• David Morris

AUCTION RESULTS: Sotheby's 4-Feb-2021 Sale


Sotheby's auctioned a significant collection of detective fiction on February 4th, 2021. The items were primarily from The Alexis Galanos Collection. This was an exclusive offering from the private library of crime and detective fiction built and curated over the past 50 years by Alexis Galanos (1940-2019), a noted collector, with a particular emphasis on Golden age mysteries, including 36 Agatha Christie books. Alexis was a prominent Greek Cypriot politician, who held various leading public service roles in Cyprus during a long and distinguished career, including terms as President of the House of Representatives and Mayor (in exile) of Famagusta. He was educated in the UK at King’s College, Cambridge and the Inner Temple.


I asked Dr. Philip W. Errington (Director and Senior Specialist, Department of Printed Books and Manuscripts, Sotheby’s), who catalogued the sale, about the auction results:


“We were delighted with the Detective Fiction sale which saw some exceptional prices. Unless I’m mistaken the price achieved for the copy of The ABC Murders was a world record for a Christie sold at auction. I had previously catalogued this copy when it was sold for £8,500 at Sotheby’s in December 2000 as part of The Ronald Segal Collection. Now, as part of the Alexis Galanos Collection, it made £38,000 [£47,880 including buyer’s premium]. It was rather fitting, therefore, that this book – part of one of my earliest sales at Sotheby’s – should be a feature of my last. The sale included copies in many varying states of condition. Some dust jackets were heavily restored, others entirely untouched. The entire sale was testament to the passion of Alexis Galanos and a wonderful example of what dedicated collecting can achieve.”


Summary Observations: The top sale (as referenced in Dr. Errington’s remarks) was The ABC Murders which garnered £47,880 ($65,596) – and this a book from 1936!

In second place was Murder in the Mews, selling for £30,240 ($41,429). In third place was Lord Edgware Dies, which sold for £27,720 ($37,976). The top priced lots in this auction were not only rare but had dust jackets that were very original. Sotheby’s estimates clearly hadn’t caught up with the market. For example, the estimate for Murder in the Mews was £1,500 plus b.p! This auction also confirmed that while quality commands a premium (compare lots 56 & 57), there is a strong market for all Christie books. Even heavily manipulated jackets that are far from original (see lot 48) received many bids, as did later issue jackets that are rarely seen in any issuance (lot 47).

Buyers were also savvy enough to understand rarity. While Lord Edgware Dies (lot 43) and Murder on the Orient Express (lot 46) both came with heavily restored jackets, then recognized strong money these jackets rarely ever show for sale – regardless of condition. Some of the US books sold here did not see the prices realized at the Otto Penzler Heritage Auction, while others did (see lot 52). However, that was a US based auction and it unlikely there were many US buyers at this London based sale. Regardless, there is a growing market for the US books and their prices represent good value. There is no doubt that the Christie market is strong and these prices will likely push the retail market’s prices up another level. Given the number of titles than can command strong money (versus the limited titles of Ian Fleming), it is safe to say the Agatha Christie’s first editions are the gold standard in modern fiction book collecting. Enjoy the auction specifics below and share your thoughts with us either here, on our Twitter page (@collectchristie) or our Facebook page (click here).



The Lots: All lots sold even though with reserves. Lots 30-36 were without jackets. All prices were in UK pounds. Estimates do not include the buyer’s premium of 25% and the 1% overhead cost fee, while prices realized do. At the time of this article the exchange rate for US dollars was $1.37 per £1 and dollars are shown for ease of comparison for those who benchmark to it.


Lot 30: The Mysterious Affair at Styles. London: John Lane, the Bodley Head, New York: John Lane Company, 1921. First British Edition (preceded by the US edition), 8vo, original decorative brown cloth, lettered and blocked in black, occasional spotting, some rubbing, especially to joints, lower hinge strengthened. Christie’s first novel, and the debut of Hercule Poirot. Estimate: £2,000 - £3,000. Sold for £4,032 ($5,524).


Lot 31: The Secret Adversary. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, New York: John Lane Company, 1922. First Edition, 8vo, original decorative green cloth, lettered and blocked in lighter green, divisional title and following leaf with marginal paper flaw, some light internal spotting, binding somewhat soiled. Christie’s second detective novel, introducing Tommy and Tuppence. Estimate: £800 - £1,200. Sold for £1,008 ($1,381).


Lot 32: The Murder on the Links. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1923. First Edition, 8vo, original decorative brown cloth, lettered and blocked in black, binding slightly soiled. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000. Sold for £7,560 ($10,357).


Lot 33: Poirot Investigates. London: John Lane the Bodley Head Limited, 1924. First Edition, 8vo, original decorative orange cloth, lettered and blocked in black, spine faded. The first collection of Poirot short stories. Estimate: £700 - £900. Sold for £1,260 ($1,726).


Lot 34: The Man in the Brown Suit. London: John Lane the Bodley Head Limited, 1924. First Edition, 8vo, original decorative tan cloth, lettered and blocked in brown, slightly skewed. Estimate: £500 - £700. Sold for £1,512 ($2,071).


Lot 35: The Secret of Chimneys. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1925. First Edition, 8vo, original decorative light blue cloth, lettered and blocked in black, edges spotted. Estimate: £400 - £600. Sold for £1,512 ($2,071).


Lot 36: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. London: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1926. First Edition, 8vo, original dark blue cloth, lettered and bordered in orange, reader's note on rear endpaper, spine faded, joints a bit rubbed. Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500. Sold for £2,772 ($3,798).


Lot 37: Partners in Crime. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1929. First Edition, 8vo, original blue cloth, spine and upper cover lettered in orange, top edge red. Dust jacket: browned, rubbed, chipped, frayed and repaired with adhesive tape repairs. Estimate: £300 - £400. Sold for £1,071 ($1,467).


Lot 38: The Seven Dials Mystery. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1929. First American Edition, 8vo, contemporary orange cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black, spine faded. Dust jacket: a few small nicks, rubbed at folds. Estimate: £300 - £500. Sold for £819 ($1,081).


Lot 39: The Mysterious Mr Quin. London: W. Collins Sons & Co, 1930. First Edition, 8vo, original black cloth, upper cover lettered in red within single red fillet border, spine lettered in red. Early ownership inscription on front free endpaper. Dust Jacket: some edge wear and two small holes at fold of lower flap. Estimate: £12,000 - £16,000. Sold for £20,160 ($27,619). Top sale: #4.


Lot 40: The Murder at Hazelmoor. New York: Dodd Mead & Company, 1931. First Edition, 8vo, original pictorial orange cloth lettered and blocked in black. Endpapers browned. Dust jacket: a few nicks and chips. Better known as The Sittaford Mystery, this novel was published first in America under the present title. Estimate: £400 - £600. Sold for £567 ($777).


Lot 41: Peril at End House. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1932. First Edition, 8vo, original light brown cloth, lettered in red.

Dust Jacket: wear and soiling to extremities. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,500. Sold for £1,638 ($2,244). Top US Sale: #2.


Lot 42: Peril at End House. London: for the Crime Club Ltd. by W. Collins Sons & Co, 1926. First British Edition, 8vo, orange cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black. Dust Jacket: nicks and short tears, ends of backstrip with loss. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000. Sold for £6,930 ($9,494).


Lot 43: Lord Edgware Dies. London: for the Crime Club by W. Collins Sons, 1933. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, lettered in black, occasional spotting, cloth with minor soiling. Dust Jacket: Priced 7/6 on spine, professionally restored and repaired along edges. Estimate: £4,000 - £6,000. Sold for £27,720 ($37,976). Top sale: #3.


Lot 44: Murder in Three Acts. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934. First Edition, 8vo, contemporary orange cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black. contemporary ownership inscription on front fixed endpaper. Dust Jacket: some chips at edges, backstrip with a closed tear and a small hole. The English edition, published in 1935, is retitled Three Act Tragedy. Estimate: £400 - £600. Sold for £693 ($949).


Lot 45: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? London: for the Crime Club Ltd. by W. Collins Sons & Co, 1934. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black, minor soiling to binding, spine very slightly faded.

Dust Jacket: Crime Club wraparound, jacket professionally restored, wraparound with small nick. The dust jacket is slightly shorter than the book and has, presumably, been trimmed. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000. Sold for £6,048 ($8,286).


Lot 46: Murder on the Orient Express. London: for the Crime Club Ltd. by W. Collins Sons & Co, 1934. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black, spine faded, slight soiling to cloth and edges. Dust Jacket: Crime Club Book of the Month wraparound, dust jacket and wraparound with extensive professional restoration. The dust jacket is slightly shorter than the book and has, presumably, been trimmed at the lower edge. Estimate: £4,000 - £6,000. Sold for £13,860 ($18,988). Top sale: #5.


Lot 47: Three Act Tragedy. London: for the Crime Club Ltd. by W. Collins and Sons, 1935. First British Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black. Dust Jacket: later issue with tears, fraying and areas of loss, price clipped. The price, normally on the spine, has been obscured, and inner flap, presumably where a new price was indicated, has been clipped. Estimate: £600 - £800. Sold for £3,276 ($4,488).


Lot 48: Death in the Clouds. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1935. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine slightly soiled at foot.

Dust Jacket: repaired and laid down (i.e. fully backed with paper), backstrip extensively restored at head and foot. Estimate £1,000 - £1,500. Sold for £2,016 ($2,762).


Lot 49: The ABC Murders. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1936. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, slight browning to endpapers. Dust Jacket: small nicks. A very attractive copy. PROVENANCE: The Ronald Segal Collection (Sotheby's, 19 December 2000, lot 356) & The Alexis Galanos Collection. Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000. Sold for £47,880 ($65,596). Top sale: #1.


Lot 50: Cards on the Table. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1936. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, ownership inscription on front free endpaper. Dust Jacket: rubbed, creased and frayed with short tears and areas of loss. Note that there is no price information on the dust jacket. Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500. Sold for £2,772 ($3,798).


Lot 51: Murder in Mesopotamia. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1936. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black. Dust Jacket: by Robin Macartney, somewhat soiled, creased and frayed with a few small areas of loss, especially at ends of backstrip. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000. Sold for £4,788 ($6,560).


Lot 52: Murder in Mesopotamia. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1936. First American Edition, 8vo, original blue cloth, upper cover and spine lettered in black, early ownership inscriptions on front free endpaper, spine faded.

Dust Jacket: Near fine condition. Estimate: £150 - £250. Sold for £2,268 ($3,107). Top US sale: #1.


Lot 53: Murder in the Mews and Other Stories. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1937. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black, edges spotted. Dust Jacket: a couple of short tears at folds. Note that there is no price information on the dust jacket. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000. Sold for £30,240 ($41,429). Top sale: #1.


Lot 54: Death on the Nile. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1937. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, ownership inscription on half-title, spine slightly sunned.

Dust Jacket: some soiling to extremities, backstrip with professional restoration at head and foot. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,500. Sold for £5,670 ($7,768).


Lot 55: Appointment with Death. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1938. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, binding very slightly faded at edges. Dust Jacket: chipped at extremities, one or two closed tears. Estimate: £1,200 - £1,600. Sold for £3,276 ($4,488).


Lot 56: Ten Little Niggers. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1939. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black, edges a bit spotted, slightly cocked, spine sunned. Dust Jacket: frayed and rubbed, backstrip with areas of loss at ends. The inner flap is unpriced. Estimate: £800 - £1,200. Sold for £3,024 ($4,143).


Lot 57: Ten Little Niggers. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1939. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black, Dust Jacket: extensive professional restoration, especially to backstrip, strengthened on reverse. The inner flap is unpriced. Estimate: £500 - £700. Sold for £1,134 ($1,554).


Lot 58: Murder is Easy. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1939. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, traces of damp-staining at foot of binding. Dust Jacket: nicks and short tears, lower panel slightly soiled. No price information on the dust jacket. Estimate: £600 - £800. Sold for £1,638 ($1,637).


Lot 59: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1939. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black. occasional slight spotting, spine and lower cover soiled at head. Dust Jacket: extensive professional restoration, price clipped (corner restored). Estimate: £600 - £800. Sold for £2,106 ($2,762).


Lot 60: And Then There Were None. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1940. First American Edition, 8vo, original buff cloth, lettered in red on upper cover and spine. Dust Jacket: rubbed and frayed at edges, chipped at head of backstrip. Estimate: £300 - £500. Sold for £504 ($690).


Lot 61: Sad Cypress. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1940. First Edition, 8vo, original orange cloth, lettered in black on spine, occasional spotting to edges, spine faded at head. Dust Jacket: tears and areas of loss, inner flap with long closed tear, lower panel slightly soiled. Estimate: £400 - £600. Sold for £1,386 ($1,899).


Lot 62: One Two Buckle My Shoe. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1940. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black. Dust Jacket laid down (i.e. rebacked with paper), all four corners of inner flaps clipped with minor loss in two cases. Estimate: £300 - £400. Sold for £882 ($1,208).


Lot 63: Evil Under the Sun. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1941. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, spine lettered in black. Spine sunned at head. Dust Jacket: light wear to extremities, small chip at head of backstrip. The dust-jacket price is noted as 4/6 on the upper flap (later issue). Estimate: £400 - £600. Sold for £1,638 ($2,244).


Lot 64: The Body in the Library. London: for the Crime Club by Collins, 1942. First Edition, 8vo, original red cloth, lettered in black on spine, spine sunned at head.

Dust Jacket: wear and soiling to extremities, strengthened at foot in three places, partly erased pencil notes on lower panel, old gift inscription on front free endpaper. Estimate: £500 - £700. Sold for £1,764 ($2,417).


Lot 65: Witness for the Prosecution. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1948. First Edition, 8vo, original grey cloth, upper cover with central red “Red Badge Detective” motif, spine lettered in red. Dust Jacket: a few nicks and short tears. There is no English equivalent edition of this collection of short stories. Estimate: £500 - £700. Sold for £945 ($1,295).


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