Opening a well-worn classic book from your childhood can not only tap into a mighty rush of memories – it could also fatten your bank balance, with classics from the antique nursery fetching handsome sums at auction.
A first edition from 1937 of The Hobbit sold for £137,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2015 – “my precious”, indeed – while a signed copy of Maurice Sendak’s where the wild things are went for US$25,000 in 2012 on the AbeBooks website.
Of course, just like other rare books, getting the highest price is for first editions, signed copies, and mint condition – which, of course, can be a problem with a heavily leafed children’s book.
Researching this story led me to see if my 1965 copy of Tintin and the Golden Fleece (a spin-off of the French action film of the same name) was worth anything. I found it on Etsy for $225 – not bad for a yard sale, but a small beer compared to the £61,050 paid in 2017 at an online auction for an alternate 1943 version of a another Tintin book, The Black Island (The black island).
Even the values of recent classics are on the rise, with a 1999 first edition of Julia Donaldson’s much-loved modern classic The Gruffalo on sale for £575 ($1006) at Shapero Rare Books in London.
Closer to home, Gavin de Lacy of Australian Book Auctions says “there is a steady demand for classic Australian books”, with a 1916 copy of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite’s work. elves & fairies for $9,320 and a 1918 first edition by Norman Lindsay The magic pudding go for $6407 in 2009.
So before you donate a dusty childhood read to Vinnies or the local street library, you might want to do some research first to see if you’re sitting on a nostalgic gold mine.