01 Jul 10 of the Most Expensive Books You Can Buy Online
The book market is so accessible now that anyone can sell used books online, and collectors of rare books can find them with ease. If you’re willing to bid, you can quickly amass a beautiful collection of books to showcase on your bookshelves or enjoy a truly immersive read. If you’re an aspiring or experienced book collector, here are ten books that might capture your interest, as well as the prices they’ve been sold at in the past.
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
If you know American history at all, you’ve probably heard of this one. Common Sense by Thomas Paine is a classic for anyone interested in the American Revolution and written documents that have arguably changed the course of history. This book is available for free online, a few dollars from those selling used books online, or for less than $10 at any bookstore—but a first edition copy is currently available at $72,500!
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol is another American classic. The famous novella was first published in 1843, teaching the importance of charity and Christmas through the miserly character Ebenezer Scrooge. The story has had countless adaptations made and can be accessed in many capacities at a small price. If you’re looking for rarified books online, one of this story’s first editions is currently on the market for $75,000. Considering that this book is likely to grow more valuable with time, it’s a prime choice for a collector!
The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay marks a turning point in American government as it defended the ratification of the United States Constitution, which was being proposed at the time of writing. Although you can buy a modern printing anywhere from $5 to $30, not too long ago, one of its first edition copies—one of the few still in private hands—was sold at an impressive $450,000! One of the later issues printed in 1799 is currently going at $10,000 for only volume 2, so getting your hands on this book would be quite rare indeed.
Dubliners by James Joice
Though this name might be a little less in the common vernacular, Dubliners recently sold at $423,644.78. The book is actually a collection of 15 short stories, all revolving around the experiences and lives of the Irish middle-class life as it was in the early twentieth century. A little closer to modern times, this book is nevertheless cherished just as much as many older books and explains why some rare book collectors might think to sell used books online, even if they don’t reach the 200 year age mark quite yet.
Das Kapital by Karl Marx
Das Kapital may not be a household name, but Karl Marx certainly is. Rare book collectors should consider this text if only for how influential its ideas have been on the modern world. If you’re truly interested and have a lot of money lying around, there’s actually a first edition copy still on the market right now at $305,726.87.
First Folio by William Shakespeare
First Folio includes 23 plays written by William Shakespeare, including the well-known classics The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing. Its first edition has an estimated worth of $6.3 million if you can believe it, just based on the fact that it sold for $5.2 million in 2006. First Folio is considered one of the reasons Shakespeare’s plays have lived on past his death and was first published in 1623, so with that in mind, perhaps that crazy high number doesn’t sound so crazy anymore.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Did you know that the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone only had 500 copies printed in 1997? Once the novel was published in the United States a year later, it gained much more publicity, and subsequent editions are common. But the first edition is incredibly rare, and when a copy debuts in online book markets, it can be valued anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000. Not too long ago, an exceptionally rare copy was sold at almost $100,000! Popularity has a lot to do with the worth of first editions, so consider that if you start thinking about selling used books online yourself!
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Before Shakespeare, there was Chaucer. Geoffrey Chaucer, the most famous of England’s Middle English writers, wrote The Canterbury Tales back in the 15th century, and it was printed first in 1477. For that reason, there are only 12 books left of that edition, making it worth $11.2 million today. Chaucer’s stories are considered masterpieces, heavily influencing the English language and culture that has come about since that time.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
A favorite for kids, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic. Most intriguingly, its first edition was recalled thanks to the dissatisfaction of the illustrator on how the print turned out. Only 2,000 copies of the edition were made, and only 22 known copies remain. Second copies range around $49,000 currently, but a first edition is worth $2 to $3 million for private collectors.
The Gutenberg Bible
To go out with a bang, let’s not forget one of the most sold books around. The Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the religious text that people are specifically interested in, primarily because of how revolutionary Gutenburg’s printing was in promoting freedom of religion and thought. Printed in 1455, getting your hands on a copy of this edition is nigh on impossible—and when it isn’t impossible, it’s estimated to be about $11.5 million by today’s market. Considering one hasn’t been on the market since 1987, you’ll have to be pretty patient.
With talk of such big numbers, it’s no wonder people are asking themselves, should I sell my used books online? But for book collectors, it’s not just about the title, but the history of the text they hold in their hands. For all that we talk about price, knowing where a book came from, whose hands it has passed through over the centuries, and making yourself part of that story, is essentially priceless.