My wife and I went to the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco this weekend. In addition to the heavily overpriced copies of Harry Potter ($25,000 to $40,000), I saw monsterously overpriced Thomas Pynchon (1st ed. fine Gravity’s Rainbox $5,000), Ray Bradbury that was too dear (at $800-$4,000), and many copies of the pulp Ace double I was a Unreformed Junkie ($500-$5,000, depending on the booth). There were also $400,000 works on Euclid, and you could have a 13th century mathematics text for $120,000 or so (“Er, I left my checkbook at home. Is that a plus sign, or a religious symbol?”)
I semi-seriously looked at a signed first edition of John W. Campell’s The Black Star Passes, a wonderful bit of space opera that I enjoyed when I was 12 (“The golden age of Science Fiction”), but it was $375, the woman at the booth sensed my fear and apprehension and was not very nice, and ultimately I read for enjoyment, not to collect anything.
So just to confirm my cynicism, doubter me tracked this down on the net this morning:
93-1671 Campbell, John W. Jr. THE BLACK STAR PASSES. Fantasy Press: Reading, PA (1953). 7.5×5″, cloth, 254pp, hand stamped name and date on front pastedown and bottom edge, spine sunned. FIRST EDITION. LIMITED TO 500 NUMBERED COPIES, SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR. $65.00
$65 is a whole lot better than $375. But as my friend Jack says, “I’m not a fan, I just read the stuff.”
My wife says I should see how many first editions I’ve got on my shelves. If an unsigned 1st ed. fine of The Hemmingway Hoax is going for $200 today, then maybe I should wrap it in plastic, shoot some nitrogen in there, and wait 30 years for it to power my retirement. But I could sell to you now, for cheap. You name a price first, okay?