15 Epic First Edition Books Worth Investing In

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First edition books have a great return on investment (ROI). The challenge is getting the right books to sell. To make money from such books, you need to get the ones with value for money. It may seem daunting, but it isn’t impossible if you know where to start and how to go about it.

Currently, first-edition books are limited, and finding those with the best ROI is challenging. If you are looking for more than 10 options, you have come to the right place. Read on to get information on the first edition books worth investing in.

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List of 15 Epic First Edition Books Worth your Investment

In literature, the first edition of popular epic books is a gem. You will make money soon if you own or know where to find such books at a bargain. Check out the features and a summary of the same below. 

 

Book 1: Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale

Ian Fleming's Casino Royale First Edition

If you are a James Bond fan, you have watched Casino Royale. In April 1953, Casino Royale was released. It was the first novel that started the James Bond book series. The initial run was a huge success. British publisher Jonathan Cape printed upwards of 4,700 copies.

These copies were sold out a few months after printing. The copies were hotcakes because of the high demand for “James Bond” adventures in the United Kingdom. 

One of the reasons the first edition became rare as its dust jacket, which made it almost impossible to maintain. Mint condition copies went for about $130,000 in 2020. Those in good condition fetched $40,000 or more.

Casino Royale ROI as at 2022

  • 2020 original mint condition price – $130,000
  • 2020 original good condition price – $40,000
  • Resale value for mint condition – $150,000 to $180,000
  • Resale value for good condition – $55,000 to $70,000
  • Profit margin mint condition – $20,000 to $50,000 (15% – 38%+ ROI)
  • Profit margin good condition – $15,000 to $30,000 (37% – 75%+ ROI)

 

Book 2: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales First Edition

In 1776, Tyrone County’s Earl Fitzwilliam was the first to buy the book. At the time, it was auctioned off during John Radcliffe’s library sale. Fitzwilliam sold the first edition copy for about $7.   

Later, the first edition of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer was sold for £4.6 million in 1998. Sir Paul Getty bought it, a billionaire philanthropist at the time. The auction was held at Christie’s in London. Today, the value of the epic book is more than $11 million.  

William Caxton made the Canterbury Tales’ first edition in 1477. Currently, there are only 12 copies in existence. It’s one of the reasons why it’s an epic first-edition book worth your investment. 

The Canterbury Tales ROI as at 2022

  • 1998 original auction price – $5.2 million
  • Resale value – $11 million to $12 million
  • Profit margin – $5.8 million to $6.8 million (111% – 130%+ ROI)

 

Book 3: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

the hobit first edition

Tolkien is famous for releasing the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, before he released it, he had written a minor epic fantasy novel for kids known as The Hobbit. This kid’s novel was released in 1937. The Hobbit is the blueprint and precursor for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was thanks to The Fellowship of the Ring, which was released in 1954. 

George Allen & Unwin Ltd. was the London publisher of the Hobbit. In the initial run, they were only able to print 1,500 copies. Within 3 months after its release, the book had sold out. Additionally, new editions of the book became rare to get at that time. 

The rarity of the books resulted from a paper shortage caused by World War II rationings. In 2022, the first edition copy of this epic book goes for more than $650,000. This price is determined by its near-perfect condition.  

In 2015, the first edition copy of this epic book sold for approximately $210,000. This was in London at a Sotheby’s auction. The copy was remarkable, considering it was once given to a former student of Tolkien.

The Hobbit ROI as at 2022

  • 2015 original auction price – $210,000
  • Resale value – $650,000 to $700,000
  • Profit margin – $440,000 to $490,000 (209% – 233%+ ROI)

 

Book 4: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby first edition book

This epic first edition book came with a dust jacket. It’s one of the rarest books you can find in the market today. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t very popular when it was released in 1925. By the time the author died in 1940, the book had only sold 25,000 copies.  

On the flip side, a dust jacket copy of this book in the early 2,000s fetched upwards of $194,000. If you have a copy of the dust jacket, check the back of the book. If you find one with a typo, instead of “Jay Gatsby,” you find “jay Gatsby” you will have hit the jackpot. It’s because the error was later corrected using a stamp or ink. 

The Great Gatsby ROI as at 2022

  • 2000s original auction price – $194,000
  • Resale value – $260,000 to $280,000
  • Profit margin – $66,000 to $86,000 (34% – 44%+ ROI)

 

Book 5: William Shakespeare’s First Folio

This book was titled Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies by William Shakespeare. The First Folio collection comprises 23 plays by Shakespeare. They include titles like 21st-century favorites Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Tempest. 

First Folio was first printed in 1623 after the iconic playwright had been dead for 7 years. It was considered the reason why Shakespeare’s works will live for many years. Literature, playwright, and other experts believe that Shakespeare’s plays might not have come to light without First Folio. 

The first edition of this collection was sold at a whopping $5.2 million at a 2006 auction. This was at Sotheby’s in New York. Since then, the First Folio has had a steady price rise, with 2022 prices ranging from $7.1 million to $7.3 million. 

First Folio ROI as at 2022

  • 2006 original auction price – $5.2 million
  • Resale value – $7.1 million to $7.3 million
  • Profit margin – $1.9 million to $2.1 million (36% – 40%+ ROI)

 

Book 6: Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time

Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time

Three Mountains Press, the French publisher, released In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway in 1924. It was a collection of short stories with 300 copies printed in its initial run. However, only 170 copies were sold because of a printing mistake. The mistake was caused by Hemingway’s frontispiece from the author’s woodcut portrait. Unfortunately, it bled through the following page during printing. 

Family and friends received the remaining 130 “printed errors” as review copies. At the time, Hemingway stated that you could only live life to write about it.  

The limited numbers of this epic first edition book collection made it one of the rarest books in the world. By early 2004, the first edition of the copy was sold for $321,600 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. 

 In Our Time ROI as at 2022

  • 2004 original auction price – $321,600
  • Resale value – $507,000 to $515,000
  • Profit margin – $185,400 to $202,400 (52% – 63%+ ROI)

 

Book 7: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone first print

In June 1997, Bloomsbury Publishers from the UK released the first edition of the Harry Potter series. During its initial run, the publisher only printed 500 copies. Out of these, 300 copies went to schools and libraries across the United Kingdom. 

Take note that the first edition of this book is the only one for which Joanne Rowling is credited as the author instead of J.K. Rowling. It also has a print number reading “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”.  

There was an American edition that debuted in 1998. This version changed its title, and Joanne Rowling wasn’t credited as the author. The name of the title is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If the first book didn’t succeed, the other books in the Harry Potter series wouldn’t have been released.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’s first editions at an auction could get you upwards of $55,000 in the late 20th century. The condition of the book determined a difference of about -$10,000. In the 21st century, a rare copy sold for about $100,000. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ROI as at 2022

  • Minimum original auction price in the late 20th century – $40,000
  • Resale value – $55,000 to $65,000
  • Profit margin – $15,000 to $25,000 (37% – 62%+ ROI)

 

Book 8: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

The first edition of this book was initially released as 3 volumes in 1813. These were sold for 18 shillings, which is about $1.20 today. The book was considered a disposable and fashionable novel when it was initially released. Maybe this was the reason for the low price.  

However, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the Pride and Prejudice series gained literary status. During this time, it had several TV and film adaptions. For example, in 2010, the books in pristine condition were sold for about $200,000. 

The buyer was a private collector who bought other first-edition books such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The collector spent upwards of $4 million for these books and others. Take note that other Pride and Prejudice editions go for about $45,000. 

Pride and Prejudice ROI as at 2022

  • 2010 original auction price – $200,000
  • Resale value – $220,000 to $230,000
  • Profit margin – $20,000 to $30,000 (10% – 13%+ ROI)

 

Book 9: James Joyce’s Ulysses

In 2009, Ulysses by James Joyce first edition sold for $335,000. It was the highest price for any 20th-century novel at the time. This price tag may be because the book ranked 45 out of the first 100 copies. Furthermore, at one point, it was thought to be lost. 

Originally, this book was classified as salacious and obscene during its release in 1922. It was subsequently banned for the same reasons. This didn’t deter a buyer from purchasing it at a New York bookstore. It’s considered one of the world’s most expensive epic first edition books.

Ulysses ROI as at 2022

  • 2009 original auction price – $335,000
  • Resale value – $400,000 to $420,000
  • Profit margin – $65,000 to $85,000 (19% – 25%+ ROI)

 

Book 10: J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

Unfortunately, it was the only book penned by the renowned reclusive author. Keep in mind J.D. Salinger wrote several short stories. Like the Great Gatsby, the Catcher in the Rye’s first edition has more value when its dust jacket is intact. 

Take note-getting this book with its jacket in mint or near-mint condition is rare. That is why the American classic is sold for $45,000 to $ 80,000, depending on the seller and its condition. If you have one lying around somewhere, you are in for a windfall.

The Catcher in the Rye ROI as at 2022

  • 2016 original auction price – $45,000
  • Resale value – $80,000 to $90,000
  • Profit margin – $35,000 to $45,000 (77% – 100%+ ROI)

 

Book 11: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland

alice adventure in wonderland first edition

Initially released in 1865, this is one of the most popular first edition epic books in the world today. A mere 2,000 copies were printed during its initial run. 

Funny enough all the copies were recalled due to a request by John Tenniel. The reason was that John wasn’t happy with the prints. It was the reason the second printing was in bookstores, and the first wasn’t. All the same, Carroll gave out a few original copies to family and friends before recalling the first print. 

Currently, the first edition of this book has 22 copies that weren’t recalled. Institutional libraries have preserved 16 of the 22 copies. Private collectors own the remaining 6. A “scarce” copy was at Christie’s for auction in 2016. The estimated price at the time was two to three million dollars. 

People who can’t afford such prices can opt for the second and more “affordable” printing. This edition retailed at about $49,000.  

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland ROI as at 2022

  • 2016 original auction price – $49,000
  • Resale value – $60,000 to $65,000
  • Profit margin – $11,000 to $16,000 (22% – 32%+ ROI)

 

Book 12: The Gutenberg Bible

In 1987, there was an auction in New York City for the sale of a copy of the original Gutenberg Bibles. It sold for approximately $5.39 million and was the first movable type printed book. This Gutenberg Bible won the world record for the most expensive book sold at the time.

One of Japan’s biggest booksellers bought the book from Los Angeles’ Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The sale was meant to fund the training of more clergy. Such books in their original state cost millions in 2022. 

The Gutenberg Bible ROI as at 2022

  • 1987 original auction price – $5.39 million
  • Resale value – $25 million to $35 million
  • Profit margin – $19.61 million to $29.61 million (363% – 549%+ ROI)

 

Book 13: Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit first edition

Beatrix Potter had private publishing this book before its first edition. Today, the released edition is an iconic children’s book. The privately published copies were printed in 1901, a year before the first edition’s release.  

Family and friends got copies of the privately published copies amounting to 250. In 2016, one of the copies was sold for about $56,000 at an auction. 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit ROI as at 2022

  • 2016 original auction price – $56,000
  • Resale value – $65,000 to $70,000
  • Profit margin – $9,000 to $14,000 (16% – 25%+ ROI)

 

Book 14: Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations

Charles Dickens's Great Expectations

Chapman & Hall, a British publishing house, released the first edition of this book in 3 volumes. These volumes of the first edition of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations were released throughout 1861.  

Finding all three volumes in pristine condition isn’t impossible. In 2008, a complete set of the first edition was sold for $137,500 at a Sotheby’s auction. The book was so popular that the desk used to write it was sold for $850,000. This was at a Christie’s auction house in 2008. 

Great Expectations ROI as at 2022

  • 2008 original auction price – $137,500
  • Resale value – $170,000 to $175,000
  • Profit margin – $32,500 to $37,500 (23% – 27%+ ROI)

 

Book 15: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems

Tamerlane and Other Poems first print

The author of this book died in 1849. However, Edgar Allan Poe had turned over a manuscript for self-publication to a local printing press before he died. Only 50 copies of the poems were printed. It may be because the author, originally from Baltimore, chose to publish his work anonymously as “A Bostonian.” 

Initially, the 40-page copies were mainly ignored. However, Poe’s work started getting popular in the years that followed. At Christie’s in New York City, one of the copies sold for $662,500 at an auction in 2009. There is a poem to woo a married woman written by Poe. The poem wasn’t for his wife and was auctioned off at Christie’s for $830,500.  

Tamerlane and Other Poems ROI as at 2022

  • 2009 original auction price – $662,500
  • Resale value – $750,000 to $780,000
  • Profit margin – $87,500 to $117,500 (13% – 17%+ ROI)

 

Conclusion

These figures show that selling epic first edition books is profitable. If you want to get into the book-selling business, find one of the books above. They are of high value and get more valuable with time. 

The ROI figures provided are for 2022. If you get one book and sell it after a few years, the return on investment is likely to increase. Preserve any copy you buy according to the seller’s instructions provided by the seller(s). You can sell them for a huge profit within a short time, say several years.

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