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    

Haruki Murakami - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Signed Uk 1st/1st + Ticket + Extras!Handwritten World War Ii Diary-u.s. Army Air Force Corp 391st-signed-1942-44-vgEvelyn Waugh - Scoop - 1938 Signed U.k. 1st HbMuhammad Ali Signed The Greatest My Own Story 1975 Early AutographStephen King Signed Autographed Mr Mercedes 1st Edition Book Rare ProofEaston Press Fates Worse Than Death Kurt Vonnegut Signed First EditionStephen King "dolan's Cadillac" Signed, Limited Edition Lot Of 11 Fiction Books-signed 1st Editions-j.k. Rowling, Mccourt, Hosseini Etc.1874 Mysterious Island Jules Verne Scribner 1st Signed Oct 31 1874Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Men From Earth Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton 1stChuck Palahniuk Signed - Fight Club - Easton Press Leather SealedEllsworth Kelly Signed Drawings Collages Prints Ltd Ed 90/100 Waldman 1971 ArtPresident Bill Clinton Signed My Life 1st Printing Autograph BookEric Clapton Autographed The Autobiography 2007 Greatest Rock Guitarist MemoirAgatha Christie - Poirot Investigates - Signed 1955 Pan HbEaston Press Life Of Pi Yann Martel Signed Limited Edition LeatherboundEaston Press Signed Margaret Thatcher Complete Collection Limited Editions Mint New Seven Years In Tibet Heinrich Harrer Signed Edition Easton Press LeatherFahreinheit 451 Easton Press Ray Bradbury* Signed * SealedGeorge Bush Signed All The Best 1999 Life In Letters & Writings President MemoirFahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury Easton Press Signed Numbered Edition Limited To 700Stephen King/peter Straub/the Talisman & Black House/signed, Sealed, Limited Ed.Hugh Hefner Autographed Book - Playboy - Forty YearsFirst Edition 1971 Winners Got Scars Too Cs Wren Signed By Johnny Cash RareRonald Reagan Signed An American Life 1992 AutobiographyDaphne Du Maurier - Omnibus - Signed 1956 U.k. 1st Hb Dj Rebecca / Jamaica InnLeather Bound Second Sex By Simone De Beauvoir Signed, Franklin Library Ltd. Ed.Slaughterhouse Five Easton Press Vonnegut Signed First Edition Sealed!Yoko Ono Autographed In His Own Write John Lennon 2000 Her New Intro Rare SignedLeather Bnd Collected Plays W/the Crucible Arthur Miller Signed Franklin Library1965 - 4 Alice B. Toklas Items, Signed Photo, Inscribed Gertrude Stein InviteNeil Gaiman Coraline 10th Anniversary Ed. Signed/limitedLot Of 14 Fiction Books-signed 1st Editions- Rand, Jong, Greene, Haley, Dahl EtcBarack Obama Signed 1st Edition The Audacity Of Hope Mint Condition 1st PrintPresident Gerald Ford Signed - Humor And The Presidency - Easton Press LeatherStephen E Ambrose Signed - Nothing Like It In The World - Easton Press LeatherSigned Stephen King Just After Sunset First 1st Edition Printing AutographedPresident George H W Bush Signed - Speaking Of Freedom Easton Press Leather NewThe Dragons Of Eden By Carl Sagan - First Printing - SignedCollected Poems Of Robert Frost 1939 Signed CopyStephen King SignedThornton Wilder's Our Town - A Boxed Limited Editions Club Book Signed By AuthorSophie's Choice William Styron Signed Easton Press Signed EditionFranz Stigler (a Higher Call) + 2 Other Luftwaffe Aces Signed!!!Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Encounter With Tiber Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton To Kill A Mockingbird ~ Signed By Harper Lee ~ Hardcover ~ 35th Anniv Edition1979 The Twyborn Affair, Patrick White Signed Nobel Prize Literature 1973California Stock Horse, Rare Signed Book Ortega, Luis CollectibleGeorge W. Bush Signed A Charge To Keep 2001 Former President Signs AutobiographyLauren Bacall Signed - By Myself And Then Some - Easton Press New LeatherDonna Summer Autographed Ordinary Girl 2003 Hot Stuff Grammy Award Winner MeoirEaston Press Soul Mountain Gao Xingjian Signed First EditionEncyclopedic Outline Of Masonic Philosophy Golden Ed. Signed Manly P Hall Mint Jean Dubuffet ~ Signed ~ 1962 Moma Art Book ~ De Kooning Karel Appel EraE. M. Forster - Signed / Inscribed - Heath's Book Of Beauty 1835 HbThe Professional: Lyndon B.johnson By White/1964 Signed & Inscribed By PresidentMartin Amis - The Zone Of Interest; Signed & Dated 1st/1stMrs Belloc Lowndes - Cressida No Mystery 1928 Signed Uk 1st Dj Churchill AsquithCarew Rice Low Country Artistry A Selection Of Silhouettes Book + Signed 1957James Clavell - Shogun - *signed 1975 First Edition*