Book club editions have a bad reputation: They’re cheaply made, and if not current within the past year, book-buyers do not want them. While true for well over 95 percent of all club editions, there are notable exceptions that should not be overlooked by the professional book dealer.
I enjoy finding the offbeat books that other dealers ignore: The overlooked mass market paperback, or the occasional valuable book club edition. While the majority of dealers these days are running around library sales with cell phone readers, scanning the barcode on every book in sight, I am happily making good money on the items they ignore: Scarce, collectible book club editions — ignored, of course, because they lack barcodes to scan, or ISBN’s to tap in on the ubiquitous cell-phone readers.
There are hundreds of valuable club editions; this article will look at only a few of them.
First off, Anne Rice’s The Mummy. I learned of this little gem’s value quite by accident, while at the tail end of a dismal morning of scouting at yard sales on a balmy summer day. I ran into a dozen Anne Rice hardcovers for a dollar each, and as they were in near new condition, and as I wanted to end up with at least a few books for my several hours work, I bought them all, thinking at best I would be lucky to average three to five dollars each for the lot, selling them on eBay. Over the course of time I started them on auction at just that price, most of which sold for my minimal expectation. The Mummy, however, took off with a shot, and by the auction’s end had closed at $105.00.
I was quite surprised, as this book had been the only club edition in this collection of otherwise publisher’s editions, and I had the typical dealer’s aversion to book clubs. With a bit of online research, however, I learned that this book had been first published as a book club edition, and as such this was the true first, and rather scarce. A delightfully surprising case of a valualbe book club edition!
My good fortune prompted me to seek out other club editions of value, surmising that most dealers ignored them, as I had hitherto, and they might be floating around, noticeable only when sought. A most efficient way of seeking out such books was to access eBay’s closed auctions, go to genre fiction, filter by hardcover, highest price first, and start scanning down the titles looking for the words “club” or “club edition” or the initials “BCE” for “book club edition.” A number of titles leapt out, which I jotted down.
One title was the six-volume set by W.E.B. Griffin, his Brotherhood of War series. The set was first published in hardcover as a club edition, and thus was the true first edition, scarce and collectible, like Ms. Rice’s Mummy. With the title firmly planted in mind, this set of books fairly jumped out at me at a local little paperback exchange, where they were getting rid of it for a song at $15.00 for the set, as they had little use for hardcover books in the first place, and even less use for club editions I placed it on auction where it promply shot up to over $200. Again, this was another case of a seemingly worthless book club edition cherry-picked from the ether and sold to the person who wanted it for a reasonable profit.
There are numerous other examples of valuable club editions, almost all of which are overlooked by the general dealer at sales. Spending a bit of time researching the matter can add more weapons to your arsenal of knowledge as you go out scouting for scarcities. As stated earlier, eBay is an excellent place to seek out valuable editions. Good luck finding them!