by Thomas Lee

#105, 8 October 2007

First Edition Points

Dust Jackets and The Hunt for Red October

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In last month's BookThink article I discussed first edition points for books. The question dealers are so often asked is, "How much is my book worth?" Knowing that a book is a first edition is only the first step in estimating the book's value. The next step is deciding if the book has the proper dust jacket. This is a subject that is rarely covered in price guides yet is critical in estimating a book's value.

Dust jackets first appeared in the late 1800's, usually as simple brown wrappers with minimal printing, and were typically discarded shortly after a book was purchased. In the early decades of the 1900's dust jackets became more ornate, often pieces of art in their own right. The artwork on early Edgar Rice Burroughs dust jackets is a perfect example.

How much a dust jacket contributes to the overall value of a book depends on how many first issue examples exist and how well they have stood up to handling over time. Early dust jackets weren't coated or laminated and were often printed on porous paper. Wear became a real problem. One such dust jacket was issued with F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Nice copies of this title without dust jackets sell in the $6,000 to $9,000 price range. The same book, however, in a first issue dust jacket (also in nice condition) would easily go for over $50,000. This case is extreme, not one that the average collector would ever experience, but the point is that dust jackets are important.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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