Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Strange Case of the Signed Robert Galbraiths, Or, The Latest J.K. Rowling collector frenzy

The revelation (via a sworn-to-secrecy lawyer's wife's friend it turned out) that debut author Robert Galbraith was actually J. K. Rowling had fans, collectors and dealers alike scurrying to snap up the remaining first edition copies on the market. I've not seen a definitive report of how many copies were printed in that first run, though it appears from the ISBNs on the indicia page that there were both hardcover and trade paperback copies, the latter presumably for the travel bookshops, though it's not clear if that initial paperback run was actually printed, as I've not seen any for sale on the secondary market (of which more in a minute...).

I've seen it mentioned that there were 1500 first edition, first impression copies printed, but that could just be because it was initially reported that, before the news broke, only 1500 copies had been sold. The UK Bookdata figure for recorded sales pre-unmasking was only 500 (though that does not include all online sources, typically). Given that it was an author 'launch' title aiming for the 'summer reads' round-ups, with a nice quote from Val McDermid on the cover, my guess is that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 copies printed, but who knows, maybe it was under 2,000. Once the story hit though, several enormo-reprints were rushed through. All the later printings have the original, made-up biography of Galbraith replaced on the back flap with a mention that the name is a pseudonym for Rowling.

However many copies were in that first impression, a lot of them have ended up on eBay, where copies are already changing hands for upwards of a thousand pounds. Unwary buyers are also paying silly money for copies billing themselves as FIRST EDITION, but then mentioning that they are copies from 'early printings', so not, I assume, necessarily the all-important first impression at all! Imagine what the person who spent over £500 on this copy is currently feeling like...

The real stars of eBay at the moment though are the *signed* first editions of the book...

(Photo from eBay)

These copies are currently selling for between £2000 and £3000... 250 were signed pre-unmasking for Goldsboro Books, a shop in London's book collecting mecca Cecil Court that specialises in signed firsts of genre fiction. Thanks to this story in the Evening Standard, we know the signed Galbraiths are the real thing (though it's not made 100% clear if it was Jo herself wielding the pen), and that the Goldsboro boss is a nice man for giving his staff a copy each!

Meanwhile, the collectors' feeding frenzy continues online. I wonder where the price for a 'signed' Galbraith will top out? For two and half grand, you could buy yourself several signed Harry Potters... but then the people buying these probably already have a bunch of those.

Oh, and before anyone asks, no, I don't have one of these for sale. Sadly.

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