So it seems at all price points Bond is alive and well. EBay and similar sites provide Fleming fans with a wide selection and plenty of action. At any given moment there are literally thousands of books offered, and an expanded search brings up movies, photos, posters and ephemera of all sorts. Even below ten dollars there is still plenty to choose from including postcards, paperbacks, odd bits and an occasional vintage dealer catalog.
For buyers it's a venue where patience and pickiness are rewarded. For sellers there is the assurance of steady and seemingly well informed demand - because while a lot of Fleming sells, a lot also sits untouched or sells for very little.
That may be because while almost everything in the world of Bond has some monetary worth, a lot of it is common, plentiful and not of high value. To make it even more interesting there are many pitfalls along the way to entice the unwary, including signatures of dubious provenance, facsimile dust jackets only mentioned in the 11th paragraph of the seller's description, books that are either deliberately or inadvertently not what they seem because of wrong publisher, wrong price on the dj, wrong paper, wrong dust jacket, or any combination of same.
But not genuine - or even not top-of-the-line - doesn't always mean worthless. A quick review of recent sales reveals that pirate editions have value. Variants have value. Early paperbacks have value. Comics have value. Book Club editions have value. Having the set complete in any edition has value. Related ephemera can have substantial value especially if it's signed. And most of all, authentic early dust jackets in almost any condition have value.
"The dust jacket is the key to everything," said Fleming bibliographer Lee Biondi, who
was kind enough to talk to AE about Fleming and his work for this article. Biondi stressed the importance of the real dust jacket and emphasized that serious collectors are exceptionally picky about condition. To bring top dollar requires a pristine copy, one that like Bond himself, has been imperviousness to time and age. Such condition is also extremely elusive.
Biondi said he wrote his initial article and the follow up at the request of his FIRSTS publisher, not so much because he was interested in the work of Ian Fleming, but because it was a topic that readers wanted to know about. Both are a pleasure to read. His 1998 and 2008 bibliography and commentary are both available in magazine format from FIRSTS at $10 each including shipping. www.firsts.com
Biondi’s 2nd article, the 2008 Fleming update, is also available on request as a pdf file with the generous permission of the author. Put the numerals 007 in the subject line and email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a complimentary copy.
If my own experience is any indication, boning up on Ian Fleming is the most fun you’ll ever have with bibliography and an introduction to a market with real legs and one that will go on for some time. I'll pass along Biondi's recommendation - if you're only going to read one, try From Russia with Love. What the next century will think of Ian Fleming and how their values will stand up in a hundred years is anyone's guess; Biondi thinks they may well be viewed as "historical" fiction though he doesn't go quite so far as to project an ardent following.
For the present, while it doesn’t exactly qualify as shooting fish in a barrel, buying and selling the exploits of 007 is a bookish pursuit that can prove entertaining and profitable.
Susan Halas writes about books and the book business for AE Monthly. Reach her at email@example.com