2023 Q3: A Review of Christie Collectibles sold on eBay.
While I previously reviewed sales on eBay monthly, I have decided to go to a quarterly review to better manage my time and limit what is profiled. I will focus mostly on items of unique interest or that help understand where the market is for certain collectibles. I’ll avoid most signed items unless there is clear provenance. eBay has been rife with questionable signatures over the years and continues to be. Anyone considering buying a signed item may want to consider reading my article ‘Fake or Fortune’ as a starting point (link).
For every item we have profiled below, we show the price realized as stated by eBay and the currency based on where it was listed. To convert, £1 UK = €1.15 = $1.23 US = $1.92 AUS (as of the article's date). 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 my comments.
A Trio of Books from 1933:
The Blue Geranium, Bantam Books, Los Angeles, CA (1933).
Listed for $750. Sold for a negotiated reduced price. Seller Comments: Paperback edition with cover wear, Including cover crease, Pages off white.
CC Comments: For Agatha Christie collectors Bantam Publications, Inc. of Los Angeles (USA) is a publisher you need to be aware of. One of the scarcest publishers ever as they only issued 29 paperback titles between 1940 and 1941. Despite their small catalogue, one was was a collection of five Miss Marple short stories – the one sold here. Surprisingly this book can be found in five variant forms which will seriously challenge any collector seeking all of them though this was the only variant with artwork on the cover. Since there is the potential for confusion with the New York firm, Bantam Books, which was founded after Bantam Publications ceased operations, this publisher is often referred to as “LA Bantam”. Last year when I established a fair value for this book, I’d estimated $200 US for the pictorial variant. I’m going to assume here much stronger money was paid, so I likely need to up my valuation estimate.
The Tuesday Club Murders, Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA (1933).
Sold by auction for £361.10 with 21 bids. Seller Comments: First Edition. The book is in very good condition. Contents are complete and tight. Ownership details to the front endpaper. Top of text block edge is tinted red, boards are generally clean and bright. A little wear to the spine ends. Colour copy jacket included.
CC Comments: Published in the UK in 1932 under the title The Thirteen Problems. Both the US and the UK printings are far scarcer than the contemporaneous full length novels. As the recent Charlie Watts auction showed, a jacketed UK copy sold for an all-time Christie record at auction of £60,000 (though signed and with significant provenance). A jacketed copy of the US printing would garner far less, but is still quite pricey. The last jacketed copy sold at Heritage Auctions in 2019 for $5,500. When this book does show for sale, unjacketed, it is usually in fairly poor condition. So this price realised was certainly well bought. It affirms that short-story collections are now generally much scarcer and more valuable because of their smaller print runs.
The Hound of Death, Odhams Press, London, UK (1933).
Sold at auction for £331 with 21 bids. Seller Comments: The book is in very good condition. Contents are complete, clean and tight. No marks or inscriptions. Maroon boards are clean and bright. Dust jacket has minor edge wear. Some small internal clear tape repairs. VG book in VG jacket.
CC Comments: A very good plus complete jacket. Most have chips missing on the spine. When first published by Odhams Press in 1933 this book was only available to the public by collecting a series of coupons from the weekly magazine The Passing Show in October 1933 and sending them with a payment of seven shillings to the publisher. Collins then took over the rights of publication and issued the first trade edition in February 1935. Atypically, these reprints are more valuable than the true first since Collins published far fewer volumes. What is surprising is that other Christie’s were 7/6 at the time – only sixpence more than the Odhams books. So the fact that the Odhams printing is not rare shows the success of the marketing campaign done by Odhams and The Passing Show. When all is said and done, a market correct price.
Two Unusual Editions of "The Murder on the Links":
The Murder on the Links, Penguin, Lothian Publishing Company, Australia (1945).
Sold at auction for £102 with 13 bids. Seller Comments: Rare Australian first edition of a sought after Crime Penguin book. A limited number of Penguin Books were licensed for the Australian market during WW2. They were printed in Australia and with local Australian adverts inside. The paper used was pretty poor, and most surviving titles show age and wear. This copy is sound but the paper is fragile and the spine shows fragility. It’s a difficult title to find in a UK first, let alone an Australian edition.
CC Comments: Global variants resulting from war-time production challenges are a unique field to collect. I’ve written about a number of these books, but this Penguin printing is quite uncommon and would appeal to collectors of Penguin, or Australian printings, or war-time variants – so understandable demand.
The Murder on the Links, The Bodley Head, London, UK (1952).
Sold as a Buy it Now for £225. Seller Comments: Near Fine book, Very Good plus jacket. Ownership stamp on front endpaper and owner’s private library stamp on verso of title page, jacket has unnecessary tape to verso and a tiny chip to top corner of front panel and a small closed tear to top edge of same. A very attractive example of this early Christie title which was not reprinted in the U.K. for 14 years prior to this edition.
CC Comments: The 9th printing of this title by The Bodley Head. While it is a less common book for such a late reprint, the price realised seems unusually high. Either someone really wanted this and was willing to pay sticker regardless or it is more unusual than I was aware of. Something to keep an eye on.
A Couple of Autographs:
Signature, with Agent’s Letter, London, (1971).
Sold for £299.99 as a Buy It Now. Seller Comments: My mother grew up reading and loving the novels of Agatha Christie, and when she was 15, she wrote to tell her this. This was a response she received a few weeks later.
CC Comments: First of all its wonderful that even after 50 years of success, Christie was still signing cards and giving them to her agent for fans. While a flat signed white card is not that collectible, I share this as a perfect example of strong provenance. The letter is on stationery that is period correct, the date and postcode on the letter match the date on the stamp cancellation, as does the postcode. The signature is correct for the early 1970s, what I refer to her ‘version 2’ autograph. Part of its value is the point in time in reflects – Agatha’s later life where she did not respond to correspondence but her agent still was. The price was market correct.
Signature, Exemption Certificate, US Treasury (1955).
Sold at auction for $411 with 28 bids. Seller Comments: Original United States Treasury Department tax Exemption Certificate for U.K. residents, dated 03 Jan 1955 and signed by Ms Christie.
CC Comments: The only material I can think of that this exemption certificate for royalties from Walter H. Baker may relate to is 'Tea for Three'. Baker Plays in Boston was the publisher of ‘Tea for Three’ in 1933. This was the play by Margery Vosper adapted from Christie’s short story ‘The Accident’. It would be surprising that it was generating royalties 20 years later, so perhaps someone knows if there would be other royalties Christie would have been entitled to from this firm. The price realised was similar to the lot above, but again part of its value is as an historical document. It should be noted that income taxes were a real burden for Christie. At one point she commented that she was paying 19/6 in taxes on the pound – essentially 95% on some of her income back when the top tax rate in the UK was excessive. It was this high tax rate that resulted in her gifting the royalties of numerous items to family members or charities, as well as the formation of her corporation.
Some Entertainment Items:
[Game] And Then There Was None, an Agatha Christie Mystery Board Game, Ideal Toy Corp., Hollis, NY, USA (1968).
Sold at auction for $66 with 3 bids. Seller Comments: Game is complete and in excellent condition. Doesn't look like it has ever been played. Includes a crisp, clean game board, all 4 movers, cards, die, unused information sheets and directions on inside box lid. Box is also in good condition with only one paper rip and a little splitting on the right hand side and a small paper rip on the front apron.
CC Comments: This was arguable the best condition of this game I’ve seen for sale for many many years. I think these board games are great fun and capture a moment in time. Of note, it was interesting to read in John Curran’s second book about Christie’s notebooks that she actually contemplated writing a story based on the boardgame Cluedo (Clue in the States).
[18mm Film] Death on the Nile, EMI, (1978).
Sold at auction for £192 with 11 bids. Seller Comments: 4 boxes, 1600ft spools of 18mm film. Superb colour. The film has been stored on open spools and is a little dusty. This is notable briefly in the opening titles where the image and sound is a little speckly for a few seconds and at the head of the remaining reels. Any speckly sections clear quickly but best I mention them so you understand before bidding. This could clean up well if you use film cleaner. The print is very watchable and rare to find a good colour example.
CC Comments: There is something incredibly nostalgic about the idea of having an at-home reel-to-reel projector. In 1978 no home had a VCR, let alone DVD or streaming. If you wanted to watch a film at home, this was the only way to do it. I love knowing that people are still collecting and hopefully preserving items such as these. As an aside, in my early days when I attended Dean Close School in Cheltenham, I worked in the projection booth for the Saturday night film screenings, where I learned how to tape together the reels and run the projector - so good memories seeing items like this.
There’s always something for everyone buried in the depths of eBay. For collectors, be certain to hunt across the various global sites, as an item listed in the US that does not state it will ship internationally will not show on the UK site. By searching on the national sites, if you find something you like most sellers will modify the shipping if you express a willingness to buy the item and pay appropriately for the time and hassle of doing an international shipment.
Some items for sale are very valuable and command high prices so 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to give feedback as quickly as we can. Collecting Agatha Christie items should be fun and rewarding so make sure you are paying the right price for the right item. If you see something that sold on eBay and are curious about it, email me the link to the item. It may be of interest to readers of this blog.
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