Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2006 Issue

Top Values of Signed Books on eBay

Jon

Thomas Jefferson's signature is highly collectible today.


By Carl Burnham

When it comes to book collectors, we have seen interests run the gamut from fiction to nonfiction. Whatever the genre, a signature only adds to the value. When we are out book scouting, there is nothing like the experience of finding one. Over the years with book selling, we have acquired several, from astronauts such as Alan Shepard and Jim Irwin, to celebrity biographies, including Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, Larry Hagman and Katherine Hepburn. Writers and other famous persons have included Arthur C. Clarke, Willie Morris, Lowell Thomas, Jr., Tom Landry and Lillian Bassman. Although most are biographies, a few have been works of fiction, such as "Wasted Travail" by Sadie Mae Rosebrough, her only written book. Others are lesser known, which someday may become famous. The next William Faulkner is out there. The strategy of some collectors is to acquire signatures of an author's first books written. My personal preference is in acquiring signed biographies, as it makes it more personal when reading about their life.

In analyzing some of the top signed books sold recently on eBay, one can see trends and a snapshot of values for a given period of time. Of course prices and available offerings fluctuate constantly, and rarity, popularity, and perceptions will play a factor as well. That is one of the attractions of the online auction. My primary focus was on items which recently sold in the books category which received winning bids of $1,500 or higher.

At the top of the list in the books category were rare signed documents by Doyle Auctioneers of New York. A signed document by Abraham Lincoln received 7 bids and sold for $4,250. A signed Thomas Jefferson document received 3 bids and went for $3,750. A signed, limited edition of "Big Game Hunting" by Theodore Roosevelt was posted by another seller, receiving 9 bids and selling for $3,550.

The highest book sold was a signed first edition of "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, which received 2 bids and sold for $4,000. A second edition in exceptional condition of "The Hobbit," signed by J. R. R. Tolkien sold for $3,150 after receiving 39 bids. An autographed letter signed by the German composer Richard Wagner in 1874, offered by Doyle Auctioneers of New York, fetched $3,000. A signed "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl brought $2,647.

Astronaut signatures are highly collectible. There were several Easton Press Astronauts Library sets sold from $2,000 to $2,495, which included signatures of James Lovell, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Frank Borman and Buzz Aldrin.

Ronald Reagan, viewed by many (including myself) as one of our greatest Presidents, had five books in the sold listings that ranged in price from $1,300 to $2,383. Several of these were leather bound Easton Press books. One of the most sought after Easton Press books is "Long Walk to Freedom" by Nelson Mandela. Two signed ones sold recently at $1,600 and $2,125. In time, I see more Franklin Library leather bound books rising in value as they are no longer published (the last books were published in 2000), and the availability becomes more limited.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions