Friday, October 18, 2013

LINK: View to a killing: why do collectors pay so much for James Bond first editions?

Here's a nice article by Rick Gekoski in The Guardian about the escalating values of Ian Fleming James Bond First Editions. Click the headline to read.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very good article, despite the inexplicable exclusion of Raymond Benson from the opening list of continuation authors. But it poses a very interesting question at its core: what makes Fleming a more collectible author than so many of his contemporaries or followers? I think the article hints at an answer (nostalgia is certainly part of it, as is the need to identify with iconic heroes, as the author suggests, but not ALL, I don't think) but leaves the topic wide open for discussion.

    I started collecting Bond books in 1989, not yet even a teenager. (And boy am I glad today, because the books I could afford on meager savings from summer jobs and allowance back then I couldn't begin to afford now as a working adult, their value and - crucially - the public's knowledge of that value has increased so much since then.) Throughout the 90s, I scoured used book sales all over New England and worked in a great used bookstore learning more about the used book business.

    The hot "modern firsts" back then were Tom Clancy and Anne Rice. And, to a lesser extent, Michael Crichton, who I also collected. But the values of their books have not increased anywhere near as exponentially as the values of Fleming firsts. We've yet to see how the author's death affects prices, but I recently saw a first edition of The Hunt for Red October sell for a mere fraction of what one sold for twenty years ago, when Jack Ryan was all over movie theaters and bestseller lists. And that's not a common book.

    The values of many modern firsts have dropped in the Internet age, when previously scarce copies have become more widely available. But not with Fleming. All the Internet has done with Bond is made everyone well aware of what these books go for, so the chances of ever finding a UK First for a bargain price in a little out of the way used bookstore or at a library sale have plummeted to nil. Yet I don't think "the Internet" is the catch-all answer for why Bond books have proved such a stellar investment either.

    The films certainly have SOMETHING to do with it. The fact that the series goes on, reliably (despite a few unbearable gaps) every couple of years serves to keep the character always in the public consciousness, whereas Jack Ryan has been off the screen for years. It keeps Bond from being the passing fad Gekoski seemed to believe it to be when he recommended his clients against buying the books in the early 80s. But by now, I suspect that Bond, like Holmes (as he points out) is so ingrained in culture that even without the films continuing the book values would continue to rise.

    The collectibility can't even be tied in to the books being bestsellers. Because, for part of that time while the films made their lucrative Brosnan-era comeback, the Fleming books were shockingly OUT OF PRINT in America. Between the Berkley silhouette editions and the Penguin editions of the early 2000s, you couldn't buy a Bond paperback in a new bookstore. (During part of that time the MJF harcovers could be found on remainder tables though.) Yet the values on firsts continued to climb.

    I think it's down to a combination of all those factors, but I'm sure there's more to it, too, and I'm eager to hear other people's ideas about what makes Bonds such a great investment.

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