Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The collectible CASINO ROYALE hardcovers

Author’s note: Values here are estimates based on experience and are only meant to be a guide. No matter what any "expert" says (myself included), a book is only worth what someone is willing to pay and no one can say for sure what a book will or will not sell for. And condition is everything. All prices here are in U.S. dollars.

The UK Edition

UK first edition by Jonathan Cape
When Ian Fleming's Casino Royale was first published by Jonathan Cape on April 13, 1953, it was a sensation. In England the first printing of 4,750 copies sold out in the first month of publication. Fleming himself designed the dust jacket art, which contained nine bleeding hearts on a gunmetal gray background with "a whisper of love, a whisper of hate" inscribed around the center heart. This first edition of Casino Royale is one of the most sought-after James Bond books. Heck, it's one of the most sought after first edition books, period! Because the first print run was very small — with many going to libraries — in auction, first editions of Casino Royale can sell for $10,000 to $30,000 depending on condition (I realize that is quite a spread, but that is how much condition matters with this book). An inscribed copy of Casino Royale sold for just over $40,000 in 2007.

Know that the dust jacket is everything with this title. With a jacket, a first Casino can indeed fetch these large prices. But without a jacket, a seller would be lucky to get even a few hundred dollars. Also, beware of color copies of the dust jackets, which have begun to appear on the market in recent years.

In order to meet demand, Cape quickly published a second edition of Casino Royale in May 1953. This second edition is identical to the first except for the indicator "Second Edition" on the copyright page and the inclusion of "The Author" under Fleming’s picture on the back of the dust jacket. Also, a favorable review of the book was added to the front dust jacket overleaf. This second edition can sell for several hundred dollars. You'll sometimes see these listed as a "First Edition, Second Impression", but don't be fooled into paying a "first edition" price.

Pat Marriott designed an all new dust jacket (featuring a playing card against a green background) for Cape's fourth printing in November 1957. The book also picked up a printers error on page 34 ("neard" for "heard"). The Marriott art (along with the printing error) became standard on all subsequent hardcover editions, ending with the 13th edition in the 1980s. A Marriott first (meaning the 4th) can sell for $50 to $100, depending on condition. Cape would reprint the Casino Royale hardcover with the Marriott artwork all the way into the 1980s.

The U.S. Edition

U.S. first edition from Macmillan
In America the reaction to Casino Royale was rather cool. (Fleming was not to gain a loyal following in the states until President Kennedy named From Russia with Love one of his favorite books.) Nevertheless, the first edition of Casino Royale, published by Macmillan on March 23, 1954, remains the most valuable (but not the rarest) of the American books and can sell for between $1,500 and $2,500.

When shopping for an American Casino, be aware that two states of the dust jacket exist. Most first editions have the corner of the dust jacket overleaf clipped, and the price reads vertically below the clipped area. But there is another state of the first edition with a complete flap, and the price reads horizontally on the bottom. (The prices are the same on both editions: $2.75.) Most collectors and book dealers don’t know about this variation; so at the moment, there’s little difference in value. But personal experience has been that the complete flap is much harder to find than the clipped flap and should add a few hundred dollars to the price.

Macmillan started what would be a long series of US hardcover book club editions with Casino Royale (the UK would wait for the next book). The first Macmillan Casino book club edition — featuring a knife and cards against an orange background in its cover — is quite desirable and can reach as high as $80 in price, unusual for a book club. In fact, there’s a question as to whether or not this is a book club edition or a retail reprint. The later Macmillan book club — featuring a PPK against a uniform blue-grey or a pink background — are plentiful and have almost no value. These frequently show up on eBay as "hardcover 1st editions." Buyer beware.

In the 1990s, MJF reprinted Casino Royale as a low-priced "bargain bin" hardcover, part of "The James Bond Classic Library" series. While the jacket art is a bit lackluster, what is nice is that the book uses the original British edition plates (right down to the page 34 printing error). Also in the '90s, "The First Edition Library" reprinted pricey facsimile editions of all of Fleming's novels, and their copy of Casino Royale is a beauty. This is an excellent way to enjoy the artistry of the true first edition if you don’t have $20,000 on hand, although it still doesn't come cheap with copies on eBay fetching $100 and up.

In 2002, Viking/Penguin published a hardcover edition of Casino Royale as part of their "anniversary" reprints with jacket art that matched their paperback reprints. In 2008 Penguin Books in the UK released all 14 original James Bond/Ian Fleming novels as special Centenary editions hardcovers, including Casino Royale. The attractive new cover art was by artist Michael Gillette. These are now surprisingly scarce.

Later Casinos: Cape (1957), MJF (1990), Viking (2002) and Penguin (2008)

In the 2006 film adaptation of Casino Royale, James Bond plays Texas hold'em poker instead of the traditional baccarat (Chemin De Fer) of the novel. But baccarat is still the classic Bonidan game, and it's definitely the game of the Book Bond. Check out this article about James Bond and Baccarat if you would like to learn more.


  1. Appreciate this article. I have a Macmillan edition of Casino Royale that has no dust jacket at all (bought at a used book store long ago). The puzzling thing to me is that while you state the edition was published in March of 1954, the edition I have clearly states "Copyright 1953 by Glidrose Productions Ltd." My assumption is that this is the 1954 edition you mention but for some reason they marked it 1953 in the Copyright listing. Thanks again for putting this up!

    1. The original copyright of Casino Royale is 1953 -- meaning that's when this title was first published in the UK. Copyright notes the very first appearance. In this case, it is different from publication date of this particular edition. Back in the day, they didn't always list a current publication date, just the original copyright date. That's why dating older books can be tricky.

  2. I have what appears to be a first edition by macmillan. Copyright page says,
    "Copyright 1953 By Gildrose Productions Ltd"...

  3. Brilliant article. 10 years later I suspect the prices listed have changed quite a bit. Would be great to see an update.


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