• David Morris

2021 November: A sampling of Agatha Christie sales on eBay

“Collecting things is a great bond, isn’t it?” – Agatha Christie, 18 September 1967.


For November’s review of worldwide eBay sales of Agatha Christie related items, we’re shining a light on a few areas that can trip up collectors, especially when dealing with higher priced items.


For every item we profile below, we show the price realized as stated by eBay and the currency based on where it was listed. Generally, to convert, £1 UK = €1.12 = $1.32 US = $1.85 AUST. Each item cited below begins with the seller’s description followed by our comments.


Questionable Signatures:


The Big Four, Collins, London, UK (1927). Sold for $4,999.99 as a Buy-it-now.

Seller Comments: Overall a VG+/Fine- book of a rare 1920s era UK Agatha Christie 1st printing of her second Collins book and flat signed by the author. CC Comments: A very strong price for a book that is arguably only in Good+ condition given its spine, damaged cloth and heavy foxing and iffy signature. Using our signature grading system this autograph would rate a C-/D+ given several of letters are atypical, flow is interrupted in several spots, and, while of far less concern, the ink is black. Thus, very well sold and hopefully a knowledgeable buyer.


Easy to Kill, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, USA (1939). Sold at auction for $405 with 18 bids. Original UK title Murder is Easy.

Seller Comments: First edition signed by Agatha Christie. CC Comments: Generally, our position is not to state a signature is fake but instead assign a grade. Our grading system only goes to ‘D’. We would assign this one an ‘F’ – interpret as you will what it abbreviates. Also, this is a reprint – the first was printed by Dodd Mead. Fair value of this book was $10. The buyer should ask for a refund claiming a very inaccurate description.


Le Chat & les Pigeons, Le Masque, Paris, France (1960). Sold at auction for €112 with 71 bids.

Seller Comments: Signed by Agatha Christie for the Montmartroise library. Found in flea market. CC Comments: A ‘D’ grade signature with even more questions than answers. Why would Christie sign a lending copy from a library? Why would it end up in a flea market if authentic?


Given these three examples of highly questionable signatures it raises multiple areas of concern – both with the sellers and for the buyers. For greater detail on how to grade a signature and learn how to spot a fake read our full article here.


Unique Collectibles:


La Domatrice, Mondadori, Milano, Italia (1939). Sold for €280 as a Buy-it-now.

Seller Comments: Volume in good condition, with rare dust jacket. Difficult to find. CC Comments: Original title “Appointment with Death”. This is #224 from the ‘Yellow Book’ series. Foreign printings of Agatha Christie books are highly collectible world-wide if they have unique jacket art or even unique titles. This potentially has both. The Italian books from Mondadori almost always have highly emotive faces on the covers and this one’s title means ‘the tamer’ clearly referring to Mrs. Boynton’s domineering manner. It does not translate to the dominatrix as some may think! This jacket was in very good condition and the book was well bought.


The Mousetrap Programme, Manchester Opera House, UK (1952). Sold at auction for £46 with 5 bids.

Seller Comments: Programme for a week of performances during the tour of Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap before the show started its record-breaking run in London. It had opened in Nottingham on 6 October 1952 and was here at the Manchester Opera House from 20 October. It would eventually begin its London run at the Ambassador’s Theatre on 25 November 1952. Cast members included Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim. CC Comments: A lovely piece of theatre ephemera that will make any collector of Christie items proud to own. Well bought.


Affordable Firsts:


The Murder at the Vicarage, Collins, London, UK (1930). Sold for $300 as a Buy-it-now.

Seller Comments: Collins colonial edition, black with red title on spine. First front free end paper missing, 1/2 tear at top front spine. Shows wear, but clean and tight inside. No foxing. CC Comments: A Poor book, that cannot be described as ‘tight’ when the binding is falling apart. Cloth is disastrous. For black cloth copies, it is generally believed that they were exported.


Death on the Nile, Collins, The Crime Club, London, UK (1937). Sold at auction for £260.00 with 20 bids.

Seller Comments: spine is decidedly cocked, with a significant, the cloth is quite badly marked, rubbed and faded with bumped extremities. The text block is slightly foxed and toned with some staining towards the rear and pencil names and prices to the front endpaper which have been crossed through and re-written in ink. CC Comments: Accurately described, this Good- book has seen better days, but still drew plenty of bids.


Both these books affirming the appeal of Collins first editions and the unaffordable level of Very Good quality books for many collectors. These prices confirm that books at the low end of the quality range still have many buyers who just want to put together a collection but don’t want to mortgage the house.


Folio Society Sales:


Miss Marple Box Set, Folio Society, London, UK (2012). Sold for $850 as a Buy-it-now.

Seller Comments: New, Sealed condition from a non-smoking home. Stunning. CC Comments: Fine condition. A very strong price confirming the added value of ‘as new’ items and the ongoing appeal and collectability of these wonderful books.


Hercule Poirot Set of Four Books, Folio Society, London, UK (2014). Sold for $850 as a Buy-it-now.

Seller Comments: New, Sealed condition from a non-smoking home. Stunning. CC Comments: Fine condition. Here, it was the collection of four individual titles, each with its own slip case. The set was also available as a single box set. The box sets are a little more uncommon, but as of now there doesn’t seem to be a big price variance. This was incredibly well bought ($212 per title). The seller left a lot of money on the table. For example, in November the following auctioned results were realized:


Murder on the Orient Express, Folio Society (2014). Sold for £325 ($430).

The A.B.C. Murders, Folio Society (2014). Sold for £330 ($440) with 28 bids.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Folio Society (2014). Sold for £304 ($400) with 21 bids.

Death on the Nile, Folio Society (2014). Sold for £410 ($540) with 29 bids.

This implies the set of four is worth $1,810 in aggregate.


NOTE: Sellers should be cautious when buying wrapped copies of Murder on the Orient Express as there was an otherwise identical printing in 2016 which is worth significantly less. If still wrapped request a copy of the invoice showing when it was bought. For our full article on collecting Folio Society books click here.


Summary:

Do your due diligence when buying on eBay. Do not always take seller descriptions at face value. Sellers want to sell and consequently they may inflate the quality of a book or ignore blatant issues or risks. Calling a reprint a first edition, a signature real, a good-only book fine, or an unopened book a first when identical reprints are known to exist are examples of these risks. That said, there are some wonderful collectibles to be found on eBay as several of our items have shown.


Happy hunting!


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