by Herman Wouk - $100, Pigeon Feathers by John Updike - $350,
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie - $100, On Her Majesty’s
Secret Service by Ian Fleming - $350,
The Thin Red Line by James Jones – $250.
Prices reflect first edition books that are in good condition with their
Ken Gloss is the owner of the Brattle Book
Shop in Boston, the oldest antiquarian bookstore in the United States, The
Brattle Book Shop is celebrating its 52nd year of ownership by the Gloss
family this year..
Visit their Website at:
If you're an avid fiction reader, you may spend a lot of time scrutinizing
the best seller lists before you select reading material. However,
best-seller lists can also serve as a guide for book collectors. People
intent on collecting the stories that have been loved by generations or that
have had the most influence on popular culture will find collecting
direction in these lists. If you have a penchant for the popular, best
sellers may be the collecting niche for you.
One word of caution before you run out to snap up the latest novel by
Danielle Steele: just because a book hits the best-seller list, it is not
automatically collectible. Actually, the vast majority of best sellers never
turn into collectibles. Rather, they are a hot item for a few months, only
to be replaced in people's minds by the next captivating story that comes
along. To become collectible a book has to be more than a temporary good
read that catches the interest of the masses for the moment. It must contain
that intangible quality that makes it a little more lasting. It must have
universal appeal, reaching readers across generations. For many collectors
this actually adds to the fun of collecting, as they try to guess what the
next collectible best seller will be and buy it before everyone else begins
searching for it.
Even though most best sellers don't become collectible, there is still a
vast field of work to be collected because best sellers have been around for
hundreds of years. The first real American best sellers were Washington
Irving's short stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."
These were written around 1820, during a time when technological advances
were bringing the cost of printing down and allowing more people access to
the written word. First editions of Irving's classics can be purchased for a
few hundred dollars.
The second notable American best seller was James Fenimore Cooper's Last
of the Mohicans, published in 1826. Cooper's classic tale of two
sisters' struggle through Native American territory to join their father at
Fort Champlain during the Seven Years War originally appeared in small,
poorly made editions. It's almost impossible to find a first edition in good
shape, but if you do, it will likely sell for thousands of dollars.
Another one of the runaway best sellers of the nineteenth century was
Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe's saga of slavery in
the American South had huge social implications at the time of its
publication, and sold thousands of copies in its first year. A pristine
first edition will bring as much as $10,000 or more. Less well-preserved
copies can often be had for a few hundred dollars.
Mark Twain is an author with several best-selling collectible books,
including Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Twain often wrote about
history and the country, but layered his work with social commentary. When
looking for copies of these books, be prepared to pay several thousand or
possibly tens of thousands of dollars for a copy in mint condition.
Horatio Alger, a Boston local, is another author to make the collectible
best-seller list. Alger was a prolific writer, penning well-received stories
for adults as well as children. His work has timeless appeal because his
stories embody the American spirit and the ethic that hard work brings
It isn't only books for adult readers that become collectible best sellers.
In 1900, The Wizard of Oz, a children's story, came out in time for
the Christmas shopping season. It was tremendously popular, then as now, and
a really fine, beautiful first edition is worth upwards of $20,000. It's
rare to find such a preserved copy because, as a children's book, The Wizard
of Oz was read often rather than preserved.
Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning epic, Gone With the Wind, is
bound to come up in any discussion of best-selling books. It was a
spectacular best seller and went through as many as 100 printings in its
first year. It is extremely hard to find a copy from the first print run,
and almost impossible to get a mint condition first edition. People read
this book many times over, wearing out the book's pages without thinking of
maintaining its value as a future collectible. An unblemished first edition
sells for $2000 - $5000.
Almost all of the collectible best sellers have been by American authors.
British author J. K. Rowling's wildly popular Harry Potter series is an
exception. When the first book was published, it wasn't expected to be a
great success, so only 300 copies were printed, most of which were sent to
libraries where they were thoroughly worn out by young readers. Almost no
perfect first editions of Harry Potter exist and those that do run $15,000
Collectors will encounter a wide price range when searching out best
sellers. The only books in this category that will consistently bring a
truly high price are unread first editions in perfect condition. However, as
an author becomes more established, the first run of their books often
number in the millions rather than hundreds, guaranteeing that even a first
edition of that particular book will never be rare. Currently the titles
bringing the best prices are the ones that were popular in the 1950s and
1960s, as that generation finds it has the time and money to begin
Movie adaptations are another thing that will affect price. If Judy Garland
hadn't appeared in The Wizard of Oz, I doubt the book would have
remained as popular as it has. The same holds true for Gone With the Wind;
it is a wonderful story, but when you look at it, you really see Clark
Collectors with an interest in popular culture will find that collecting
from the best-seller list can be an enjoyable pursuit that doesn't have to
cost a lot of money. The list of collectible best sellers from the past is
well established, but for those who like to try their hand at spotting
trends, guessing which book will become the next collectible best seller can
add even more fun.