Heritage Auction Results & Insights on Jacket Grades
Heritage Auctions offered a significant collection of detective fiction at auction on the 27th and 28th July 2022. Included were numerous Agatha Christie first editions. While mostly US firsts in jackets, there were also a few UK firsts. It should be noted that many of these first editions had dust jackets with notable flaws, such as chips, tearing, edge ware and sun fading. Consequently, some books were relatively affordable given the scarcity of most of the titles auctioned.
Below, we first discuss insights on dust jackets, their grading and how values are impacted. We then review the prices realized at auction, and lastly we share some comments and observations as a result of this sale.
Jacket Descriptions / Classifications:
As we’ve commented before there is a substantial price escalation between ‘good’ and ‘very good’ and again to ‘fine’ jackets. Try to buy the best you can afford as jackets only get worse with time, so high quality jackets will always preserve or grow their value better than lesser quality copies.
Fastidious collectors generally seek a ‘very good’ or better copy, but often will accept what is on offer and upgrade later if funds permit. For books issued 1950 or earlier, as all these were, it is exceptionally unlikely that a ‘fine’ dust jacket will be for sale and when they do exceptional prices are realized. For example, the copy of The A.B.C. Murders (Collins) in a fine jacket sold at the Sotheby’s Auction last year for £47,880 ($65,596) – an auction record for a Christie book. While many resellers, especially on eBay overstate condition, generally it is accepted that the following are the attributes of each classification for dust jackets.
Fine: Not price clipped, no chips, no tears, no creases, essentially as new. Some shelf dustiness or minimal signs of aging are acceptable. For older books, a limited number of very minor blemishes can still qualify as Fine, but all should be individually noted. A Fine jacket could easily have double the value of the Very Good jacket.
Near Fine: Not price clipped, no chips. A small closed tear, very light edge wear or rubbing are acceptable. All blemishes should noted.
Very Good: A near fine or fine copy that is price clipped. Alternatively, jackets with minor chips (not affecting key images or lettering), creasing, edge ware, rubbing, dustiness, etc. all fit within this classification. A Very Good jacket could easily have double the value of a Good only jacket.
Good: Chips that are meaningful in that they impact words or key images. Jackets missing a significant portion of the spine, or that show excessive tearing, edge wear, and creasing are common in this classification. Internal tape repair is common.
Fair: Missing multiple sections of the jacket either through large chips or a meaningful segment of the spine. Jacket may have stains, writing, stickers or other damaging factors. Jackets that have been backed by paper or with excess tape repair, and even tape residue are common in this classification.
Poor: Missing an entire flap or significant portion of either the front or rear panel, or a majority of the spine. Likely heavily repaired and damaged. Not visually attractive.
Heritage Auction Prices Realized:
Any book that did not have a dust jacket is so noted. If no comment is made, the book was jacketed. Enjoy seeing the auction results below and share your thoughts with us either here, on our Twitter page (@collectchristie) or our Facebook page
The Lots: All lots sold with no reserve. All prices were in US dollars. The prices realized reflect the total hammer plus plus the buyer’s premium. At the time of this article the exchange rate for US dollars was $1.20 per £1.
For full details on the lots, full size images of all of them, and detailed descriptions please see our Preview article (click here).
Lot 45146: $1,562.50. The Mysterious Mr. Quin. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1930. First American edition.
Lot 45147: $1,875. Peril at End House. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1932. First American edition.
Lot 45148: $4,250. Sad Cypress. London, UK: The Crime Club, Collins . First edition.
Lot 45323: $1,000. The Hound of Death and Other Stories. London, UK: Odhams Press Ltd., . First edition.
Lot 45410: $2,000. The Murders on the Links. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1923. True first edition. No Jacket.
Lot 45411: $812.50. The Secret of Chimneys. London, UK: John Lane, The Bodley Head, . First edition. No Jacket.
Lot 45412: $850. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. London, UK: W. Collins Sons & Co., . First edition. No Jacket.
Lot 45413: $1,312.50. The Mystery of the Blue Train. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1928. First American edition.
Lot 45414: $937.50. The Murder at the Vicarage. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1930. First American edition.
Lot 45415: $906.25. The Murder at Hazelmoor. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1931. First American edition.
Lot 45416: $812.50. The Witness for the Prosecution. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., . First Edition.
Lot 45417: $550. The Hound of Death and Other Stories. London, UK: Odhams Press Ltd., . First edition. (Ed. Note: $450 less than the other copy which was from a known collector and had a jacket that was marginally better).
Lot 45418: $2,500. Thirteen at Dinner and Death on the Nile. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1933-1938. First American editions. Thirteen at Dinner. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1933. First American edition. [Together with]: Death on the Nile. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1938. First American edition.
Lot 45419: $687.50. Murder in Three Acts. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1934. First edition.
Lot 45420: $687.50. Mr. Parker Pyne Detective. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1934. First American edition.
Lot 45421: $1,812.50. Murder in Mesopotamia. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1936. First American edition.
Lot 45422: $1,125. Death on the Nile. New York, US: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1938. First American edition, first state dust jacket.
Lot 45423: $2,000. The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1939. First edition.
Lot 45424: $812.50. Murder for Christmas. A Poirot Story. New York, US: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1939. First American edition.
Lot 45425: $1,250. Evil Under the Sun. London, UK: Crime Club, Collins, . First edition. (Image at top of article).
Lot 45426: $1,375. Evil Under the Sun. New York, US: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1941. First American edition. (Image at top of article).
Lot 45427: $1,125. N or M? London, UK: Crime Club, Collins, 1941. First edition.
There are several interesting observations in this sale. One that really stands out was that the US printing of Evil Under the Sun sold for a higher price that the UK printing especially considering both books were in similar condition, although the UK jacket was price clipped. We’ve often said the US market was undervalued despite many US books being the true first printings. Strong prices were realized for the US printing of Murder in Mesopotamia, and even Murder for Christmas, especially given the jacket's chips, edge wear and creasing. The Regatta Mystery recognized strong money for its condition but it is a collection with no UK equivalent and thus appealing to collectors worldwide.
Another shift in the market was realized with the sale of the unjacketed Dodd Mead (US) printing of Murder on the Links which realized $2,000. This is likely a record for this book (unjacketed).
Lastly, the top selling item was the Collins (UK) printing of Sad Cypress in jacket which realized $4,250. This book has now firmly crossed the line from affordable for many collectors to now unaffordable for most. It likely means that Evil Under the Sun, N or M? and The Body in the Library will be the next books to jump in price.
This auction reconfirmed that Agatha Christie first editions are true blue chip collectibles, with a robust market & strong demand. Given the dismal stock market, bond market and crypto markets this year who wouldn't rather see some of their investments on a shelf! If you are building or already have a Christie collection do adequately insure them - there's a lot of value in your books.