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>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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