Here, unfortunately, there are numerous examples of booksellers flouting the presence of BOMC literature discovered in books that otherwise would be impossible to distinguish from trade firsts - that is, they assert first edition status notwithstanding. Occasionally there's an attempt to justify this by suggesting that the book in question was a remainder sold to the BOMC. However, in my research I haven't encountered a single case of this species of transaction having taken place. In many cases, in fact, the BOMC worked with trade publishers well in advance of publication and would begin their own production before trade firsts hit the streets. The rule should be: Unless there's evidence that the trade and BOMC editions weren't identical in all respects, it's better to presume BOMC state when an insert is present.
If there's a dust jacket, this may tell the terrible tale. The absence of a price will usually mean you have a BCE, whether
it's a BOMC edition or not, but keep in mind that prices appeared on some BOMC dust jackets for a period of time in the
1970's. Fortunately these books possessed blind stamps as well, and the dust jackets themselves bore two betraying
statements on the front flap: "Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club" at the top (followed by an asterisk)
and "Trademark of the Book-of-the-Month Club" at the bottom (preceded by an asterisk). Example: Graham Green's
Travels With My Aunt.
Several words of warning about dust jackets: A dust jacket that appears to have been price-clipped doesn't necessarily demonstrate that a price was present at one time. A book club dust jacket without a price may have been clipped to mislead a buyer. Another tactic used by unscrupulous sellers is to marry a second edition dust jacket (in the case where it's identical to a first edition dust jacket) to a book club edition that's otherwise difficult to distinguish from the first trade edition. Important note: Some trade edition dust jackets also lack prices.
Another point about statements on dust jackets: the statement "Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club" alone isn't definitive in identifying a book as a BCE. Occasionally this statement or a similar one appeared on first trade edition dust jackets as well for promotional purposes.
On modern titles that possess bar codes on the back of the dust jacket, look closely for telltale indications. On BOMC titles in particular the number string found on trade editions on top of the far right bar grouping is usually (but not always) missing. The complete absence of a bar code may also be indicative of BCE status if it can be established that the trade edition possesses one.
There are textual indications than can assist in the identification process. The absence of typical publisher's designations for first editions - for example, the words "First Edition" or a number string on the copyright page - may be (but by no means necessarily are) absent in BOMC editions. BOMC publications which retain these designations - and there are more than a few - are frequently misrepresented as first editions by sellers who may or may not know better. Also, in some early BOMC editions, a W appears on the copyright page.
A gutter code may be present on some BOMC editions of more recent vintage. This is typically a vertically printed alphanumeric string deep in the gutter of the last page inside the endpaper. If the endpaper is glued over it, partially or completely, sometimes this can be read through the opposite side of the page or revealed by carefully peeling the pages apart.
Finally, many booksellers assume that most BOMC editions are inferior in quality to their trade counterparts - this was and remains most definitely the case with the BOMC's primary competitor, the Literary Guild - but it's not often understood that BOMC editions were different animals in this respect. Even after the BOMC took over publishing themselves (July, 1930), with few exceptions they adhered to a policy of producing books that were equal in format and quality to the original publisher's books. In some cases, in fact, binder's boards were superior in quality. And talk about complexity - there were instances when trade publishers ran off their own editions simultaneously with BOMC's in the same plants! And here - how does one even begin to nail down edition state??? But even when trade and BOMC books were printed in different plants, great care was taken by the BOMC to duplicate trades. This is an important point to keep in mind because in part it explains why collectors find BOMC editions of collected authors desirable and, conversely, Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, et al editions not.
Identifying Literary Guild Editions
& General Observations
Some indications used to identify BOMC editions can also be applied to other BCE's, including Literary Guild productions (and extending generally to the broader Doubleday book club family). Examples include the absence of a price on the dust jacket, the absence of a bar code on the back of the dust jacket, a code printed in the rear gutter, etc. Unlike BOMC editions, however, the LG makes it much easier for us to confirm BCE status. Can you spell "junk"?
Doubleday entered the book club game shortly after the BOMC, and their initial (and indeed longstanding) competitive strategy was to offer books at lower prices - accomplished by sacrificing quality. Most LG books are significantly lighter and smaller than trade editions, not to mention printed on inferior paper, sometimes with significant acid content. Other possible indications include the absence of a headband, the absence of decorative elements such as gilt-stamping and debossing/embossing, paper boards (distinguished from cloth in trade editions), a faux-deckled or unevenly cropped text block fore edge, less distinct text, and the absence of staining or coloring on top of the text block or the endpapers, though there are numerous exceptions to this - that is, many trade editions also have white text block edges and endpapers. Uniformity of size in the context is yet another indication. If you're face-to-face with a shelf of uniformly sized books, you can bet the farm that they're LGs or Doubledays. Trade and BOMC editions appear, on the other hand, in a multitude of sizes.) Whatever it is, the more experience you have handling these books, the more readily you'll be able to ID them.
Qualitative differences extend to dust jackets as well, especially those predating 1980, when plasticized dust jackets were put into production. LG dust jackets are frequently duller than trade examples, lacking a finish or other decorative elements, such as embossing.
In recent years, as the quality of trade editions has deteriorated, qualitative differences between LG and trade editions may be less pronounced. Still, it's not often an issue because size differences still almost always prevail - and not an issue at all if a dust jacket is present. Minus a dust jacket, always check the title page and spine of the book for the words "Literary Guild." Check dust jackets for the absence of a price (of course) but most commonly, look for the words "Book Club Edition" printed at the bottom of the front dust jacket flap. On a recent trip to a thrift store we counted 28 examples of this on a shelf of 34 books! Some indications, however, may be Greek to the unwashed. Example: Several years ago Doubleday discontinued the above "Book Club Edition" practice in favor of a five-digit code which appears on the back of the dust jacket, usually in the form of black numbers in a white box. If it's there, you've got a you-know-what.
In general, no matter who the BCE publisher is, there's usually some indication on the dust jacket or book or both that will plainly establish BCE status.