The first-edition books that sell for thousands at auction

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Could you have a hidden fortune lurking on your bookshelf? First editions of classic and popular stories can sell for thousands of pounds at auction and deliver a healthy boost to your savings account.

According to This Is Money, a top condition of the first edition of Winnie the Pooh could sell for £3,500 or more. The beloved children’s book was first published in 1921 and cost seven shillings and sixpence, or 37.5 pence in today’s terms.

In just over a century the value of the book has increased by 10,000 times its original price. There aren’t many assets you can say that about.

It’s not just Winnie the Pooh that’s a favourite among book collectors. Do you have any of these sought-after novels in your home?

The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

This novel is the first time the now famous Miss Marple appeared in a book. Readers pit themselves against the Tuesday Night Club, who challenge each other to solve recent and forgotten crimes, to solve the mystery.

The 13 short stories are a fantastic way to get into the work of Agatha Christie. In 2023, Charlie Watts from Rolling Stones left The Thirteen Problems as part of his estate and it sold for more than £60,000, setting a new Christie record in the process.

Watts’ estate proved to be a trove of excellent books. His extensive collection also included F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which sold for more than £226,000, and the Sherlock Holmes tale The Hound of the Baskervilles, which sold for more than £165,000.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

JK Rowling’s tale of a boy wizard captured the attention of a whole generation of children. A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first in the seven-book series, was purchased for just 30p when a library was selling it off.

The lucky new owner then sold it at auction for £10,500, making an excellent profit from the initial investment.

It’s not the most expensive Harry Potter merchandise to sell at auction though. A book that contained five fairy tales from the magical world created in the franchise and illustrated by the author sold for around £3.2 million – it was one of only seven copies created.

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

Published in 1924, In Our Time is a collection of short stories penned by renowned author Ernest Hemingway. Only 300 copies were made on the initial run and a printing mistake meant only a little more than half were sold, so it’s extremely rare.

In 2004, one of the copies found its way to a New York auction, where it was snapped up for more than $320,000 (£263,000).

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Despite James Bond’s first appearance happening more than 70 years ago, the suave spy still captures imaginations. The first James Bond novel is Casino Royale, and if you happen to have a first edition hidden in your attic, it could auction for six figures.

The initial run of Casino Royale in 1953 was more than 4,700 copies, which all sold in a matter of months.

A pristine copy of the novel could net you around £105,000, while a “good” edition would be a more modest £32,000.

The Codex Leicester is one of the most expensive books ever sold at $30.8 million

The Codex Leicester was owned by Leonardo da Vinci. It was one of his notebooks used to make scientific writings in his own hand. So, it’s not surprising that it was highly prized.

Still, the price tag of $30.8 million (£25.35 million) is staggering. It was purchased by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1994, and, adjusted for inflation, that’s over £50 million in today’s money.

Other notable manuscripts that have been sold for millions of pounds include the United States Constitution, which sold for $43.2 million (£35.2 million) in 2021, and a 1297 exemplification copy of the Magna Carta in 2007 for $21.32 million (£17.55 million).

While you might not find the Magna Carta in your home, you could have some unexpected first edition books that might be worth something.

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