Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomorrow's valuable first editions

Blogging about rare American books for Riverrun, Louisa asks: What relatively common books should we be tucking away in our attics to delight the book collectors of 75 years hence?

Oh, what a different world we live in! I have American firsts, with dj, of three Francoise Sagan novels, from the '50s, and they're not worth much. Maybe ten bucks on a good day. If you visit Gordon Beckhorn's bookstore -- just around the corner from Riverrun at the end of the bridge in Hastings -- you'll find "valuable" firsts of in-print detective stories. Somehow the very idea of making this appraisal, and putting dozens of books away in cool dry storage, reminds me of buying, you know, Franklin Mint "investments." Who has enough cool dry space to set aside for 75 years?

Here are some mystery or sci-fi authors, first editions of whose first books are, I predict, gaining in value. James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, P.D. James, John Lescroart, Laura Lippman, Terry Pratchett, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson. I'm specifying firsts only of the first, because subsequent titles for those authors would have had much larger first printings. Sue Grafton is translated into 26 languages!

I read somewhere that Terry Pratchett's books used to be the most shoplifted books in Great Britain, and I always tell people that when I am trying to hand-sell them. I would be intrigued by having books signed by both James Lee Burke and his wife, since his hero, Dave Robicheaux, kills off his wives like crazy. Or would Burke be like Roger Tory Peterson? Peterson dedicated his first book to his wife X, his second book to his wife Y, and subsequent books to "my [unnamed] wife" or others.

Firsts by Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, and E.O. Wilson will probably appreciate. Wouldn't it be cool to have their books inscribed to each other? Same with some of those detective writers. Robert B. Parker and Linda Barnes give shout-outs to each other's characters in their Boston-based books. Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini's detectives also refer to each other in their respective series, but Muller and Pronzini are married to each other. Those would both be nice double inscriptions to have, but now that I think of it, all the shout-outs come in later novels that have huge first printings and so probably will never be worth much, inscriptions or not.

I doubt that memoirs appreciate: the first printings are too big. The first time I ever ran a used book sale, there were a half-dozen copies of A Long Row of Candles by C.L. Sulzberger. At least two were inscribed -- the sale was at All Souls Church at 80th and Lexington, lots of well-connected east siders. That title showed up for years at used book sales and remained unsold. There was also a longtime surplus of The Little Drummer Girl -- a stinker by John LeCarre. However, here's a first of the U.K. edition (Gollancz) of LeCarre's Spy Who Came in from the Cold: $3250. It probably helps that it's widely thought of as the best spy novel of all time.

1 comment:

LSS riverrun said...

Interesting predictions. I plan to live an incredibly long time, so I'll check back in 2066 to see how how good your present future-scope is.