Sunday 26 September 2021

The top 20 most valuable books that could make you a small fortune (and how to spot a rare edition)


The top 20 most valuable books that could make you a small fortune (and how to spot a rare edition)

  • Antique book expert has shared his list of the 20 most valuable titles available
  • First edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tops the list at £50,000
  • But it must be a hardback and have the numbers 10 to 1 printed on the title page
  • Work by Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie and J.R.R. Tolkien also appear on the list 

  Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh are among the nation's best-loved children's books.

  But some lucky readers will have even more of a reason to cherish the titles after they were named as some of the most valuable books of all-time. News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Daily Mail
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An antique book expert has shared his list of the 20 most valuable books that could be tucked away in attics across the country - and could fetch up to £50,000.

Matthew Haley, director and head of books and manuscripts at auction house Bonhams, also shared his advice for buyers looking to invest in rare books.

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone can be worth up to £50,000
A first edition of The Hobbit can fetch £40,000

Money-makers: A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tops the top 20 list and can be worth up to £50,000. A first edition of The Hobbit, right, can fetch £40,000

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tops the list with an estimated value of £50,000.

But it is only worth the five-figure some if it is a hardback copy with the numbers 10 to 1 printed down the back of the title page, Mr Haley explained.

The second most valuable book on the list is a first edition of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, which can fetch up to £40,000 - but only if its in perfect condition and features a typo corrected by hand on the back. 

Children's classics: A first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901) by Beatrix Potter, left, can be difficult to identify, but can fetch £35,000.

Children's classics: A first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901) by Beatrix Potter, left, can be difficult to identify, but can fetch £35,000. Dickens' A Christmas Carol can sell for £15,000

The list features children's classics, poetry collections and fantasy favourites, and includes work by Charles DickensAgatha Christie and Seamus Heaney.

Expert tips for would-be book investors 

Rare finds: Look out for first editions, a full set of volumes, or titles that were manufactured as a one-off, as these tend to be the most valuable. 

A closer look: Books must be in perfect condition and in their entirety. A missing title page or spine can dramatically reduce the value.

Take care: If you are hoping to go on to sell the book, make sure it is kept in this pristine condition. 

Whole package: Keep the dust jacket. Most 20th century books need to have their original dust-jacket to be of collectable value.

In his advice for investors, which was commissioned by online antique marketplace, Mr Haley explained that first editions, or a full set of volumes, can command the highest prices, as well as those that were manufactured as a one-off. 

For any book, its condition and completeness is paramount, and any damage such as missing title pages or spine, could dramatically decrease the value of the collectible.

The guidelines also advise to keep the dust jackets for the books – most 20th century books need to have their original dust-jacket to be of collectable value. 

Mr Haley said: 'Searching your bookshelves for treasures can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but in every auction, we have sellers who are stunned by how much their old books make. 

'If you have an extremely old, rare or a book similar to the ones on this list, which is in good condition, you really could be looking at a small fortune.' 

This work by Agatha Christie could make you £2,000

First editions: The four Winnie-the-Pooh books (1924-1928), A.A. Milne can sell for between £4,000 and £10,000. Right, this work by Agatha Christie could make you £2,000

Time for a clear out! The list in full - and how much the books are worth

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), J.K. Rowling: £50,000

Must be a hardback copy with the numbers 10 to 1 printed down the back of the title page. 

2. The Hobbit (1937), J.R.R. Tolkien: £40,000

The first version of the dust-jacket has a typo corrected by hand on the back; in perfect condition. 

3. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901), Beatrix Potter: £35,000

Identifying a real first edition is difficult, and it has been reprinted in similar format for the last century. 

4. A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens: £15,000

The best-condition copies have made around this much. 

5. The four Winnie-the-Pooh books (1924-1928), A.A. Milne: Between £4,000 and 10,000 

6. Eleven Poems (1965), Seamus Heaney: £3,500

This slim pamphlet published in Belfast makes around this much. 

7. Foundation trilogy (1951-1953), Isaac Asimov: £3,000+

Collectors will pay £3,000 or more for a good set of the three volumes. 

8. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Arthur Rackham-illustrated: £2,500+

A fine copy of the limited edition of this famous book can make over £2,500.

9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1921), Agatha Christie: £2,000  

10. Verve, 1950s art magazine: £1,500

Certain volumes of this 1950s art magazine can be worth £1,500 or more as they have original lithographs by Matisse and others. 

11. Television: Seeing by Wire or Wireless (1926), Alfred Dinsdale: £1,000

The first English book on television can reach £1,000 at auction.

12. The Cat in the Hat (1957) Dr. Seuss: £1,000

With '200/200' and no mention of 'Beginner Books' on the dust-jacket.

13. High Street (1938), Eric Ravilious and J.M. Richards: £1,000

14. A Clockwork Orange (1962), Anthony Burgess: £900

15. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1916): £600-£800

With a reduced wartime print-run, and an obituary for W.G. Grace.

16. The Ladies’ Flower-Garden (1840's), Jane W. Loudon: £500-800

17. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), Arthur Conan Doyle: £500+

18. The Bible (1600 – 1630): £300

In English and depending on how much is missing will vary the price.

19. The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book (1894-1895) Rudyard Kipling: £200-£4,000

20. A History of British Birds, (various editions), F.O. Morris – £150

A set of six volumes is around this price

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Antique Novelty Silver & Why It's Still So Popular Today


Antique Novelty Silver 

& Why It's Still So Popular Today

  Discussion  Favourite Finds


'Ello, 'ello, 'ello, welcome to this week's instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

Now, my love for antiques became an obsession when I started finding quirky, novelty pieces and curios.  In particular, I became fascinated with novelty silver pieces.  The workmanship and the fun, comical element that a lot of these unusual pieces had, well, who wouldn't fall in love with them...?!

With this in mind, I've decided to dedicate this week's post to these fun pieces.  We'll be looking at how these novelties came about, how their popularity continues to grow and I'll be showing you some of the unusual pieces I've been lucky to find during my time as a dealer and collector.

So, as always, get that kettle on, get your little bits out and I'll show you mine, if you show me yours...



Well, we all enjoy a good novelty object, don't we?  They put a smile on our faces, they're conversation starters, they're unique and admired for the incredible workmanship that goes into each piece.  While some novelty items are designed with no practical purpose, the most impressive of all are those that are both novelty and practical.  Everyday items that are transformed into novelty objects.

In the 19th century, there were more and more newly rich middle classes and because of this, talented silversmiths of the time decided they'd capitalise on it.  And, how did they go about this?  Yes, you guessed it, they began creating an abundance of novelty pieces to tempt and amuse.  These were functional items, such as salt cellars, propelling pencils, vesta cases, vinaigrettes, scent bottles, etc... and they were disguised as anything from animals and shoes, to figures and boats, to name just a few.  Basically, it was a case of, the more outlandish, the better!  Demand for these novelty pieces lasted well into the 20th century, where collectors had amassed large numbers of these whimsical objects.

Fast forward to the 21st century and demand for these pieces, particularly silver pieces, is stronger than ever!  Some of these cheeky pieces can demand quite the price.  I always feel like I've won the lottery when I find a piece at an affordable price and I tend to enjoy them for a time and then let them move on to their next home.  The workmanship of these pieces never fails to amaze me and I feel that it's pieces like these that attract a new audience to buy them.  An audience that perhaps has never given antiques a second thought, and this is my ultimate aim with my business.  I want to encourage more people to shop antique for those meaningful gifts for their loved ones.  I mean, what is more unique than an antique gift?

I've had a few lucky finds over the years and whilst I was custodian of these pieces for just a short time, I've enjoyed every single one of them and I'll always remember them.  Here are a few of them...



This miniature sterling silver folding fish button hook was a recent find, actually.  It has fabulous engraved detailing to it, marvellous functionality and is fully hallmarked, Sheffield 1901.



Button hooks, like the one pictured above, were used as tools to do up those difficult buttons, whether that was on clothing, shoes or gloves.  In the Victorian era clothing, including shoes, were worn tighter than clothes today and as close to the body as possible, with many buttons and laces to hold them in place.  So these were very practical tools and turning them into novelty pieces made them fun and stylish accessories to carry around.



This miniature sterling silver vinaigrette in the form of a bag has been one of my favourite novelty finds.  Vinaigrettes, popular from the late 18th century through the mid-19th century, were small containers used for holding various aromatic substances, usually dissolved in vinegar.  A tiny piece of sponge, soaked in the liquid, was contained beneath a grill or perforated cover.  These were worn by ladies to mask unpleasant odours in their environments.




This example was fully hallmarked Birmingham 1818 and made by John Lawrence.  So, not only one of my favourites, but also one of my earliest novelty silver finds.  It had fabulous detailing to bring out the features of the bag and it opened to reveal the most beautiful floral work.  A wonderful piece and one that I feel very lucky to have owned.



Bookmarks were another example of pieces that could be novelty, but very practical.  This example was one that I found around two years ago and I kind of regret selling.  The workmanship is fabulous and the wording adds a kind of romanticism.  It was fully hallmarked Birmingham 1922 and is a fine example of the unique gifts you could get for a loved one if only you chose to shop antique, instead of new.



Other examples of novelty silver pieces were tableware.  Salt cellars and caviar dishes, like the ones pictured above, were very practical items and when turned into novelty pieces, became a super table decoration and conversation starter.  This set of dishes was fabulous in its miniature form and shell design, and was fully hallmarked Birmingham 1899.



Another popular novelty piece was the stamp case.  These often came in the form of an envelope and you could get single or double cases.  The example, pictured above, was a single and I've had a few of them, some more decorative and over the top, than others.  This particular example was quite simple in its form, but very charming nonetheless, and was fully hallmarked Birmingham 1918.  Again, wouldn't this make a lovely gift for someone who enjoyed writing letters..?



Other popular novelty pieces are miniature doll's house items.  Some people must have had some real money back then to be furnishing doll's houses with fine silver!  I've had a few pieces in my time, including this candlestick, fully hallmarked London 1897.



Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the world of novelties and, for those of you who are yet to embrace the antiques scene, I hope this makes you look at it in a different light.  Don't buy new, buy antique and you'll be amazed at the unusual, fun and unique gifts you can find.

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