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  • David Morris

November 2022: Highlights of Agatha Christie eBay Sales

This month’s review of worldwide eBay sales of Agatha Christie related items provides a wide range of collectibles but with an extra focus on questionable signed 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 = €1.15 = $1.20 US = $1.80 AUS Verification of products or descriptions are not done by Collecting Christie but are taken at face value. Each item cited below begins with the seller’s description followed by our comments.


Murder in Mesopotamia, The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK (1936).

Sold for £3,750 as a Buy-it-Now. Seller Comments: A sound copy of a collectable first edition, with quite a lot of the rare dust-wrapper still present! Apart from sporadic spotting throughout the book, which varies in severity, the pages are clean and undamaged. There is one small corner crease. There is a barely noticeable 5mm split in the cloth on the top board near the joint.

CC Comments: This listing provides a good example of an original jacket as the fading on the spine matches the chips on the jacket. Often jackets get married and surplus first edition jackets from this book are known to have been trimmed down and used on later edition books that were slightly smaller. This are often married to first books and restored to repair the trimming - something to watch for. Unmarried original examples (as this was) are naturally more desirable. Also of note, this is one of the four wonderful 1930s jackets done by Christie’s friend & archaeologist, Robin "Mac" Macartney. With a complete very good jacket, this book would be worth £8,000 - £10,000 in the retail market today, and the last to sell at auction (with a complete jacket) was at Sotheby’s in 2021 for £4,788 - when the UK currency was more valuable. The new owner will have to decide whether to restore the jacket, insert portions of a facsimile jacket behind it, or leave as is, but this is likely a welcome addition to the collection regardless.


Murder in Mesopotamia, Dodd Mead & Co, New York, US (1936).

Sold for $615.10 with 37 bids. Seller Comments: Many pages have brown vertical streaks across them, giving an almost woodgrain appearance. Severity varies, but is to such an extent that it appears to be an imperfection in the paper or flaw in the production of the book. Otherwise in Very Good condition. Previous owner's name on front endpaper; fine scratches across top edge of text block. Dust jacket in Very Good condition, price-clipped, with some loss at corners and both ends of spine, as well as a closed two-inch tear along front fold of jacket spine.

CC Comments: First edition sold by the Friends of the San Francisco Library – so clearly donated as a ‘used book’ and an eagle-eyed worker noted it may be rare and listed it for auction. A good choice! Sadly price clipped but otherwise the correct 1st edition jacket. Buyer will need to source a better book (est. $200) given the paper damage which is not typical for this book but will result in a great buy as when both the book and jacket are VG it's likely worth $1,000 plus. We wish sellers should avoid referring to books with flaws as “otherwise very good”. The book is just “good” in this condition.


Love From A Stranger, Collins, London, UK (1936).

Sold for $283 with 13 bids. Seller Comments: First Edition. Play written by Frank Vosper, adapted from Agatha Christie's story Philomel Cottage. Softcover in Very Good condition, light edgewear, tiny chips at spine corners and corners, rubbing and light wear along spine edges.

CC Comments: Incredibly scarce book of the playscript as it was likely a very small print run. While this was the paperback version (priced 3/6) it still had flaps akin to a dustjacket. There was a hardback issued simultaneously which is of even greater scarcity (priced 5/-). We’ve not seen one for sale for decades. This book is unusual also as it precedes the publication of the playscript by Samuel French. Who knows when we’ll see another copy of this show up for sale again. Well bought.


They Came to Baghdad, The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK (1951).

Sold for £450 as a Buy-it-Now. Seller Comments: 1st Edition. Publisher's orange cloth with titles and imprint in black to spine. Typographic dust-jacket shows titles in green and red to front cover and spine, plus a tribute to Christie celebrating her fiftieth novel to rear cover. Gently used, no inscriptions. Text block a little toned, jacket with very little wear. Unpriced for export.

CC Comments: Sold by noted book dealer Peter Harrington which may have helped provide confidence in the description to justify this price. Potentially a market high price realised for this book. While this book continued the sad trend of uninspired jackets, early 1950s books in ‘near-fine’ condition are scarce and now clearly desirable.


The Agatha Christie Facsimile Book Collection, Hachette Partworks, London, UK (2012-2015).

Sold for $1,499 AUS as a Buy-it-Now. Seller Comments: Volumes 1-75 77-79 & 84 Huge Lot. All Issues are New & Sealed unless stated below: Issue 1 & 2 Aren't In plastic, They have the bigger sheets in Image 1, Issue 11 isn't sealed, Issue 51 is Book only No Magazine, No Issue 76, Issue 77 has no book, Agatha Christie Biography Included. Three boxes in total.

CC Comments: Essentially clarifies the market price for the Hachette set of facsimile books plus magazines. Hopefully the buyer has an easy time acquiring the few missing items.


Montblanc Agatha Christie Writers Ltd Edtn 4810 Vermeil Fountain Pen, Germany (1993).

Sold for $2,799 as a Buy-it-Now. Seller Comments: New old stock, it has never been used. The boxes and manuals show wear. The case box has a click noise in the hinge when opening and closing. The pen comes with outer cardboard box, case box, and pamphlet. Limited Edition 4810. Vermeil (Gold over Sterling Silver) clip and fittings. Medium 18K nib.

CC Comments: In our detailed article (link) on these pens from 2020, we estimated the value of this pen as $2,500 US in collectible condition, but prices continue to rise - so we've updated the article/price guide. Given that this box was not perfect, this was a market correct price for this pen which is the most desirable and rarest of the Christie collection. While it was also available in a ‘fine’ nib, it does appear that the ‘medium’ nib is more common. This pen was number 0631/4810. Some view the lower numbers are more desirable.


Signatures:

Below are a sampling of items sold and described as signed. We’ve chosen to profile four items – none with provenance – to highlight the difficulty of ascertaining whether a signature is authentic. Our detailed article on Christie signatures – titled “Fake or Fortune” – can be read via this link. On the BBC show also named “Fake or Fortune” about the art market, the experts stated that close to half of all artwork by famous artists found in the open market is forged. Given how easy it is to forge a signature compared to a painting, collectors seeking to buy a signed Christie item should do their due diligence. Don't discount the simple blue vs. black ink observation either. Christie mostly used blue ink - black signatures are far less common and thus raise a greater need for questions. Ask the vendor about where they bought it, ask for receipts and try to create a paper trail to help inform you. Trusted vendors generally offer up all this information in listing descriptions and will gladly share more if they have it. Rarely will a buyer of a questionable signed item ever be able to add provenance that couldn’t have been secured pre-purchase. Of the four items below, all sold on eBay in November, we would argue that only one had authentic characteristics.


[Signed?] Surprise, Surprise, Dodd Mead & Co, New York, US (1957).

Sold for $961 US with 8 bids (Australian vendor). Seller Comments: Inscribed and signed by Agatha Christie.

CC Comments: No provenance and a very questionable signature and inscription. Few traits consistent with authentic signatures or inscriptions. An American book that is not collectible, with an implication that it was signed in the UK (Swan Court), and sold in Australia already raises far too many questions without answers. When Christie knew the person she was inscribing a book to she almost exclusively wrote "To ..." and signed it "Agatha" (no Christie).


[Signed?] The Mousetrap, Programme, London, UK (1958).

Sold for $175 US with 1 bid (Australian vendor). Seller Comments: Autographed by Agatha Christie. Ambassadors Theatre, London.

CC Comments: No provenance and a very questionable autograph. Without the hint of a signature, a $10 item. With an authentic signature and provenance on an earlier programme potentially a $1,000 item.


[Signed?] Murder on the Orient Express, Penguin, London, UK (1948).

Sold for £479.99 as a Buy-it-Now. Seller Comments: Condition is "Good". Wear and tear and pages are yellow.

CC Comments: A little less questionable signature than some, but still with an “A” for Agatha that lacks confidence and appears traced. No provenance.


[Signed?] Passenger to Frankfurt, The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK (1970).

Sold for $899.99 with 2 bids. Seller Comments: Overall a Fine-/N-Fine book in VG+/Fine- (lower grade due to spine sun fading only) condition dust jacket (not price clipped). Flat signed.

CC Comments: While lacking provenance this signature was consistent with what we refer to as the "1970’s version 2" signature in our article on her signatures - and it is blue ink. Compare it to the signature in The Murder on the Orient Express paperback above and you'll notice how that signature is less fluid and confident than this one.


Summary:

Do your due diligence when buying on eBay and seek clarity from sellers on anything unclear or unsaid. You can even write to us at collectchristie@gmail.com and we’ll try to give feedback as quickly as we can. Collecting Christie items should be fun and rewarding so make sure you are paying the right price for the right item.


Happy hunting!


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