The two kings of the book-collecting jungle are signed books and first editions. Collectors like scarcity, so first editions are sought because their print runs are usually low. The attraction of autographed books is a bit different. A signed copy is considered an extension of the author (or editor or illustrator). After all, he or she actually handled and wrote in that particular copy of the book!

While it may seem like there should be a direct correlation between an autograph in a book and its value, the connection is not so simple. There are various types of books as well as signatures, both of which can impact desirability of a signed copy. For example, if you have a signed first edition of a classic like Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” you own an extremely valuable commodity. But a signed copy of the Barbara Walters memoir “Audition,” inscribed during one of the countless stops on her well-orchestrated signing tour? Not so much.

Signed books range from ones with just the writer’s signature to others with an inscription to a specific person. Most collectors prefer the basic signature—why would Jack want a book inscribed to Jill?—though others are of the opinion that the more the author writes by hand in a book, the better.

No matter a specific collector’s view on inscriptions, most appreciate a scrawl from one famous author to another, like a copy of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with a note to Allen Ginsberg on the inside cover. The ultimate in inscriptions, though, is to find that rare book containing a note from the author to whomever the book is dedicated.

When it comes to signed books—or plays, for that matter—first editions are always more sought after, as are books by famous authors. For example, there is no shortage of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” but an autographed copy still demands a pretty penny. Other autographed first editions by popular authors include Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” Ginsberg’s, “Howl,” and Gary Snyder’s “Riprap.”

One of the ultimate signatures is the reclusive Harper Lee’s on a copy of her “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lee only wrote one novel, which limits the supply, and she was notoriously stingy with her signature when the book was published, although she also signed a few in 1995 when the 35th-anniversary edition of the book was published.

Although contemporary autographed books don’t tend to garner the same attraction as vintage books, first edition or not, there is one glaring exception: J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Pot...

Also prized by some collectors are books signed by illustrators. Some of the most popular of these include William Timlin’s only book, “The Ship that Sailed to Mars,” and Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s “Indian Tribes of North America.”

Other autographed books that have proven popular with collectors include memoirs by U.S. Presidents, including Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama. As for mainstream authors, some of the most collectible signatures are by such authors as Joseph Heller, Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson, Herman Melville, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

Bookscans.com

Bookscans.com

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Easton Press - Masterpieces Of Science Fiction 73-books - 6 SignedStephen King Different Seasons-signed Original Art-numerous Artists-custom BoundThe Stand By Stephen King - Hc/dj - First Printing & Signed - Immaculate Jacket1926 Signed By Pierre Gilliard Tutor To Children Of Nicholas Ii Romanov RussiaDamien Hirst Schizophrenogenesis Limited Edition Signed Pill BookStephen King Secretary Of Dreams Signed Vol. 1 Cemetery Dance Traycase EditionClarence John Laughlin / New Orleans And Its Living Past - 1941 1st SignedGerald R Ford Signed Books Lot Of 4 - 3 First Edition + Extras - Us President To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee Signed 35th Anniversary Edition 1995 Harper Ruby & Sapphire By Richard W. Hughes - Signed By AuthorAnne Rice Signed Interview With The Vampire Plus Four Vampire NovelsThe Babadook Mister Babadook 1st Run Limited Edition Pop-up Book SignedJk Rowling Signed Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows 1st American EditionSwan Song Robert Mccammon Signed 1st Edition Dark Harvest Rare Hardcover In DjSnoopy: Not Your Average Dog – Signed Limited Edition Charles M. Schulz PeanutsInfinite Jest 1st Advance Proof Signed David Foster WallaceStephen King, Under The Dome, Signed Collectors Edition With CardsMiyako Ishiuchi (photographs 1976-2005) Signed, Number, Limited Edition ! Book Library Of Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanov Russia Russian SignedHerbert Hoover Signed Ist Editions State Papers & Other Public Writings Vol 1&2 Henry Van Dyke Handwritten 1st Draft America For Me Original Signed 1909Signed First Edition-rising Sun- Michael Crichton -franklin Library Leather Prince Lestat & The Realms Of Atlantis Signed Anne Rice 1st Edition Easton PressHarper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird ~ Signed 35th Anniversary Edition ~ 1995 Hc/djVelocity Signed And Numbered In Slipcase - Charnel House - Dean Koontz Herbert Hoover Fishing For Fun & To Wash Your Soul Signed Political CollectibleThe Scotty Cameron Story The Art Of Putters Signed!!!!Kurt Vonnegut - Hocus Pocus - Signed 1st/1st Very Good+Herbert Hoover Americas First Crusade Signed Political CollectibleAbaddon's Gate - James S.a. Corey Signed Limited Subterranean PressExperiment In Autobiography By H.g. Wells - Hardcover - First Printing - SignedHerbert Hoover After Dinner Signed Political CollectibleHunting British Africa 1909 Percy Madeira Signed. Adventure Africa Big Game Hunt1885-88 Victorian Autograph Book - Anna Van Vleck, Claverack, Ny Columbia County1852 Book Signed By G T Beauregard Civil War Constitutions Of The United StatesJoyce Carol Oates Foxfire Signed Limited 1st Edition Leatherbound NewAntique Hand Colored 1850's New Hampshire Autograph Album1939 Book On Japanese Wood-block Printing Signed PrintsHarry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets - American First Edition - SignedStephen King Signed Cell Autograph 1st PrintingArrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis ;signed, Limited First Edition, 1925 The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood - Hc/dj - First Printing & SignedShrinking Man By Matheson & Gamma Vol 1 No 1 Signed By Bradbury, Matheson, NolanThe Post War Colt Single Action Revolver By Don Wilkerson 1st Edition (signed)Photographs Of The Southwest By Ansel Adams ~ 1976 First Ed! Signed By Adams!1952 "the Martian Chronicles" By Ray Bradbury *signed*Autographed Richard Avedon Portraits Signed First Edition Book In SlipcaseStephen King Nightmares & Dreamscapes Ltd Ed Slipcase Facsimile Signature As NewArt Sex Music - Cosey Fanni Tutti - Uk Paperback 1st/1st - Hand Signed Moebius 7 Limited Signed And #34/1500 Hb/dj 1990 Graphitti Nm/vf+ - JvjHerbert Hoover The Ordeal Of Woodrow Wilson Signed Political Collectible BookLyndon Johnson Signed Books The Vantage Point & A Family Album - First EditionsHerbert Hoover The Challenge To Liberty Signed Political Collectible BookHerbert Hoover Addresses Upon The American Road 1955-1960 Signed Collectible Herbert Hoover On Growing Up Signed Political Collectible BookHerbert Hoover The Problems Of Lasting Peace Signed 1st Edition Political19 Carl Van Doren Hc Dj Viking Portable Library 1st Edition SignedGir - Signed W/drawing: Chefs D'oeuvre De L'bd Blueberry 1980 Horus #318 F - JvjBukowski-pferdefleisch/horsemeat-signed-1987Lot Of 10 Franklin Library Leather Bound Books - Great Titles! 2 Books Signed!