Last week we talked about how the rules for evaluating books just don’t apply to certain authors. Last week we talked about the phenomenon of Stephen King. This week we’ll talk about Jack London.
Let’s back up a bit first. Whether you are buying a book because you are a bookseller to offer to your customers or whether you are a civilian trying to build your collection, there are some rules you might want to employ.
Foremost would be two factors — Edition and Condition. For nearly every purchase you want the first edition. And no, there is no such thing as the fourth printing of the first edition in the world of book collecting. A first edition is the first printing, not the fourth printing, not the 17th printing, not the billionth printing. The first is the first.
And you want like to buy your book in the best condition possible, or at least as much as your wallet will allow. These two rules don’t seem to have ever wavered. I doubt they ever will.
But there is another rule that can sometimes be excepted. In general, you want you book to have all its original equipment. You might apply this rule to buying vintage cars, tea pots, and other collectibles. So, if the book in question came with a dust jacket, you want to buy yours with its original dust jacket. If the book also came with a slipcase, as is often the case with signed/limited editions, you want to buy yours with its original slipcase.
Except for one thing. Dust jackets for some authors are just so rare that buying that author’s books without jackets has become the accepted norm. The prime example of this would be Jack London. His first book was published in 1900. Dust jackets had been employed by publishers for some time at this junction in time, but not everyone liked them. Most people discarded that jacket as soon as possible. And that book was published 114 years ago, so attrition would have eliminated the jacket from a lot of copies.
Those copies of his books that still sport their original dust jackets are expensive, as in very expensive, because they are so scarce, even rare. Thus, it has become accepted practice to collect Jack London first editions without their dust jackets.
Example? My shelf price for his The Little Lady of the Big House which had a very nice, clean, complete dust jacket was $3,000. I have another copy, in very good plus condition, but without its jacket priced at $150. How about London’s The Scarlet Plague. I have a copy in jacket right now priced at $2,250. You could also buy my copy sans jacket for $225.