Keep your books
January 17, 2010
In the 1980s, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal that said a first edition of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot was selling in the range of $250. I couldn’t believe it. I owned a first edition. It was a Christmas present from my mother the year King’s second novel was published, 1975. Years afterwards, it traveled with me as I boxed up books and moved to new cities, new homes. I wasn’t a book collector during those years. I didn’t even know book collecting was something someone did, or that some books increased in value over time. I just kept my books. It was second nature.
Reading The Wall Street Journal article I figured, what the heck, I’m not a Stephen King fan. I don’t need to keep this book. Off I skipped to a local dealer and traded it in. Too bad it didn’t dawn on me that Salem’s Lot would continue to increase in value. That maybe I should hang onto it.
I saw Salem’s Lot for sale at a local dealer a few days ago. Asking price is $700. It’s a first edition book with a second issue dust jacket. That’s likely what I had. Salem’s Lot was published with the wrong $8.95 price on the dust jacket, and the publisher quickly reprinted it with the correct $7.95 price. Consequently, there are hardly any first edition books with first issue dust jackets. Sellers online are asking prices similar to the $700 for Salem’s Lot in a second issue dust jacket, so that seems the going price. Of course, much more is being asked for signed editions.
Not all books increase in value, and that’s the gamble when we sell our books. When Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was published, how could a reader know it would become a cultural icon let alone valuable in its first edition? The same could be said for the first Harry Potter book.
I still sell my books, mostly because of shelving space in my home. I’m not a bibliophile who will rent a storage locker for books. (At least, not yet.) My rule is to keep the books I love, review and collect or, for some reason, regard as special. Anything beyond that becomes questionable when space gets tight. Did I love Salem’s Lot? I can’t remember. I just wish I’d kept it.