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First Edition Points
Dust Jackets and
The Hunt for Red October

by Thomas Lee

#105, 8 October 2007

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.

Dust jackets possess issue points exactly as books do. One of the major advantages our 20th Century First Edition Fiction: A Price and Identification Guide has over other first edition guides is that dust jacket issue points are included, as are estimates of how much they contribute to the overall value.

For example, the information in our guide for Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October's dust jacket is presented as follows:

"Several points distinguish a first edition DJ. The DJ has no price on it and the rear DJ panel contains six reviews, has 'ISBN 0-87021-285-0' on the bottom right, and has no bar code. The reviews on a first edition DJ (from top to bottom) are by Jack Higgins, Joseph Wambaugh, Clive Cussler, Edward Beach, John Moore, and Stansfield Turner. On later issue DJs, the order of the above reviews is changed and reviews by John Alden and Reid Beddow are added."

The first issue dust jacket of this book is unusual in that it is unpriced - which is usually an almost certain indication of book club status. Also, HRRO dust jackets are fairly rare. Initially, there was a small print run, and a price of $14.95 was added to the dust jacket for the second printing. This prevents dust jackets from later printings being used on first edition books. These factors are taken into consideration when we put a value on the book, both with and without a dust jacket, in our price guide. Next month we will discuss how books are graded.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the lowest price online, purchase Thomas Lee's 20th Century First Edition Fiction: A Price and Identification Guide here.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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