public" schools in England are not public by they way, they are private. But such is the English way that, like Humpty Dumpty said, "words mean whatever I want them to mean". Public schools are public because anyone can go to them, provided they can find the money to pay for the fees. Fees at Eton are currently around £10,000 ($15,000 per term) - and there are three terms in a year - there are also other extras to be added to these fees - see here for complete breakdown - - and Eton is not the most expensive pubic school in the land.

George Orwell turned out to be a bit of a rebel, fighting against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. His two most famous books are 1984 and Animal Farm. For his full life story see - George Orwell - .

So, as you can see, first edition books can be a very good investment, although generally they are a long-term investment, unless you are willing to try to buy and sell short-term on such sites as Ebay. Ebay used to be quite good for first editions but of course Ebay being Ebay they managed to mess everything up, although it is still agood place to try and buy first editions cheap.

If you think you may be interested in investing in first edition books then take a look at this recent auction catalogue - first edition books. The most important points to remember are you must buy the FIRST PRINT (sometimes called the first impression) of the first edition. Nowadays people tout all sorts of rubbish as first editions. So make sure you check that you are getting the genuine first print of the first edition. Secondly, hardbacks are generally better than paperbacks, as they are usually the true first editions (one notable except is Christopher Paolini's Eragon - which was published in paperback form by Paolini before being published in hardback by Knopf).

Thirdly, signed copies are more valuable than unsigned copies. Fourthly, hardbacks must have their dustjackets, preferably in good condition, Fifthly, the condition of the book is very important, the best condition is termed 'fine' but you also see terms such as "as new" "excellent" "very fine" etc...

There are different types of first editions you can collect, old books such as the Compleat Angler that have already increased in value and modern books that you hope will one day become valuable. The most famous of the modern authors is J. K. Rowling but by and large it is a bit late to be buying signed first editions by J. K. Rowling as they have already rocketed in price. The most expensive Harry Potter book on sale on Abebooks is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone published by Bloomsbury in 1999, being offered for $61,000. Note that the price asked is not always the price paid and if you have a first edition Harry Potter you may need to do some negotiating to get the best price for it.

If you are looking for the next J. K. Rowling you need to look for books that you think will get a cult following. You also need to make sure you get the first print of the first edition, signed. It is also preferable if it is the writer's first novel. First novels are always worth more than subsequent novels.

At this moment in time one author that may have a good future as an investment is Angie Sage with her Septimus Heap : Magyk series. She has signed a lucrative film deal with Warner Bros. and the films of her books are expected to replace the Harry Potter films after the last one of these is made in 2010.

Tips for identifying possible future valuable first editions :-

  • Look for an author publishing his/her first novel
  • Look for books that had very few copies printed for the first edition - a couple of thousand or a couple of hundred copies.
  • A book capable of generating a 'cult following' and being turned into a film is better (Paolini is a good example, but unfortunately the film wasn't very good).
  • A book that is self-published but is then re-pubished by one of the major publishing houses e.g. Shadowmancer, or Eragon.
  • Books written as a 'series' e.g. Lemony Snickett or Cornelia Funke's books.
    Modern books are more valuable when signed by the author (unfortunately there are fake signatures around)
  • Kids/teenager fantasy, magic, mystery, vampire genres etc... that are the most popular (far more collectable than books by 'proper' literary authors )
  • Make sure the book is in good "as new" condition i.e. no scratches, marks, stains etc...

Ebay can be a good place to buy first editions by unknown authors, or books from sellers who don't know what they are selling. So happy hunting.


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    • Singular Investor profile imageAUTHOR

      Singular Investor 

      7 years ago from Oxford

      Nick - A first edition of Inheritance will not be worth a lot - it is the 4th book in the series and there are too many of them printed . The ones that will be worth a lot of money are the first book Eragon signed first editions only. Preferably the edition published by Paolini

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hey I am about to preorder a first edition of Inheritance from the eragon series and the author will be at my school signing certain copies that we buythat only some people are buyying any idea how much that would be worth later. P.s. I was planning on getting 2 copies

    • Singular Investor profile imageAUTHOR

      Singular Investor 

      8 years ago from Oxford

      Hi Catherine - I don't know how much your first edition Harry Potter books are worth but they should be worth something - you can take a look here to get an idea of first edition book prices - - just put in all the details and see what comes up - good luck !

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi there, I have two Australian first edition Harry Potter books (Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets), I know they aren't worth much but I am still interested as to how and what can be done with them? They come in a boxed set of the first 3 in near perfect condition.

      Thanks for any help!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks a lot for the advice will have a look now, have already looed on ebay can't find another one like this on there but will have a look at your other links.

    • Singular Investor profile imageAUTHOR

      Singular Investor 

      8 years ago from Oxford

      Hi Derek - the best place to see first edition book prices is - I had a quick look and could only see one signed copy but I'm not sure if it was the same edition as yours, but have a look and check it out. Remember though that abebooks shows the prices people are asking for, not the prices people are actually getting. You can also get in touch with places like who should be able to give you a guide price. Or take a look on Ebay and see what prices people have paid in the past. Good luck.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have a collectors first edition personally signed copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It is signed 'To jason with love from JK Rowling x ' I also have copies of letters which prove provenance.

      Do you have any idea what this would be worth.


    • Singular Investor profile imageAUTHOR

      Singular Investor 

      8 years ago from Oxford

      Hi John - modern books usually have a string of numbers on the copyright page that should look something like this 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 - if the number 1 is present then it is a first edition - if the number 1 is absent but the no. 2 is present then it is a second edition etc... I'm not sure if a first edition Guinness Book of Records is worth anything but you can check prices at

      As for first edition retro websites - I've never heard of such a thing but domain names are certainly worth something if you can get good ones but unfortunately all the really good ones were bought up long ago - i.e. one-word dot coms - but there is a whole business buying and selling domain names, some of them are worth millions - you can read about it here - - it's fascinating and there is a lot of money to be made but it does take quite a lot of work !

      You made a mistake in your link by the way - did you mean to put - ?

    • profile image

      John Caulfield 

      8 years ago

      I have a firt edition Guinness book of records. How do I tell if it' a firt print?

      This article got me thinking about the value of early web sites. Would there be value in old retro sites?


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