Book Collecting Guide

Collecting Modern First Editions

Although it is one of the most popular genres to collect these days, the exact definition of “Modern First Edition” is hard to pin down.

The general consensus is that “Modern Firsts” include books that were published from 1900 to current times, although some people include books printed from 1880 onward, while others start their bar at 1950 and up to current times.

Part of the reason for the upsurge of popularity of collecting this genre is its accessibility and the density of pop culture through modern media. A list of a few of the most expensive and sought-after modern firsts reads like a reading list for high school: The Old Man and the Sea; Nineteen Eighty-Four; On The Road.

Some of the things to keep in mind about collecting modern firsts:

  • Condition is of course of the utmost importance. No matter how rare, if your book is missing a cover and is full of mildewed pages, it is worth near to nothing.

  • The dustjacket is often quite important, preferably the original jacket that came with the book. The prices between modern firsts that include dustjackets and those that do not are staggeringly different in most cases. For example, the first edition of The Great Gatsby with the original jacket can be found priced at $200,000 and higher, while the book alone is near-fine/fine condition can be found priced under $10,000.

  • Sentimental value and familiarity are certainly a driving force in the desire to collect modern firsts. Most people collect what they love, and they love what they know. This is why books that were made into films are often so collectible in their first edition state.

  • Extremely modern firsts are generally not worth much...yet. A signed, first edition of a recently released title can accrue value over time, but consider the scarcity factor. How many books has that author signed? (Learn more in “Collecting Signed Books”)

We invite you to visit “Book Collecting By the Year: Modern Firsts” - an on-going project where we choose the Most Collectible book for each year.