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People assume buying from a specialist dealer means you pay more than if buying from an auction website but this is often far from the case. A dealer has a reputation to protect and can offer not only invaluable advice but also better value for money. Want more bang for your buck? First-edition books lie at the heart of the market but before you part with any money it is vital to seek out expert guidance to ensure you are spending wisely. Bryars in Covent Garden, Central London, says: ‘Buying can be intimidating so you should start by stepping inside the door of a specialist dealer to get a feel for the books you may wish to buy. The most sought-after books fetch thousands of pounds but most enthusiasts cannot afford to spend this kind of money.
Fortunately, for new collectors there are still plenty of opportunities to purchase favourite reads in editions that are still collectable. Sarah Henshaw, who runs The Book Barge bookshop on a narrow boat moored outside Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, believes early Penguin classics can be a great option for those on a tight budget but not sure how to start a book collection. Many can still be picked up in second-hand bookshops for under a fiver but prices are creeping up. Penguin can get you a foothold into the collectable market. They also look fabulous in a bookcase. She adds: ‘The fiction Penguin books are easy to recognise because they have distinctive orange covers. Other Penguin collectables include the detective fiction genre with a green cover, travel books in cherry-pink and biographies in dark blue.
There are also plenty of hidden gems in the book market that mean you can purchase first editions for reasonable prices. Book dealer Paul Evans, 47, from South Woodford, East London, says: ‘Crime fiction is a genre that continues to grip generations of new readers and a good area to get into if you are looking to collect unsung authors. Evans says first-edition books from current adult fiction writers, such as Jonathan Coe and William Boyd, could prove shrewd purchases. For example, a first edition hardback of What A Carve Up! 15,000 for an 1843 first edition of his iconic book A Christmas Carol with hand-coloured illustrations by caricaturist John Leech.
The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association can find you a local book trading member to visit. There is also the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association that provides details of forthcoming book sales local to where you live. If you get the opportunity visit the Hay Festival where tens of thousands of books will be traded. Brian Lake, a partner at Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers opposite the British Museum in Central London, says: ‘The internet is a great tool for providing invaluable information on books. But be wary of using it to buy as you might fall foul of third-rate traders who overcharge or sell something that is not quite what you expected.
Instead, use the internet to find a suitable specialist bookshop to visit in person. There is no substitute to talking face-to-face with an expert and handling the books before you decide to buy. Lake says a specialist bookseller is invaluable when looking for first editions as a first edition is not always obvious to the untrained eye. An expert will help you to avoid costly mistakes. The Rare Book Index tracks the value of 30 of the most sought-after first editions of the 20th Century. Over the past decade, it has risen on average by nine per cent a year. 1925 classic The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.
It has also benefited from the Hollywood treatment when turned into a film trilogy between 2012 and 2014. Animal Farm by George Orwell, published in 1945. Although this tale reflects events of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the politics and greed of the story teach each new generation something about the world in which we live today. The world of books will be celebrated at the Hay Festival in the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye this week. The 11-day literary fair starts on Thursday. Live And Let Die by Ian Fleming, first published in 1954.
It is important not to be swayed by the headline-grabbing figures of rare book prices as in reality, values vary hugely depending on who wants to buy on the day of a sale, the condition and the provenance behind it. The most expensive book ever sold is a first edition of The Birds Of America by John James Audubon published in the early 19th Century. 3 million at auction in December 2010. Only 120 copies of this book were published and it contains 435 hand-coloured, life-size illustrations of birds. 275,000 at a book auction in 2009. Retired police officer Aubrey Jones, 71, from Wenhaston in Suffolk, owns the first two volumes of the South Polar Times printed after the British National Antarctic Expedition that took place between 1901 and 1904.
The two volumes were inherited by Aubrey’s wife Ann, 65, whose great uncle was Dr Reginald Koettlitz, a polar explorer who went on the expedition. Aubrey, author of Scott’s Forgotten Surgeon, says: ‘When researching my own book I went through the old volumes but unfortunately many of the pages were loose and falling apart. I had them sensitively repaired by a fantastic local bookbinder, Helen Durant, who lives in the same village that I do. She breathed new life into the volumes. Aubrey also owned a copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland published in 1889 and Through The Looking Glass from 1901. Both were taken on the expedition and contained an inscription ‘From the Library of the Discovery National Antarctic Expedition’. Publishers originally used dust jacket covers to protect new books from getting damaged before being sold.