09 September, 2010

The Holy Grail of Fantasy Books... for only $62,000

Browsing Ebay and various other rare book sites, I was incredibly surprised to find that one of the most most prised items, going for a cool $30,000.00, is a set of signed and numbered limited edition Wheel of Time books. I am a fan, but that might be pushing it a bit...

I have started collecting rare science fiction and fantasy as a hobby over the last year or so and have started building a wishlist of sorts. Something I would very much like to add to my collection is a 1st/1st of Dune, by Frank Herbert. One of my favorite day dreams is that I will find a copy at a used book stand and pick it up for a dollar. Given that the retail price is around $5,000 for a unsigned 1st/1st, it will probably remain a day dream, but you never know.

To the main item of this post, posted for a cool $62,000, a signed 1st/1st of The Lord of the Rings, aptly named the as grand-father of Fantasy. Now here, given the small print run and relative obscurity of Tolkien prior to his success, I can better understand the price, especially given his place in the fantasy field.

Other than these big ticket and incredibly well known items, I was also surprised at the relative cheapness of other science fiction and fantasy collectibles. A 1st/1st First Lensman (1950), by Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith goes for about $2,500 and other than that, the list is mostly made up of modern big name authors and signed vanity printings. A set of Twilight for $3,000 anyone? I didn't think so.

Mostly the purpose of this post is simply to ask readers if they are aware of any good resources or have any tips to offer when first collecting. Should I bother with the older stuff or focus on new authors and let my investment 'mature'? Are there any good internet resources that list rough prices for works? Is there any period or cutoff date before which books are worth more? Like I said, any and all advice is welcome.

And because every blog post needs pictures, if you see this cover, grab it for me, I will even pay this shipping!


Jared said...

I SWEAR I had a 1/1 of Dune in my hand at a library sale, and some old guy took it from me.*

*Not actually sure it was a 1/1
**in fact, 99% positive it was a book club edition
*** whatever, still "the one that got away"

Anyway, I second your opinion - I bet Dune tops every list (or should).

(I'm a slightly obsessive collector myself - so much fun! My main tip is to use Abebooks to figure prices/values. Still a wide range, but pretty accurate, and many sellers add a lot of educational details into the descriptions. I generally price things on that site before buying anything big on eBay or in a bookstore.)

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

That's just crazy. Hmmm decent car or nice down payment on the house or ... Lord of the Rings.

I plan on collecting one day, just as soon as the money's coming in instead of only going out.

N. R. Williams said...

I suspect with the advent of e-books, actual paper and pen books will continue to soar in value.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

The Evil Hat said...

I've only really experienced trying to find rare books with Thomas Ligotti's fiction, but the prices there were already making me queasy, and they were a minuscule fraction of 62 THOUSAND. I mean, damn, for one book? You could probably buy every book in Barnes and Nobles for a lot less than that.

Jamie Gibbs said...

It's incredible how much those books are worth. I have a thing for having books signed whenever I can (even some of my academic books I get signed, much to my lecturer's bemusement :P) $3000 for Twilight it plain ridiculous too.
I'm in the camp that you should start off with new authors and let the investment mature. Once you get some experience in the hobby you can make bigger purchases.

As an aside, there's a quirky urban legend that Terry Pratchett attends so many signings that his books are worth more if they are unsigned, hehe.

BStearns said...

Anyone care to lend me $62,000? Fack, that would be amazing to have that copy of Lord of the Rings. I'm not a big collector of rare sci fi/fantasy, at the moment I'm just trying to read as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

love that first edition cover of Dune, although I prefer my early 1990s one with all the huge sandworms