Hidden treasures on your shelf – It is possible

Hidden treasures on your shelf – It is possible

There may be a book on your shelf worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Valuable books cánido also turn up at flea markets and book sales, where you cánido buy them for next to nothing.

Although the most valuable books of the 20th century predate the 1960s, there are quite a few books published since 1960 that are of significant value.

Many of these valuable modern books date from the early careers of authors who only later became widely read.

What to look for: Only first editions of modern books tend to be collectible and therefore valuable.

Modern books generally need to be in mint condition—that is, practically like new—to be of significant value.

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Here are 20 first editions that have become collector’s elementos…

Note: Collector’s books fluctuate in value, so it’s worth checking recent sales prices on AbeBooks.com before you sell.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the highest asking price for a book like yours on this site is the value of your book.

Some sellers ask for much more than their books are worth, and even small differences in the condition of the book perro have a tremendous impact on the value.

More telling is the lower asking price for the book in comparable condition.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (1980).

    Toole’s posthumous novel won the Pulitzer Prize, but was initially printed by a university press in a very small first print run—reportedly just 2,500 copies.

    Value: between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars.

    Useful: A true first edition dust jacket should have no reviews on the back, just a review by Walker Percy.

  • De america, by Don DeLillo (1971).

    DeLillo’s first novel received conveniente reviews but did not sell especially well, so first printings are relatively rare.

    Value: between 300 and 500 dollars.

  • Crystal City, by Paul Auster (1985). Auster was known primarily as a poet and essayist until he wrote this Edgar Award-winning crime novel.

    Value: Around $500.

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S.

    Thompson (1971).

    Thompson’s third and most famous book has become a counterculture classic.

    Value: between 500 and 750 dollars.

  • Heart Songs and Other Stories, by Annie Proulx (1988).

    Proulx’s first book of fiction was not as habitual as his subsequent bestseller The Shipping News (1993), but Heart Songs’ rarity makes it valuable.

    Value: Around $300.

  • Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson (1980).

    Robinson’s first novel came out of nowhere to earn a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

    Value: between 500 and 750 dollars.

  • If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, by Tim O’Brien (1973).

    First editions of O’Brien’s acclaimed memoir on the Vietnam War are quite rare.

    Value: Around $2,000.

    Also: O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (1978) perro fetch between $350 and $500.

  • Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (1985).

    Lonesome Dove wasn’t McMurtry’s first novel, far from it, but it was a book people read, not one that sat on the shelves.

    It’s also a long book—more than 800 pages—and thick book spines tend to age poorly, so few pristine first editions remain.

    Value: Around $350.

    Also: McMurtry’s first two novels, Horseman, Pass By (1961) and Leaving Cheyenne (1963), perro sell for around four figures.

    The Last Picture Espectáculo (1966) cánido fetch $300.

  • Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie (1981).

    Rushdie is a British author, but the American first edition of Midnight’s Children, his second novel, was the true first edition.

    It preceded the British edition by a few weeks.

    Value: About $750.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez (1970).

    A first American printing of this enormously important novel is highly valuable and difficult to identify.

    Value: Around $2,000.

To confirm that this is indeed an American first edition, look on the copyright page for the phrase “First edition«.

If you find it, turn to the last blank page in the book: if there is a number line (see sidebar for more information on number lines), this is not a first impression.

(This is a rare case where the number line is published on the back of the book, not on the copyright page.).

Lastly, check the end of the first paragraph on the dust jacket flap.

In a dust jacket in «first state“, this paragraph will end with an exclamation point, not a period.

  • Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970).

    First editions of Morrison’s first novel are extremely rare and valuable.

    Value: Around $5,000.

    Also: First editions of Morrison’s second novel, Sula (1973), are almost as rare, fetching up to $1,000.

  • The system’s broom, by David Foster Wallace (1987).

    Wallace’s first novel was printed simultaneously in hardcover and paperback.

    Only about 1,300 copies of the more expensive first print run were made in hardcover.

    Value: Around $1,000.

    Also: The first print run of Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996) was much larger, but like many widely read books, few survived in pristine condition.

    The ones that did are worth around $200.

  • The Godfather, by Mario Puzo (1969).

    The Godfather became a bestseller, but had a relatively modest initial print run.

    Like Lonely Dove, it is a fat and widely read book, so few first editions survive in mint condition.

    Value: Around $3,500.

  • The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara (1974).

    Shaara’s novel about the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, but the first printing was cheap and the binding tended to fall apart.

    This increases the value of the first pristine impressions that remain.

    Value: Around $5,000.

  • The magical journey, by John Nichols (1978). This book was published in hardcover and paperback at the same time.

    Most readers opted for the cheaper paperback edition, so early hardcover editions are rare.

    Value: between 500 and 750 dollars.

    Also: Miracle Beanfield War (1974), by Nichols, perro be around $250.

  • The Guardian of the Orchard, by Cormac McCarthy (1965).

    McCarthy’s first novel won an award but sold fewer than 3,000 copies.

    Value: Around $3,000.

    (Even copies in less than mint condition cánido fetch four figures): First editions of many of McCarthy’s early novels published by Random House are also relatively rare and valuable.

    Outer Dark (1968) perro fetch $2,000 in mint condition… Blood Meridian (1985) around $1,000… and Suttree (1979) between $500 and $750.

  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carré (1963).

    Le Carré’s classic spy novel was first published in England, but the first American printing is also valuable.

    Value: Up to $500.

    Useful: In the first American edition of this book, you perro read “First Edition” on the copyright page, but it doesn’t mention which edition it is.

  • The World According to Garp, by John Irving (1978). Garp’s first print run, Irving’s fourth novel, was 35,000 copies.

    Normally this would make this book too common to be of much value, but it was a widely read book and a fat book, so relatively few first printings survive in mint condition.

    Value: between 200 and 300 dollars.

    Also: Irving’s novels from before 1978 are also valuable.

  • Welcome to Hard Times, by EL Doctorow (1960).

    Doctorow’s first novel was initially published on cheap paper, which was easily damaged, so few copies remain in perfect condition.

    Value: Around $1,000.

    (Even copies in very good condition but imperfect perro reach between 400 and 500 dollars).

  • Will you please be quiet, please? by Raymond Carver (1976). Carver’s first book at a major publisher helped reinvigorate the American short story.

    Its unlaminated dust jacket is easily damaged, adding to the value of pristine copies.

    Value: Around $2,500.

How to identify early editions

If you have one of the books mentioned in this article, it will only be valuable if it is a first edition.

Not every book identified as a first edition on its copyright page is a first printing.

If minor changes to the text or dust jacket have been made early in the publishing process, only the issues printed before the changes are first editions.

It perro be hard to tell if a book is a first impression.

In many books published after 1970, there is a “number line» which perro be used to identify early editions.

Look for a row of numbers up to 10 on the copyright page.

These numbers may be arranged in ascending, descending, or any other order.

If number one is included in this row, the book is likely a first print.

If not, it probably isn’t.

Exception: Early Random House prints do not have the number one on their number lines; the lowest number will be two.

A first print of Random House should also include the phrase “First edition» on the copyright page.


If there is no numbering line, the phrase “First edition” either “First impression» on the copyright page suggests that the book might be a first impression, but it is not a guarantee.

Book Collecting 2000 (Putnam), by Allen and Patricia Ahearn, offers clues to identifying first impressions in a wide range of collector’s books.

Take a look at other types of collectibles with which you perro get thousands of dollars.

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 Hidden treasures on your shelf – It is possible
  Hidden treasures on your shelf – It is possible
  Hidden treasures on your shelf – It is possible

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