How to judge a book by its cover…

Clues to what makes a book valuable

Even before the flames had been extinguished at Notre Dame Cathedral Paris in April there was a revival of interest in the classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.


Demand for early editions of the 1831 story of Quasimodo and the gypsy Esmerelda surged. Some rarer editions reportedly doubled in price. Sales of modern editions spiked.

For book collectors, who own first edition of the novel, this was a case of a smokey black cloud having a silver lining.

Collecting books is an art form, with a skill set all its own. What makes a book valuable can be complex and a sudden unpredicted event or accident can influence the value of a book as demonstrated by the cathedral fire.

Early editions of Dickens, Bronte, Hardy novels are obvious collectors targets but what about contemporary books? Do they not accumulate in value? If so, which modern works of literature have their place on the collectors’ bookshelf?

Authors’ sudden “sign-off” adds to value

A famous author’s death usually adds value to signed first editions – for a while at least. Sometimes increased value falls away with time.

If you dig a little deeper you’ll find that modern novels can soon become collectable given the right conditions. Serious book collectologists are aware of this.

Hunger Games trilogy now worth £2,000

Lucky owners of all early editions of the trilogy The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, signed by the author, are looking at £2,200 at today’s online valuation.

That is amazing for an author still in her prime, but Suzanne’s kudos was enhanced by the success of the movie versions of her stories.

There are some basic criteria for maintaining value in books. Hard back versions with a fly-leaf in good condition will always have greater cache. The book itself needs to be in good condition, but as with The Hunger Games that all-important author’s authentic signature is what you need. Successful Hollywood movie versions also help.

Sometimes it is a facsimile signature included by the publisher which is not quite the same in terms adding value to the book. It’s the autographed version collectors crave and if there’s a personal message inscribed on it…wow!

It’s often not that difficult to get an author’s moniker on a new first edition. Most authors are encouraged to do a book signing tour to promote the work.

It is wise to keep a weather-eye out for these signing events and worth investing in the book if you can get it signed by the author even if he or she is not famous – just yet.

Take another a peek at your personal library.

Is there a valuable book gathering dust on your bookshelf?

Here are a few book titles worth good money which might surprise you.

  • Are you binge-watching Game of Thrones? If you have an early edition of the first book, A Game of Thrones signed by original author George Martin, (pictured) best lock it away today. It’s going to be worth serious money down the line.
  • Do you have a first edition copy of Booker prize winning novel Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel? If you do and it was signed by Hilary it is currently worth £200. For a living author that’s remarkable value.
  • The Twilight series created in novel form by American Stephenie Meyer, became a cult movie series but what about the original books? Signed copies are selling for between £100 and £250 depending on condition.
  • Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code became a worldwide phenomenon after it was released in 2003. According to AbeBooks a signed first edition sold in May of 2006, the year the movie came out, for over £3,500. This is the highest price ever paid for a copy of this bestselling thriller. Dan Brown only went his first book signing on tour in 2017. The lack of book signings ensured that signed copies would be extremely rare. Those that come up sell for around £500
  • Growing in popularity among avid book collectors are the works the late Angela Carter. Famous for her unique prose style and re-worked fairy stories. First editions with Angela’s signature are becoming sought after. One copy of The Bloody Chamber and other stories is currentlyon-line priced at £300.

Remember, it’s always a good time to start collecting. Have a look at our website to see a range of our latest collectables. Click here >>>

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