View Full Version : A cautionary (eBay) tale

10-10-2001, 04:21 PM
I have had good success finding Tolkien books, particularly HoME volumes, on eBay. I also keep my eyes open for collector's editions. Along with my successes have come some errors, fortunately small ones.

There is now a tremendous market for older Tolkien editions, whether for purposes of nostalgia or for serious collecting. I previously started a thread about so-called "First Editions" (see link below). Suffice it to say, there are first editions and there are FIRST EDITIONS.

Yesterday, I came across a listing on eBay which I believed might be an unrecognized early UK edition of the Hobbit. It was an ex-library book (many are) of smaller than usual size (18cm x 12 cms). The photo of the COVER (emphasis intended) at a quick (too quick) glance showed what appeared to be the original dust jacket. The 3rd, 4th and possibly 5th and 6th printings of the first edition were produced under War Economy Controls. They were undersized to save paper (etc.). However the Seller in the listing stated that the copyright page was missing and the edition was unidentified. With 12 hours to go only one bid had been made (20GBP). This could have been a real find.

I e-mailed the Seller (a fine and honest person) a quote from Ch. 5, Riddles in the Dark, from the 4th printing. Printings 1-4 have Gollum promising Bilbo a present (the Ring!) if Bilbo wins. Gollum goes to look for the ring after the game and can't find it. He returns to Bilbo, explains the situation and instead of giving Bilbo the ring (which our hero already has) he leads Bilbo to the back door. The Seller responded that the quote was not in the book.

Sooo, this was not a 3rd or 4th printing. I wasn't sure if the 5th or 6th printings were done under War Economy. I checked the color plates shown and believe they were omitted from the wartime and most of the later First Editions. Then I looked at the picture of what I thought was an original dust wrapper and noticed: (1) the image was on the cover, not the jacket; (2) the listing said no dust jacket; and (3) the top and bottom (lines of runes) had been cropped off by the binder/publisher.

I'm still not sure but I'm almost certain this was not a First Edition (Seller never said it was) and was likely an undersized hardbound library or school edition (check your library in the paperbacks section and you'll see some of these). I didn't bid. Other over-zealous people did. The winning bid was 56GBP (about $90). The seller later e-mailed me to ask why I was interested in the quote, why I didn't bid and why it sold for so much.

The moral of the story is make sure you know what you're bidding on and what its worth.

First Editions threadhere (http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=1&t=000241)

[ October 11, 2001: Message edited by: Mithadan ]

[ October 11, 2001: Message edited by: Mithadan ]

10-11-2001, 07:37 AM
A follow-up. I e-mailed the high bidder to find out why he bid so high and outlining my suspicions. He responded that he had reached the same conclusion before the auction ended but had placed his bid through a bid server and had forgotten to withdraw it. The Seller (as I said, a fine and honest person) after hearing about bidder's error, allowed him to withdraw the bid.

Be careful out there! Check out the First Editions link which I added to my first post.

The Barrow-Wight
10-14-2001, 08:45 AM
I'd like to collect a few old Tolkien book, but have no idea where to start. Perhaps you, Mithadan, as an experienced collector, could make some suggestions of what a fledgling collector could look for. Perhaps a short list of what I might consider bidding on with enough details so I know what I'm bidding on. Mind you, i'm really only interested in the professors Middle-Earth books for now.


10-14-2001, 07:34 PM
always chech the used bookstores!
especially the 'literature' not the sci-fi/fantasy sections. You can often find old Silmarillions [1st editions] and old LoyR's and Hobbits, UT also and scads of BoLT 1 . I finally found a hardback HoME 3 but had no denaro smilies/frown.gif . maybe next time.


10-15-2001, 08:24 AM
OK. I'll give a few quick pointers, and I brought the First Editions thread up to the top of the Books forum. Lindil is correct in part. The best place to find older editions is at a used book seller. However, used book sellers tend to be aware of value so the price will be higher.

Avoid eBay and other on-line auctions. The prices are generally way too high because there are too many uneducated collector-wanna-be's. Also if a true collectible (or possible collectible) appears at a low price, real collectors will be all over it (for an example, see my cautionary tale, above, BTW, this book got about 8 bids in the last 2 minutes of the auction).

For HoME, you must first decide if you just want the books or want to collect hardcovers. If you just want the books, HoME 1-5 are available in standard paperback in the U.S. 6-9 are available in trade paperback or in a box set called The History of the War of the Ring. 10-12 are only available in the U.S. in hardcover right now. I believe the whole series is available in standard paperback in the U.K. where prices are slightly higher (say about $10.00 USD for a book).