Book is not a collectible and has a value of $5 or less.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
My fiancé inherited this book-club edition of “Gone With the Wind” from her family, which always believed the book to be a first edition and the author’s signature to be genuine. Is this true? What is its value?
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Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born in 1900 to a family steeped in Southern tradition. She became a columnist for the Atlanta Journal, writing under the name Peggy Mitchell, shortly after her mother died from the flu epidemic of 1918.
In 1926, while recovering from a broken ankle, Mitchell began writing “Gone With the Wind.” Originally titled “Tomorrow is Another Day,” from the last line of the manuscript, the book became one of the most beloved pieces of American fiction and won Mitchell a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. And, of course, the 1939 blockbuster movie version starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
It has been reported that Mitchell was distantly related to the notorious gunfighter Doc Holliday, and that the Ashley Wilkes character in “Gone With the Wind” was loosely based on this famous Western personality. The book was first published by Macmillan in May 1936, and a first-edition, first printing of this work in great condition, with its original book jacket and authentically signed by the author can be found at retail for as much as $25,000.
In the real world, first editions in good condition usually sell in the $2,000-$4,000 range. Those that have original dust jackets have sold for as much as $7,000.
Add in a genuine signature to the first edition, first printing with the original dust jacket, in fine condition, and the price at auction can zoom all the way to $15,000 — and maybe more if there is some special circumstance. This brings us to D.G.’s copy of “Gone With the Wind” and what it may be worth on the current market.
First of all, this example does not have its dust jacket, which reduces the value and desirability considerably. But the real problem is that this is a book-club edition, and these are never the first edition of any book — at least, not to our knowledge.
Book-club editions are mass-produced editions printed on paper that tends to be more inexpensive than the stock used to make the original book, and the bindings are also generally of lesser quality. These editions were sold in large numbers and at bargain prices to mass-market consumers, who wanted to read the work but not at the original price.
Book enthusiasts who see the term “book club” on the dust jacket of a desirable title are devastated because they know this alone makes the book essentially worthless to a serious collector. That said, what about the Margaret Mitchell signature?
We checked with specialists in the field — all of whom offered the opinion that the signature was not genuine. They argued that Mitchell never used a ballpoint pen to sign her name, and there are significant differences between the way in which the letters of her real signature and this one are formed.
In other words, this book is not a collectible and has a value of $5 or less. We do urge, however, that D.G. get an in-person second opinion to be absolutely comfortable with this evaluation.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at email@example.com.)