AbeBooks asked about your best investment in a book and, as usual, you came up trumps with some outstanding tales of treasure hunting, foresight and speculation. From pirated versions of Robert Bloch’s Psycho to a deluxe signed copy of Beau Geste, AbeBooks customers are always on the look-out for some special at the right price.
“In 1993 I found a company's catalog that listed Psycho by Robert Bloch. This was a brand-new hardcover edition. Not knowing the difference, I bought three copies for about $15 each. After receiving them in the mail, I mailed a copy to Mr. Bloch and asked him to autograph it. Here is his inscription: “Dear Clark: You are holding a rare item in your hand - a pirated, unauthorized edition of Psycho, published some years back without my knowledge. The way things are in the world, this is probably more valuable than a legitimate copy! With warmest best wishes, Robert Bloch.” I still have the two unsigned copies that are wrapped in the plastic in which they came from the publisher. The signed copy I will treasure forever. He died before I actually received the signed copy in the mail. Apparently it had been found by an heir to his estate or possibly the executor and returned to me,”” writes Clark in the US.
Abe says – No pirate copies of Psycho are available on AbeBooks so Clark may have a treasure. Signed copies of the novel range from $15 for later editions to $2,750 for a signed first edition from 1959. Find signed first editions
“My best buy was in a secondhand bookshop in a seaside town. The owner was at lunch and had left the shop in the care of an obliging friend who ran another specialist bookshop in the town. I wandered in and scanned the shelves for a while, finding only an oversized early (but obviously not first) edition of Beau Geste - a book which I love but I had never actually owned a hardback copy. I glanced inside to check the price - £6, a good price for a nice condition old hardback and decided that I would add it to my small collection of Wren books. Took it to the counter; the person behind the till opened it to look at the price and looked surprised. She indicated to me something I had not noticed - it was number 763 of a limited edition of 1000, with the author's signature underneath; it was a first deluxe edition from shortly after the book's original publication. I came home with it and went straight onto AbeBooks - to find it listed at £300 - a 490% instant ‘profit’ on my investment. I wouldn't sell it, however, not unless times got very, very hard indeed - it makes far too good a book-buying anecdote” - Mike in the UK
Abe says – There are 10 copies of the signed, numbered deluxe edition from 1927 available on AbeBooks and prices vary hugely from $200 to $7,500. Find signed deluxe editions
“In the 1970's in San Francisco I found a copy of The Cruise of the Dazzler by Jack London. It’s a first edition published in 1906. I paid $2. I still have it and have added a few other collectibles since then. But finding prices like that on a collectible is probably very rare nowadays. But it started a lifelong hunt for rare books in out of the way places. I haven't found one to compare with the first but I still haunt used bookstores and garage sales when I can. Still hoping,” writes Richard in the US.
Abe says – Richard found a first UK edition and made a great investment. The US edition was published in 1902. Prices for the UK edition range up to $800. Find the UK first edition
"I almost never read mystery novels, let alone detective fiction, but I bought a first edition copy of Donna Leon's Death at La Fenice from a remainder table at a Toronto Queen Street bookstore in, maybe, 1994, simply because I was writing a thesis on contemporary fictions in English set in Venice. Her books, of course, became very popular and I see you have a first edition of La Fenice for sale for $500,” writes Jude in Australia.
Abe says – Jude’s correct, first editions are collectible with three-figure asking prices. Find first editions
“It’s a first edition from 1856 with an intact, original cover in very good condition. This book also has provenance from one of Boston's leading families. The kicker is that I bought it from a used bookstore for $3. It is not my most amazing or valuable find, but certainly my favorite,” writes William in the US.
Abe says – Prices for the 1856 first editions range up to $3,250. Find first editions
“The night before Yann Martel won the Booker Prize I purchased a copy of Life of Pi at Nicholas Hoare for $27. It was the original Canadian first edition and of course it’s worth a lot more now. I just had a hunch about it,” writes Will in Canada.
Abe says – Unsigned Canadian first editions of this modern classic can be found for between $350 and $850 on AbeBooks. Find Canadian first editions
“Cleveland doesn't have many used book stores. The main one is a large chain-style seller. They have a case where first editions and rare books go. I stop by on a regular basis to see what they have. I stopped in one evening with a friend and there was a fine++ copy of HST’s Hell's Angels. It was priced at $250 (It was a few years ago). I looked it over and then bought it. Needless to say my friend thought I was nuts. I told him to ask me about it in a week. I ended up selling it several days later for $750,” writes Fred in the US.
Abe says – First editions of Hell’s Angels are on offer for up to $1,300. Find unsigned first editions
“Probably my best find was at an estate sale two summers ago where I came across several boxes of old books. I am a collector of western history and military history books so I always have my eyes open for things along that line. At the sale in one of the boxes I discovered A History of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry in the war of 1861-1865. When I opened the book up inside I found an original program from the first reunion of the regiment at Gettysburg in 1883. I was stunned when they sold me the book for 50 cents. As any collector knows, the thrill in collecting is always in the search,” writes Sue from the US.
Abe says – We think Sue means A History of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry in the War Between the States by RLT Beale as the Ninth U.S. Cavalry wasn’t formed until 1866. Find the book
“When I first heard about this collection of books, six in all, M. Ferrand was living in Paris. It was almost impossible to find even one of the volumes even then. A bookseller in Scotland found volumes 1, 3 and 4 for me in excellent condition for about $260 each. In December 2007, Ferrand died in a car crash. About six months later I found a copy of volume 2 selling for $960. It was a hard decision to make, but I bought it. I now find that my four volumes (I still need 5 and 6) are worth a little over $4,000. This is a specialty area, pre-Soviet Russian history, but the value of my books keeps rising,” writes Patricia in the US.
Abe says – There is a single copy of volume 4 for sale on AbeBooks and the asking price is $950. Find the book