The True Value of a First Edition

Last week I had my two year blogoversary. You forgot? That’s ok, so did I. But if you want to sent a present, let me know and I’ll give you my address.

Now…about first editions.

One of my most interesting blog buddies is The Unbearable Banishment, otherwise known as UB. A few days ago he wrote about one of his passions–collecting rare books. As a fellow book lover, I read with interest and got to thinking about some books in my own collection by Frank L. Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. These books belonged to mother when she was a little girl in the 1930s and I found them one day when I was poking around in the upstairs of my grandmother’s (really) old house.


I always wondered if they were first editions and if they had any value. I took some shots and sent them to UB.


I took advantage of his good nature and asked what he thought about my book.


I said to let me know if this was an imposition, and he assured me that it wasn’t.

He got back with me a few days later.

Considering its condition, this book, which very well may be a first edition,  is worth maybe $2oo. (And this one is in the best shape of the several I have.) Even if it was in mint condition, it would only be worth about $2,000.

But do you know what mint condition means? It means that no one ever read it. No one traveled back to Oz with Dorothy and went on new adventures with old friends like the Tin Man and Scarecrow and new ones like the Patchwork Girl. These Oz books were the first of the fanciful books I read…followed in short order by the Narnia tales and then the Lord of the Rings.

An unread book may have monetary value, but what about the value of imagination and even inspiration for someone destined to be a writer? Hard to put a price on that.

It’s been ages since I read these books and I need to find them a new home. I know a little girl that I think will be quite a reader in a few years. She’ll appreciate them for their stories and for their intended purpose–to be read.


Filed under At Home, Nostalgia

10 responses to “The True Value of a First Edition

  1. A book is just paper until someone reads it~pass those books on to that little girl and know you have saved a tree…and an imagination 🙂

  2. tulip

    My mother saved all the “Little Golden Books” and we were able to hand them down to my (now grown) daughters. It’s nice to have a first edition of a book, but even nicer to know that a book has been loved and read, and read, and read.

  3. Thanks for the tip o’ the hat! As I mentioned to you, children’s literature is the hardest thing to collect because kids aren’t kind to their books. The Dr. Seuss books in fine condition are particularly valuable because of the aging baby boomer population.

    The illustrations in that Oz book are fantastic! Some of them would give young children nightmares.

  4. Hah! I’m all for turning this valuing of things and people that show no signs of having been touched by life on it’s head, especially as I near 50. Didn’t have much success yesterday though, persuading my partner that the scrape I put on his car was a sign of a life well lived.

  5. Julie

    And how about unused people? They don’t have much real value either, I”m guessing.
    Your books? Beautiful!

  6. I’m with you. Comic books that lose value if they are taken out of their cellophane. My dad has quite a few guns (*squirms*). I wouldn’t class him as a collector but as a happy recipient of gifts from some nutjob gun freaks (very upper crust. very white, male, republican). Some of the guns he has have never been touched by human hands (after being encased). Apparently the value plummets once human hand oil sullies the weapon. Good gimmick though to keep the guns off the street!

  7. Wow, never read, never used, never touched by human hand–really? That’s not just ridiculous, it’s just plain sad.

    All I can think of is the dolls I was given but forbidden to play with. What use is a toy that sits in a closet? I didn’t understand it then, and 40 years later, I still don’t.

    Books should be read, comic books should be enjoyed, toys and dolls should be played with, cars should be driven, china should be used. Otherwise, there’s no point in having them.

  8. I had a job once at a used bookstore where all I did was price used and rare books. It was excellent.

  9. Library Girl–Don’t worry, I will. And she already has a pretty good command of the language.
    Tulip–Exactly. A good story is a good story, no matter when it was written.
    UB–There are some pretty scary scenes…I never lingered over the picture of the character with the pumpkin head.
    Julie–They really are…all the more so for their wear and tear.
    Ellie–I bet those guns are worth a fortune. Glad to hear they’re only for show.
    Elise–Giving a little girl a doll she can’t play with is just silly. I love using my hundred year old china. That’s what it’s there for.
    Rass–One day I’m going to write a blog about all the jobs I ever had. It would be a really long list.

  10. I agree. My most valuable books, the ones that I’ve moved across three continents, are they ones that I’ve read and loved the most.

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