I ordered a SIGNED first printing of Kristin Cashore's debut novel, Graceling
. This was after a conversation in which Graceling
had come up and I was curious about prices. I looked at Abebooks and out of curiosity I hit the Amazon marketplace where I found the below listing:
I was a little leery because the price listed was $5.49 plus shipping and I (naturally) thought it was too good to be true. The twist in the story is that the seller who listed the book is one that had sold me a first edition of H is for Hawk
back in January, but when I received it, it was actually a 17th printing (& not a first anything
). The seller apologized for the mistake and offered to refund my money with the return of the book. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and kept the book (because I wanted to read it).
When this listing came up and I saw it was the same seller, I have to admit to thinking the worst. Still, $5.49 was too good to pass up, so I bit the bullet.
It arrived yesterday in the mail. It came in a bubble mailer with no other added protection, but appeared mostly undamaged as I looked it over. (I am always amazed when books survive the USPS with minimal protection. Nothing against the USPS, it's just that shit happens.)
The cover appears clean with no rips, bumps, stains, or tears—although there are two slight indentations on the back cover (that are easier to see when the cover is removed).
The head, tail, and fore-edge appear clean. There is no bumping to the edges or corners of the book board, and the text block is fairly tight, maybe having been read once.
The indentation on the back of the dust jacket translated to the book boards as well, but it's a minimal invasion—with no tearing or piercing of the paper covering. You can see the marks in the image on the right. They appear diagonally on the upper left and lower right. It's enough to take it from a Fine to a Very Good copy (given that there are no other issues).
But I'm sure what you're most eager to know is if it is truly a signed first printing, or did I get burned once again. I was a bit cautious when I opened the book to the title page because I was indeed afraid that I'd been scorched—but no.
This is what I saw.
Sure enough, the book is inscribed to "Tema" and Cashore's signature appears sandwiched above the title.
My next thought was to confirm that this was an authentic signature, which isn't always easy, as there aren't many examples of her early signature available online.
I found several samples of her later signature (from Fire
), but only one example from the first book (an Abebook seller's image
). A comparison of the early signatures shows that they appear to be very similar, but since there was only one other copy with which to compare, I decided to do a side by side comparison with the later signatures, for which there are more examples. While signatures do change, there are some things that remain fairly constant—especially when dealing with the beginning and ending strokes.
Comparison of the two early signatures:
The easiest letters to compare would be the K in her first name, the C in her last name, the T in "To," the lowercase m in "Tema," and the w's, s's, and b. Her later signature is much looser than the one in my edition, but the uppercase K, C, and T all show similarities.
Here's a side by side comparison of some of the letters:
Clearly, her signature changed, but the loop and the upward swoop of the K as well as the fact that the arms don't connect with the K's backbone indicate a similarity.
The C is tall and skinny and a little more controlled on the earlier signature.
The 'To' is nearly identical—from the angle of the T's cap to the little tail on the left side.
The lowercase m and w have similarities, but differences can be attributed to the changing of the later signature, the speed with which the book was signed, or where the letters appear within the word.
Lastly, the copyright page does show the full letter line from A to H, indicating that it is a first printing. So then, the question becomes, what makes this particular book so collectible?
Truly, this is the question for most collectibles. The problem is, there's not always a concrete answer.
Usually we can apply the formula [scarcity + desirability = collectible score]. The more scarce a book actually is combined with a larger number of people who want to get their hands on it, makes for a higher collectibility score. Of course, all of this is subjective and based on perceptions.
In this case, there were no first print run numbers published, that I could find. So the scarcity score will depend on how easily people can find it in the marketplace at any given time. If there is perceived scarcity, the price will probably go up.
Add to the equation whether or not this was the author's debut novel. If so, the desirability score goes up because it's the first. As collectors we like firsts. We're gambling that the author will go on to reach fame and popularity, in which case the early/first adopters are rewarded.
Follow that with a series of questions:
- Did the book win awards?
- How well was it reviewed?
- Did it have a big fan base or following? (even if the fans came along later)
- Is it the first of it's kind or an early adopter of a new genre?
- Is there an interesting story about how the book came to be?
- Were the author's next book(s) equally well received? (if there were other books)
- Were there any issues with the first printing that caused it to be lower (caught mistakes, recalled book, etc)
- Is there anything currently driving desirability? (Was there just an article about the book/author? Is there a controversy surrounding it? Did the author pass away? etc.)
- Was there a movie made? (if so, did it bomb or was it a hit?)
Any of these scenarios can sway the desirability of a book and effect value.
This is Cashore's debut novel and it won many starred reviews (Kirkus
), accolades, and awards. It was embraced by teens and adults, indie booksellers as well as mainstream, and it was an early adopter to the "mash-up," appealing to fans of multiple genres (YA Fantasy + Female Heroine + Romance).
Combine that with the fact that they made a movie (which always seems to bump collectible prices up, even if just temporarily), and that it's hard to find a first printing—presumably because people liked the book so much that they held on to their copies... and it seems to make for the perfect storm for a collectible.
If you can find first printings in Very Good to Fine condition, they're worth $70+ unsigned, and $200+ signed.
—and apologies to buymeimcheap for thinking the worst. You did not do wrong by me.