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Last month, we took a look into the different kinds of terminology that experts and collectors use to differentiate first editions and rare books, and this month we’re excited to expand on the subject with a case study that focuses in on none other than everyone’s favorite secret agent, James Bond.

Almost as soon as Casino Royale was published in 1953, James Bond proved to be remarkably popular and with the release of film adaptations, beginning with Dr. No in 1962, 007 became a cultural phenomenon that remains to this day. The series of spy novels were published on almost a yearly basis throughout the 1950s and 1960s and are an area of avid collecting.

As with most modern first editions, there are some general tips for collecting the novels of Ian Fleming:

  • Not all first editions are the same. Particularly for British and American authors, there is often a British first edition and an American first edition. For Ian Fleming’s novels, the true first editions were published in London by Jonathan Cape.

  • Is the dust jacket present? The hardcover books were sold with corresponding dust jackets. In some cases, the dust jackets were altered slightly for subsequent impressions or editions and a buyer needs to be aware of these differences. It is not unheard of for books to be married to a non-original dust jacket – sometimes these dust jackets aren’t even from the same edition or printing as the book.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at first edition copies of Casino Royale. After its initial publication, the dust jacket was altered to include a review from the Sunday Times on the front flap. The inclusion or exclusion of this review marks it as a first issue or second issue dust jacket, which make a big difference to collectors.

  • What is the condition of the book? For most books, condition can drastically affect its desirability and value. Be sure to inspect both the dust jacket (if present) and the boards of the book for any damage, such as wear to the edges or corners, fading, foxing, stains, etc. Oftentimes, condition issues are common for certain books; for instance, if a dust jacket was produced on cheaper paper when a book was first published (in general, this sometimes happened when a publisher did not anticipate how popular a book or author would prove to be), collectors will be aware of this fact and more accepting of damage to the dust jacket.

  • Know the finer points of various editions. It is surprisingly common for printing errors to appear in early editions or printings of modern first editions, and this is certainly the case for Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. As an example, Moonraker is known to have been printed incorrectly with ‘shoo’ or correctly with ‘shoot’ on page 10.

  • Is it signed by the author? In general, an author’s signature is considered desirable and an added characteristic of value, and this is the case with Ian Fleming’s signature. Also, if the book is inscribed to a known personality or with a quirky inscription, this also usually increases the desirability of that copy.

Possibly the most important tip to remember is to collect what interests you! People collect for any number of reasons and how valuable an item might be is often of very little importance to them. Even if you cannot afford Ian Fleming’s British first editions, perhaps you are more interested in the cover art illustrations on the paperback first editions or want to focus on collecting his signed books with the edition and impression of less importance to you. There’s never a bad reason to buy or collect a book, but you should be as informed as possible about these items so that you know what you own.

For those with particular interest in Ian Fleming’s novels, Ian Fleming: The Bibliography by Jon Gilbert is an amazing resource that breaks down each version of each of Fleming’s books and is definitely worth consulting. To get a better understanding of the value of your first editions, a qualified appraiser can provide a professional opinion and recommendations on what to do.

Written by Jessica May, MSc, Appraisal & Senior Research Assistant

Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM

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