Why collect first editions?

Why collect first editions?

From as far back as I can remember, I have always been a reader and I have always had a book with me, whether at school, at home or on holiday. On holiday, I would spend three weeks of the Summer at my Nana’s house reading through titles from her hundreds of books.

I was brought up in York and in my teens, I discovered a second-hand bookshop called Ken Spelman’s. (It is still in Micklegate and hasn’t changed a bit.) It was there that I discovered that a first edition had more value than a later printing. I didn’t have the money then to collect the books that I loved but I spent a lot of time browsing, smelling, and learning how to discern the first edition from a reprint and learning its value.

Fast forward thirty-five years later, my love and passion for books has not diminished and now I have amassed a collection of first editions that I have loved reading. I keep a library at home and I love to look at my books from time to time. Certain books evoke memories and scenes from a time and locations which adds personal value. Where were you when you first read The Diary of Anne Frank, for example, or your first Roald Dahl? Danny, The Champion of the World is one of my most loved books for many reasons, least of all because of the loving relationship I had with my father. This is one of my most treasured first editions.

My passion has also grown into a successful business, Goldsboro Books, which is now celebrating its 21st year. My friend, Daniel, and I have built Goldsboro into one of the leading independent bookshops in the U.K. We only sell first editions, and very many of them are signed by the author, which adds further value to the book.

You may well ask, why collect first editions? The market price of a book is dependent on a number of factors and the condition of a book is hugely important. Buying a first edition from a bookshop that doesn’t pack it well will mean it can get damaged in the post. This will devalue your copy - in some cases, quite dramatically. Collectors want fine copies.

Other factors include scarcity and demand. Popular books have huge print runs – even these alleged special editions from chain book stores. If we take a look at something like the Harry Potter novels, for example, where so many first edition copies were printed of the later books in the series that even fine copies have limited value. There is always a demand for these books, however, and many have been read (as they should be) so in the long term, fewer really fine copies will be found, so the demand and condition may continue to increase the price.

At Goldsboro, we carefully curate the books which we want to champion and sell with a discerning eye. As soon as we hear about a special book that a publisher has bought, we ask to read proofs and early manuscripts, sometimes twelve months before publication. If we choose to stock the book it is because we think that it is something that collectors will want to read and to own - even more so if we choose to do something special with it. Partnering with publishers, we purchase a number of the first edition, first printing stock and we either have them bound differently to make a rather special edition or take them as the publisher has planned. Print runs are modest these days for unknown and first-time authors, so we get in early to secure our first edition copies. Reprints are very seldom collectible and have no long-term monetary value, even if they are signed or have special features.

Our exclusive, special and numbered first editions are highly sought after. Many sell out within days of advertising on our website. Some of our Book of the Month choices have become very valuable and now command four and five-figure sums.

I hope that this has illuminated the reason to collect signed, first editions. If you love books, buy the very best edition. For me, it is the first edition, first printing and ideally signed by the author. Many of the books that Goldsboro Books offer are sold at the recommended retail price when they are first published. Plus, we pack all of our books carefully in bubble wrap and a sturdy box to make sure that you receive the finest copy.

You can always be confident that when you buy from Goldsboro Books, your copy will be a first edition, first printing.

Happy collecting.


David H Headley

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