Highlights of eBay Agatha Christie sales: December 2020
Below are a few highlights of Agatha Christie items sold on eBay around the world in December 2020. This month we’ve categorized our highlight items by genre. For every item we profile below, we show the price realized as stated by eBay and the currency based on where it was listed. To convert, £1 UK = $1.37 US = $2 AUST. Verification of products or descriptions are not done by Collecting Christie but are taken at face value. Buyers should always seek provenance or greater detail as needed when considering any high-priced item. Of particular note to be cautious of are signed editions. Many in the trade are concerned about the volume of signed editions appearing in the market, especially those connected with various celebrity estates. As such, we are avoiding reviewing signed books at this time unless the provenance is unquestionable. Each item cited below begins with the seller’s description followed by our comments.
Books: Our sampling of book sales below poses an interesting question to collectors to consider. Is a 1930s Collins first edition more appealing in the original cloth boards when they are damaged, stained and worn, or more appealing rebound in a new leather binding? In my opinion if seeking a long-term collectible buy the most original you can afford.
Dumb Witness (1937): Collins The Crime Club, UK. First edition (missing jacket). Sold for £195 (UK) as a Buy It Now. Original orange cloth rubbed, soiled & faded, at the corners light wear has just exposed the board tips, toning to fly leaf & rear free endpaper, a little light foxing.
CC Comments: Overall a fairly tatty book but still sold for solid money. There’s a market for fairly heavily used firsts from Collins in the 1920s-1930s lacking jackets. However, once you get into the thinner 1940s books, the value drops precipitously. Firsts in very good to fine condition will command 2-3 times this, and in a jacket 50 – 75 times this. Personally, this is one of my favourite books to collect. Click here for a full article on collecting this book.
Death in the Clouds (1935): Collins The Crime Club, UK. First edition (missing jacket). Sold for £325 (UK) as a Buy It Now. The front cover has a stain, the spine is sunned and the corners are bumped. The end papers are toned and a couple of pages have had the tops creased.
CC Comments: Two years older than Dumb Witness but equally tatty, yet sold for 67% more money. Each year older often means a meaningful step up in price. Finding very-good or better unjacketed copies of these 1930s books is proving harder so perhaps in a few years we’ll say well bought.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1939): Collins The Crime Club, UK. Sold for $945 (US) as a Buy It Now. This first edition is bound in new full burgundy Moroccan leather, top gilt edge. The book is a fine copy with no foxing.
CC Comments: Given the earlier examples of books from this era (Dumb Witness & Death in the Clouds) in original cloth selling for a fraction of this price, the price realized here seems very strong. Rebound copies of Christie novels often show for sale, but the market has historically seemed quite thin with few buyers. Originality generally trumps all. In this case the buyer saw something that appealed to them.
Murder on the Orient Express (1934): Collins The Crime Club, UK. First edition (missing jacket). Sold for £1,995 (UK) as a Buy It Now. Some spotting to page and some scuffing to cover but very good condition for a book it’s age. Has some inscriptions to front and back pages.
CC Comments: And then there’s Murder on the Orient Express! Only one year older than Death in the Clouds but the true first is exceptionally uncommon and most firsts appear to have gone to libraries. Because of this many are very tatty. This has only a small library stamp in it and is well preserved. This really is the going price for a good plus copy of this book. For our detailed article on why these books are so rare, please click here. Well bought and well sold.
Absent in the Spring (1943): Collins, UK. Written as Mary Westmacott. Sold for £350 (UK) as a Buy It Now. First edition and first print in price clipped wrapper, near fine condition, and previous owners inscription to the fep.
CC Comments: Christie wrote six books under this pen name. They are generally considered less collectible as the demand is lower, but for any completist they are needed. This is the true first, preceding the version published by Doubleday in the US. However, this was well sold as a version in similar condition is available on a well-known online site for $250 US. Always worth checking around to ensure pricing is accurate before agreeing to a Buy It Now.
They Came to Baghdad (1951): Collins The Crime Club, UK. Sold for £185 (UK) with 20 bids. The book is in very good condition. 256 pages. Contents are complete, clean and tight. Text block edges are a slightly dusty. No marks or inscriptions. Red boards are exceptionally clean and bright. Dust jacket has slight edge wear. Hole/tear to the spine. Not price clipped at 18s 6d net. VG+ book in VG jacket.
CC Comments: It wasn’t that long ago that these books from the early 50s were available for 1/10th of this price realized. Clearly demand is there for very good or better quality copies and while the rip on the DJ spine was unfortunate it otherwise appeared a high quality copy. There are likely a few bargains out there still for books from this era. Prices are clearly appreciating.
Mrs. Opalsen’s Pearls (October 1923): Blue Book magazine, USA. Sold for $74.99 (US) as a Buy It Now. True 1st publication of this short story later collected in Poirot Investigates (1924) titled "The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan". Thick square spine magazine - some wear to spine with small paper chipping losses just at spine tips, typical edge wear, small nick loss along bottom edge on cover.
CC Comment: While the seller listed this as the “True 1st publication”, it actually isn’t. The story was first published in The Sketch in March 1923 in the U.K. as "The Curious Disappearance of the Opalsen Pearls." Listing errors are common on eBay and buyers should always do their own research. Well sold as Blue Books from this era can generally be found for half this price when buyers are patient.
The King of Clubs (November 1923): Blue Book magazine, USA. Sold for $39.99 (US) as a Buy It Now. This magazine is in good condition. Chip of paper is missing from cover. Features the US publishing debut of this Agatha Christie story.
CC Comments: A different seller from the prior Blue Book listing who correctly describes it as the “US debut”. It was first published in The Sketch in March 1923 in the UK. In 1951 the story appeared in The Underdog and Other Stories (US) and in 1974 as part of Poirot's Early Cases (UK). Price was more correct for a US magazine story when not a true first.
Evil Under the Sun Film CD soundtrack (1982). Sold for $10 (US) with 1-bid. EMI/DRG Records, NY, USA featuring Cole Porter, arranged and conducted by John Lanchberry. Condition is "Good". Light scratches on disc.
CC Comments: The unknown of ‘light scratches’ likely held back the bidding on this one. Unopened / mint copies of this disc have sold for $60-70 US as it is a particularly rare item. This was the era when CDs were replacing vinyl, but both were being produced. The vinyl album (RCA) related to this film was not the official soundtrack, but rather purely Cole Porter music – and very entertaining. The CD was an actual collection of all the music used in the films soundtrack. For the completist, it is a necessary find, so well bought and hopefully the scratch is insignificant.
Murder She Said lobby card set (1961). Sold for $135 (AUST) as a Buy It Now. Original US Lobby Card set 11" x 14" (of eight film stills) with Margaret Rutherford (Miss Marple)., very good used condition, pinholes in the corners of each card and light foxing around the edges (see scan for condition). CC Comments: Images and comments for both below.
Murder Ahoy lobby card set (1964). Sold for $135 (AUST) as a Buy It Now. Original US Lobby Card set 11" x 14" (of eight film stills) with Margaret Rutherford (Miss Marple)., fine to very fine condition.
CC Comments: Margaret Rutherford has a robust fan base and following. These lobby card sets are just the right size for framing and enjoying, and (as was the case here) can be found unfolded or cut up. Well bought and will likely be framed and displayed, and thus enjoyed.
Framed Autographed Handwritten Letter (circa 1940). Sold for $2,000 (US) as a Buy It Now. A letter to a Miss Ronald thanking her for a check for £32.10 signed "Agatha Mallowan". Address shows Green Lodge, 58 Sheffield Terrace which was she owned from 1934-1941. Lightly toned. 1 word smudged. 2 file holes at blank left margin, stray ink mark at lower margin. Otherwise, fine condition. Framed with supporting images and text.
CC Comments: Surprisingly strong money for a simple signed letter. The address is appealing as Christie did have her own writing room here and was known to have worked on many of her most famous books from the 1930s at this address. Perhaps one of our readers has insight as to Miss Ronald and the connection, but without a meaningful link this seems extremely well sold.
The Monthly Oddity:
Witness for the Prosecution radio show: Mystery Playhouse #206 transcription disk (31 May 1946). Sold for $59.99 (US) as a Buy It Now. One complete radio program on this 16-inch vinyl (33 1/3 rpm) album. This was Issued to Armed Forces Radio Stations for broadcast to US troops only. Excellent or better condition with excellent to near mint sound.
CC Comments: Recently we wrote an article about Christie on vinyl (click here for the full article). While this is technically a vinyl album it was never sold to the public and cannot be played on traditional record players. The 16 inch disk size does not allow the stylus arm of a typical turntable to reach it. Thus while a wonderful novelty item it is totally impractical to enjoy. The seller did indicate they could make a usable MP3 of it for a further $10 US.
Summary: As is common, most eBay activity around the world for Christie occurs in reading quality paperbacks and DVDs. There is also a fairly robust trade in the Bantam leatherette books (black) which routinely sell for $5-10 US per book. Recently there has been more trade in the HarperCollins facsimile editions, with prices varying between $10 to $40 US in most cases, per book. As always perception of value is often unclear on eBay, both by the seller and the buyer. Buyers can benefit from searching 'sold' items to understand recent prices realized, and should consider cross checking prices with other online sites. Many sellers do list valuable items as a Buy Now with a cheap price so eagle eyed frequent visitors commonly snap up mispriced items quickly. Happy hunting!