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]

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    

Rare Jean-paul Sartre Signed Franklin Library Ltd. Ed. Five Plays Leather BoundRare Kurt Vonnegut Signed Ltd. Ed. Slaughterhouse Five Leather Franklin LibraryJoseph Koudelka. Gypsies. SignedJoseph Heller Signed Catch-22 Easton Press Wwii Autograph Book Impressive Book!! Beowulf, Limited Edition, Numbered, Signed By Rockwell KentThe Path To Power Signed 1st Edition By Margaret Thatcher 1995 Easton PressThey Thirst By Robert Mccammon 2014 Subterranean Press Signed And Numbered (906)Stephen King Signed Desperation Autograph Book Signature 1st PrintingThe Downing Street Years Signed By Margaret Thatcher 1993 1994 Easton PressHarry Potter And The Philosophers Stone True 1st 2nd Bloomsbury Hb Signed 1916 Autograph Teddy Roosevelt Book,fear God & Take Your Own Part,signatureStephen Ambrose Signed Citizen Soldiers Easton Press Wwii Autograph Book1890 Scribner Darkest Africa Signed By Henry Stanley Sir Wm Mackinnon Vol I IiGunner's Dawn By Roland Clark 1937 Derrydale Press 1st Edition Signed HuntingStray Shots By Roland Clark 1931 Derrydale Press 1st Edition Signed Hunting RareStephen King Signed Gerald's Game Autograph Book Signature 1st PrintingSigned First Edition Easton Press Still Woman Enough Loretta Lynn Leather Mint!Wilbur Smith Gold Mine Incredibly Rare Proof Copy Signed 1st Uk Suzanne Collins Autograph, Signed Catching Fire Hunger Games 2009 1st Ed BookRare Irwin Shaw Signed Franklin Library Ltd. Ed. The Young Lions Leather BoundSigned Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire - J.k. Rowling First Edition U.s. 1st***signed Keeping Faith Jimmy Carter- Easton Press /leather Bound/ Never Read****signed* The Sinking Spell Edward Gorey (1964)Rare Tennessee Williams Signed Franklin Library Leather Selected Plays Ltd. Ed.A Concordance To Alcoholics Anonymous ~ Rare Signed Edition 1999 Hardcover Book*rare Robert Ripley Signed *believe It Or Not!* 1931 Ripley's Illustrated Book*Hobby Horses By Amy Freeman Lee 1940 Derrydale Press Signed By Author! 1st Ed.Crucifix In A Deathhand – Charles Bukowski Signed 1st Ed. 1965 Loujon PressEl General En Su Laberinto Signed By Garcia MarquezSigned 1st Edition The Case Of The Lame Canary 1937 Erle Stanley Gardner Scarce!1905 Medal Of Honor Book By Mulholland. Signed By Civil War Moh Winner 72nd Ny.General Hal Moore Signed We Were Soldier's Once Vietnam War Flat Press Easton 2 Signed Bookplates - One (1) X Hunter S. Thompson And One (1) X Tom RobbinsVery Rare 1932 Signed 1st Edition Topper Takes A Trip By Thorne SmithThe Way To Paradise By Mario Vargas Llosa - First U.s. Printing - SignedEaston Press Set 5 Books Signed 1997 Mccourt Mueller Kluger Millhauser RakoveThe Browning Superposed By Ned Schwing - 1st Edition Signed*katharine Hepburn Signed Letter + Book Lot – Academy Award - *african Queen**Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Encounter With Tiber Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton President Richard M Nixon Signed Leaders Autograph Book Watergate Signature 1stRobert Wagner Signed - Pieces Of My Heart Easton Press Genuine Leather - CoaJohn Burroughs Vintage 1923 Johnson Book + Burroughs Handwritten + Signed LetterUltra Rare "the Best Of James Herriot" Limited Edition 13/500 SignedBill Bryson Signed Book The Road To Little Dribbling Brand New Free PostN By E Signed By The Author Rockwell Kent First Edition 1930Weimaraner Ways Signed First EditionThe Sheep Look Up John Brunner Centipede Press Signed Numbered Special EditionFirst Edition Sci Fi Brian W Aldiss The Moment Of Eclipse A. I. Signed Letter Caitlin R. Kiernan The Five Of Cups Signed Lettered EditionBoaz, Williamstown, Wv, Paradise Lost, 1752 By Milton, Signed Alex Henderson, Va1870 Rare! C. H. Spurgeon Charles Signature German Old Leather Book BibleSigned By Wilson Rawls 1961 Where The Red Fern Grows Book HardbackSigned Dale Chihuly Baskets Book -- Signed And Splattered By Chihuly The Rifle Omnibus By Carmichel, O'conner & Page Signed Ltd Ed 530/750 RareThomas The Tank Engine Annual Hand Signed By Rev W AwdryTrailing The Giant Panda By Theodore Roosevelt & Kermit Roosevelt Signed 1st Ed.Walter Hagen The How And Why Of Golf Signed Limited Edition!The Life Of George Brooks By Juanita Brooks. 1965. Signed. Mormon PioneerThe Tasha Tudor Cookbook, First Edition 1993 Hard Cover, Signed T. Tudor & DatedComet-carl Sagan & Ann Druyan-signed!!!-inscribed!!!-first/1st Book Club Edition