This article is all about book collecting. I will attempt to explain how to look and see if a book is a first edition, first printing, and if it might be worth something.
What is a first edition?
A first edition is simply the very first time a book has appeared in hardback from the original publisher. If a hardcover edition was released in the U.K. before the U.S. then the U.K. version is considered the true first edition.
The publisher only makes another edition of a book when there are substantial changes made to that book, usually the actual content.
Sometimes other publishers pick up the book and publish their own first edition but the only true first edition is the very first published hard copy of the book. So if there is another copyright that is older than the current one, that older copyright is the first publisher.
The book will usually say First Edition with the date. A good rule of thumb is that if it has more than one date listed on the copyright page, it is not a first edition. It will sometimes say revised edition for later editions too.
If it is an older book, check to see if the date on the title page matches the date on the copyright page. If they do not match, then it is a later edition.
What is a first printing?
A printing of a book is the first print run of a book. For example a publisher might have a first print run of 25,000 copies. After those 25,000 copies are sold and they want to put more on the market, they will make a second printing.
A number line at the bottom of the copyright page is what gives you information about the printing.
A true first printing will have the entire number line of 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
If it ends with a 2, it is the second print run, 3, the third, ect.
For example, I see first edition hardbacks of A Fault in Our Stars everywhere but they are up to like the 40th printing.
First printings are usually the only things worth anything and are collected. However, if print runs were small for a release, later printings might be worth something to some collectors. Also, the more a first edition, first printing of a book is worth, the bigger of a chance that later printings will also be worth something.
What are Book Club Editions?
Book Club Editions are basically worthless hardcover editions to collectors. Book club editions might even state that they are a first edition because they use the same plates as regular editions. BCEs usually have a worse binding, cheaper paper, and ink isn’t as clear. The easiest way to know if something is a book club edition is the following:
- Edited copyright page
- Dust jacket looks like the paperback cover
- Poor binding(no cloth in between)
- No dates
- No ISBN
- No price on the inside dust jacket
- No barcode on the back of the dust jacket
- The book’s endpapers may be white instead of color
- There might be a stamp on the back cover of a hardcover BCE near the spine.
Library book editions of hardbacks are usually done by a secondary publisher as well and are not worth anything. The same rules apply to library books as to BCEs.
State of Books
State of books usually change based on the dust jacket. For example, if a publisher decides to charge $1 more for their book, they might make a new state of the book, but it is still the same printing. This is where some research comes in. The most collected is the original state of the book. Even a “signed copy” sticker on the front of a new release would be considered a second state edition. If the dust jacket changes at all without a new printing or edition, it is a different state.
A Game of Thrones example:
Now it is time for an example.
A Game of Thrones was published in the U.K by Voyager/Harper Collins in 1996
The U.S. Version was released by NY:Bantam in 1996
There is some debate as to which is the first real first edition. The U.K. version came out 3 weeks before the U.S. version but the U.S. version went to print earlier to give out copies at the ABA. The U.K. had a much smaller print run than the U.S. version, making the U.K. version worth more.
U.K. version is worth about $1,500 while the U.S. version is worth about $800. These are near fine quality prices.
The condition a book is in makes a huge deal on price. For example, the very first edition and first printing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy can go for $50,000 if it is in perfect shape. If the same exact books have a stain on the spine, or small rubbing on the dust jacket, that set might be only worth $25,000. If the quality is even lower, as in possible small tears on the dust jacket we are talking about a price point of about $12,000. So quality makes a huge difference.
Collectible Book Websites: