Insights: Geoffrey Appleton - 1990s cover artist for Christie books published by HarperCollins.
While most Agatha Christie aficionados are family with the artwork created by Tom Adams for the Fontana paperbacks, many other artists have created art for Christie's books over the years. Many of these artists will be profiled in the months ahead.
Geoffrey Appleton was a graphic designer and artist whose art was used by HarperCollins for their hardback book series, numbered 1-80, in the late 1990s (first editions of these printings mostly 1996-1998). Much of the artwork used for the Agatha Christie books in this series was created by Geoff Appleton, including the one that matters for many collectors - "While The Light Lasts". This book was first published in 1997 by HarperCollins using the cover art he created and the book is a necessary part of any complete collection of first editions. All other books in this series were reprints, not first editions, but are collectible for their great artwork. Unfortunately, HarperCollins did not give artistic credit in their books and consequently the artwork loved by so many readers of these books remains anonymous to most.
After the initial printing, Hachette reissued these books in a new print run that came with supporting brochures that provided insight to each story. All 80 books were reissued by Hachette and because of the glossy brochure these became heavily collected. The artwork of Appleton was reused on these books also.
Most art created for book covers is done is a 2-up or 200% format size and as such all book cover art is of a similar size. Much of the art created was never intended for sale by the artist, and ownership rights generally remain with the artist - particularly when the artist is already established. As such original art was often acquired directly from the artist when first sold. Some artists didn't sign the work, but original notations, titles or measurement markings are commonly found. Regardless as to whether artwork is signed or not, authentic letters or invoices affirming provenance are important.
Geoffrey Appleton (1950 - 2016):
Geoff was already a well known illustrator & freelance artist when hired by HarperCollins, having been in the trade since the 1980s. He trained at St. Albans College and the Canterbury College of Art, now part of Kent University. Over his years he designed and illustrated many iconic images, including Miller Lite's visual identity and the 2015 Rugby World Cup postage stamp series for the Royal Mail.
From 1996 through to 2015, Geoff made his artistic home at 'New York Farm', an artists' cooperative, in Onecote, Leek, Staffordshire, England. Any paintings previously sold by Geoff would usually have come with a letter of authenticity using this address.
Any original art has value and while Geoff Appleton is not as well known in Agatha Christie circles his book covers certainly are. Geoff original sold the art direct to collectors in the early 2000s, and usually for £300 per image - a steal by any standard. Today, with the demand for unique collectibles, the growing awareness of his talent as an artist, and the growing popularity of all things Christie, I would estimate original images to be worth at least £1,000, and perhaps up to £2,000 for the original painting of "While The Light Lasts". That said, if these sorts of items appeal to you they are incredibly scarce so buy what you can find and pay what you will. I would expect values will continue to appreciate significantly in years to come. Best sources to find his art would be via auction houses and online art resale sites.