Tolkien Collector's Guide
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Nov 17
2020/11/17 9:44:29 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Stu wrote:


I think the Blue Wizards PB clearly IS collectable at this point in time. The question is, will it be collectable in 10 or 20 years time? I'd suggest the chances of that being the case are incredibly low. Paperbacks typically have low collectability and - really - is anyone going to care about a specific set of HarperCollins covers a few iterations down the line? I see nothing wrong with collecting them, but I think it is crazy to pay a lot of money for something that has only been created as a cheaply manufactured disposable reading copy. I also doubt they are actually rare. Just because something isn't yet frequently found on the market doesn't mean a lot of them weren't sold.

It's amazing to see what word of mouth will do to the value of a book. Like you say, it (and other editions that are currently popular) might not even be rare or scarce in the first place. The internet continues to change collecting. Anyone can look at the values of older Tolkien paperbacks... are there any (not including scholarly stuffs) that go for more than £100? I can't think of any individually.
Nov 17 (edited)
2020/11/17 10:08:38 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
The thing with this PP BW UT maybe ties in the fact that it belongs to the series of Tolkien paperbacks with a black spine and picture.
Most of the others titles in the series are still available for a few pounds, but this one is rarer. I think it drives mad completists or newcomers who're making this particular paperback collection.
But I agree, prices for it recently seen on ebay are nonsense.
Nov 17
2020/11/17 10:15:24 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

emilien wrote:

The thing with this PP BW UT maybe ties in the fact that it belongs to the series of Tolkien paperbacks with a black spine and picture.
Most of the others titles in the series are still available for a few pounds, but this one is rarer. I think it drives mad completists or newcomers who's making this particular paperback collection.
But I agree, prices for it recently seen on ebay are nonsense.

I always take Peoples of Middle-earth as a lesson. It was part of a series and was rare right up until it turned out to not be rare at all...
Nov 17
2020/11/17 10:51:22 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Stu wrote:

emilien wrote:

The thing with this PP BW UT maybe ties in the fact that it belongs to the series of Tolkien paperbacks with a black spine and picture.
Most of the others titles in the series are still available for a few pounds, but this one is rarer. I think it drives mad completists or newcomers who's making this particular paperback collection.
But I agree, prices for it recently seen on ebay are nonsense.

I always take Peoples of Middle-earth as a lesson. It was part of a series and was rare right up until it turned out to not be rare at all...

Sure, but still, expensive when seen on ebay or elsewhere. Not a lot of copies were printed, and I think a good part of them are turning at book sellers end...
But I think that's different for one reason : PoME (like War of the Jewels) H&C is the first UK edition / first (and only) printing of this edition and will always be desirable for the collector in 10 - 20 years, (and probably most with the coming of the Amazon series). On the contrary, as you said, this PP copy of Unfinished tales most likely won't.
Nov 17
2020/11/17 11:05:14 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

emilien wrote:

Stu wrote:

emilien wrote:

The thing with this PP BW UT maybe ties in the fact that it belongs to the series of Tolkien paperbacks with a black spine and picture.
Most of the others titles in the series are still available for a few pounds, but this one is rarer. I think it drives mad completists or newcomers who's making this particular paperback collection.
But I agree, prices for it recently seen on ebay are nonsense.

I always take Peoples of Middle-earth as a lesson. It was part of a series and was rare right up until it turned out to not be rare at all...

Sure, but still, expensive when seen on ebay or elsewhere. Not a lot of copies were printed, and I think a good part of them are turning at book sellers end...
But I think that's different for one reason : PoME (like War of the Jewels) H&C is the first UK edition / first (and only) printing of this edition and will always be desirable for the collector in 10 - 20 years, (and probably most with the coming of the Amazon series). On the contrary, as you said, this PP copy of Unfinished tales most likely won't.


PoME really isn't expensive compared to what it was. At one point they were selling for £400. Now they can be had for closer to £100. They were *never* actually rare, but the - incorrect - rumour that they were pulped en-masse caused a spike in demand that created the illusion of rarity. It was the belief in this rarity that made them expensive. The question is, are there more than 4,000 people who feel the need to create a full set of 1st/1st HoME? If not, then I don't think demand is ever likely to go back up from where it is now. I'm not saying a 1st/1st PoME isn't a desirable book, I'm saying it shows that even a desirable book can plummet in value when people realise there are actually a lot more of them floating around than they previously believed.
Nov 17
2020/11/17 11:27:53 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Good point.
For me 4000 copies for the first edition is not a lot, but you're right, the interest for these books is not comparable to the Lord of the rings or the Hobbit. But maybe, demand will increase in the future, especially with a big budget series set in the second age...
In the meantime, when we compare to a book like "The old english exodus", for which the print run was 3000 copies (less than PoME but still in the same range), the demand for Exodus is still far less than People. And this books is still very hard to find and really expensive. I really wonder where the copies are... Same with "Finn and Hengest", First UK edition (for which we don't know how big was the first print run, even if it seems not big and not reprinted).
Nov 17
2020/11/17 11:51:22 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:


It's amazing to see what word of mouth will do to the value of a book. Like you say, it (and other editions that are currently popular) might not even be rare or scarce in the first place. The internet continues to change collecting. Anyone can look at the values of older Tolkien paperbacks... are there any (not including scholarly stuffs) that go for more than £100? I can't think of any individually.

Blackie Hobbit
Cuban 1st Hobbit
Argentina 1st Hobbit

and a few other Hobbit translations that were first issued in Paperback
Nov 17
2020/11/17 13:30:57 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

emilien wrote:

Good point.
For me 4000 copies for the first edition is not a lot, but you're right, the interest for these books is not comparable to the Lord of the rings or the Hobbit. But maybe, demand will increase in the future, especially with a big budget series set in the second age...
In the meantime, when we compare to a book like "The old english exodus", for which the print run was 3000 copies (less than PoME but still in the same range), the demand for Exodus is still far less than People. And this books is still very hard to find and really expensive. I really wonder where the copies are... Same with "Finn and Hengest", First UK edition (for which we don't know how big was the first print run, even if it seems not big and not reprinted).

Finn and Hengest is an oddity - I'm always surprised at how infrequently they turn up. My copy has a faded spine, but I just never seem to see them. With regards to Exodus, we know several hundred (at least) went to libraries. I suspect that, coupled with the nature of the book makes it the kind of thing that will sit in private libraries until estate sales re-circulate them. PoME arguably had broader appeal with a wider and more transient+ audience.

+Not the word I'm really looking for, but I don't quite know that the word is.
Nov 17
2020/11/17 15:43:38 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
If the Tolkien book-collecting world is anything like collectible trading cards, the current economic downturn could be a driving factor in some of these prices. People want a "secure" place to put their money in uncertain times, and mind all the less when that comes in the form of something that appeals to their childhood nostalgia.

It would seem that low-info collectors/would-be investors tend to view the stock of certain IPs as going only one way: Up. Consider Tolkien as the progenitor of the modern Fantasy genre, which now entails a broad coalition of interest further bolstered by recent pop-culture entries like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, etc. Also consider Amazon's impending series, which stands to inherit the hype mantle from GoT while riding its own massive wave of interest from PJ's trilogy (trilogies?)

I think, therefor, it's easy to see how even a halfway rare or obscure Tolkien volume could be perceived as a collectible landmark worth "investing" in. Also useful to remember that most of these purchase decisions are emotional in nature–emotions which are dressed up in the (patchy) logical framework of investment as an excuse to give into FOMO and geek out over Tolkien in one go.

Admittedly, I'm spitballing a bit here, but this is definitely the way things are going with Magic the Gathering and Pokemon collectibles, which are absolutely booming right now despite the pandemic economy.
Nov 17
2020/11/17 18:01:09 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Berelach wrote:

Surely the buyer could have requested a picture of the copyright page before bidding, right? It better be a first... at least that would be something! This all makes me wonder if there are sellers taking advantage by spreading exaggeration on reddit or wherever this hyper-subjective info is spreading... but maybe that's just the cynic in me.

The copyright page had a sticker over where the line number/date would be. It's not visible in the listing, although may have been ascertained from the verso with copy in hand.
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