I’ve been subscribing to the book collecting magazine Firsts for many years. I’m fascinated by the idea of collecting books and all the knowledge that goes into assessing what makes a book valuable, what authors command what prices, how to tell a book’s condition between good (which, in the book collecting world, isn’t actually considered good at all), fine, and very fine. Naturally, once an author has passed away ahis or her books automatically become more valuable, but there are other considerations that go into determining a collectible book. If you happen to come across a fine or very fine first edition of Sense and Sensibility you’re looking at paying upwards of $50,000 for it. But even books much less well known than the esteemed Ms. Austen’s can fetch a pretty penny.
Still, book collecting isn’t necessarily all about the dollar value of the book but rather the emotional value to the collector. I happen to be a huuuuuge Stephen King fan and own almost everything he’s written. Certainly they’re not all first editions and some not even in hardcover. But I love them all and would never want to part with them. In this age of digital books that get downloaded and deleted after they’re read, retaining a book in hand seems that much more valuable in many ways.
So how about romances? Are there old favorites out there that are on your shelves and will forever remain a part of your treasured collection? Or how about some romances that you don’t have but would love to own. Maybe you covet Jude Deveraux’s or Nora Robert’s very first books. Or perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey has made you decide that you want to start an erotic romance collection. Whatever the case, part of the fun of collecting books is the hunt to locate them. I’ve looked casually for a first edition of Stephen King’s Carrie but so far have been unsuccessful. They’re tough to find, probably because they’re pretty darn valuable. I’ve seen first editions priced anywhere from $2,500 all the way up to $7,500, which explains why they’re not just casually lying around in used bookstores.
I first started reading romances with Johanna Lindsey, I believe it was Gentle Rogue. But the romance that really made me fall in love with romance was Karen Robard’s Tiger’s Eye. The hero is a bad boy from London’s underground and the heroine is high-born lady from an aristocratic family. It’s a book that I can read again and again and one that has a permanent place on my keeper shelf.
I would also add Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley to my list. This is definitely one of those romance classics from the “golden era” of romance in the 1980’s. Sure, the writing’s been criticized, but I’d argue that this book was a groundbreaker of its time. The heroine captains her own ship, takes a variety of lovers, travels the globe – what more could you want?
Another set of books that retains a place on my shelf is perhaps a little more of an odd choice, but I found it intriguing nonetheless and that’s the Wideacre trilogy by Philippa Gregory. Gregory is known for her historical fiction, perhaps best represented by The Other Boleyn Girl, but if you haven’t read the Wideacre Trilogy I’d suggest you check it out. The heroine is strong-willed, almost bordering on crazy in a fascinating kinda way. She’ll do whatever she can to hang on to her ancestral home, Wideacre, including seducing her own brother. Before you shudder in revulsion, give it a try. I was intrigued by the way Ms. Gregory completely made me buy the story. I believed the heroine’s obsession over her home and I believed that she’d do everything she does in order to keep it. Wideacre is followed by The Favored Child, and then Meridon. They’ve all three got a place on my shelf.
I would love to hear what romances are considered collectibles in your world. Hmmm . . . cozying up with Tiger’s Eye suddenly sounds like the perfect weekend plan!