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The Name Game: Collecting Signed First Editions

A Bibliophile's Tales of Collecting Signed First Editions

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Because The Remains of the Day was an important movie, and Anthony Hopkins an important actor, Graham thought the book I had was worth about $500; he doubled that figure for The Silence of the Lambs because Jodie Foster was a hard signature to get. He placed the books signed by Farrah Fawcett, James Garner and Ryan O'Neal between $150 and $250; the Bill Mauldin books, because of their original art, between $300 and $500; the Mel Gibson signature around $300. ("If he ever makes that movie, the fact that what he wrote is dated before the movie got made makes it more valuable.") He liked the inscriptions Diane Keaton wrote in each of the books, especially the one in The Little Drummer Girl because of her comments about the director and Meryl Streep--he thought that one might go for as much as $1,000. He also noticed that all of Keaton's signatures looked different, which can lead to one of the problems dealers have with such signatures.
As with sports memorabilia, you've got to watch out for fakes. Unless you're present when an author or a star signs your book, how can you be sure the inscription and signature is authentic? It's a problem that has always existed in the autograph market; one must keep a sharp eye out for what is real and what might be forged.
I understood this on a personal level when I received a catalog from a book dealer offering my Conversations with Capote for $100, signed by me and Capote. I don't doubt that my signature is real, because I did sign numerous copies of the book when it appeared in February 1985--six months after Truman Capote had died.
Lawrence Grobel is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.
First Things First
To get started collecting first editions, turn to these sources.
* Book Collecting: A Comprehensive Guide by Allen and Patricia Ahearn (Putnam, 1995, 480 pages, $35)
* ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter (Oak Knoll Books, 1995, 224 pages, $25)
* Firsts (P.O. Box 65166, Tucson, Arizona 85728; 520/529-1355, fax: 520/529-5847; 11 issues a year--$40 subscription, also available in bookstores) Focuses on first editions.
* AB Bookman's Weekly (P.O. Box AB, Clifton, New Jersey 07015; 201/772-0020, fax: 201/772-9281; 48 issues a year--$125 subscription by first-class mail, $80 by bulk mail; foreign subscriptions available) A trade magazine with some articles of interest to collectors.
* Biblio (845 Willamette Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401; 800/840-3810, fax: 543/302/9872; 12 issues a year--$39.90 subscription, U.S.; $59.90, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Caribbean; $69.90 elsewhere; also available in bookstores) Takes a broader approach to book collecting. Same publisher also puts out Mercator's World, for map collectors.
The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) has a home page on the World Wide Web. The address is: In addition, some 62 book dealers have their own home pages and 225 other dealers have e-mail addresses.
* The ABAA publishes a free membership directory that lists 450 booksellers in the United States, including their specialties. To request a directory, write to the ABAA at 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, New York 10020, or call 212/757-9395 or fax 212/459-0307.
* The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) publishes a directory that lists about 1,000 booksellers worldwide, and costs $42.50. To order a copy, contact the ABAA.
The largest book auction house in the United States is Swann Galleries in New York City, which holds some two dozen book sales a year. A free quarterly newsletter, "The Trumpet," previews upcoming auctions and reviews past sales; to get on the mailing list, write to Swann Galleries at 104 East 25th Street, New York, New York 10010; call 212/254-4710 or fax: 212/979-1017. In addition to Swann's, Christie's and Sotheby's hold book auctions from time to time.
The ABAA sponsors a number of major book fairs each year. One event alternates each February between Los Angeles and San Francisco (next year's will be in Los Angeles). Another fair is held in New York City every April. The international booksellers league holds a biannual fair, with the next one scheduled for 1998. For more information, contact the ABAA.

--Bruce Goldman

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