For certain Tolkien collectors (and I am especially one of them), few things will enhance a book’s value more than having the author or illustrator hold the book in his hand and sign it, especially if you witness the signing and have it inscribed to you personally. In the case of professor J.R.R. Tolkien this is, as we all know, of course an impossible thing.
The most desirable copies of tolkien's books are signed or even better inscribed copies of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. These are incredibly valuable because Tolkien signed so few copies and these were usually given to friends and family members. And J.R.R.Tolkien never did anything like a book signing. The result is that very few copies exist with his signature and there prices are incredibly high.
But there is a solution; J.R.R. Tolkien had the tendency to sign all the books which were in his personal library, which was really huge. Most of tolkien's personal books were donated and/or sold towards libraries (fe. the English Faculty Library of Oxford) a lot of his manuscripts and handwritten papers went to Museum's. Yet on the market came up for sale a lot of his books, mainly philological works, at various times after tolkien's death. Sales were held by Loomebooks, Blackwell, Sotheby's, Daerons, Rowns,...
The books which were in tolkien's library are very interesting books indeed. Most of them are very interesting philological works. Most of them are very rare already and with tolkien's signature on the fly leaf and with annotations inside they get really unique items.
Every now and then, but lately almost every month, you see them coming up for sale at ebay. Books signed by J.R.R. Tolkien. The prices are very high lately and it seems there is a lot of interest these days. Yet when keeping an eye on ebay constantly i notice that these 'signed' books do not always sell, since some people find it funny to fake tolkien's signature. Every month i can find at least one fake item up for sale. Luckily most buyers are very skeptical and always want a good provenance before spending the big money asked for these books. Most of the time the fakes are Middle Earth related books. So always keep your eyes open...
Another good place to find Tolkien owned and signed books is of course abebooks. There are always some up for sale. Yet most of the time the seller are antiquarians and do ask a high price for books like these. At the other hand they are always giving a good provenance letter with the book, proving this book having a real signature. Most of these books can be tracked down to one of the previously mentioned booksale. Which already is a perfect provenance, since these books were sold by renowned booksellers.
Once you get to the point you start collecting tolkien's personal books, your collection grows to another level (or so i felt about it). To me there were several reasons why i started buying these books. First of all i treasure these books, since they were part of tolkien's personal life. They are signed, have a clear history and are full of annotations. Secondly because they are signed books by J.R.R. Tolkien, making them a good investment. Prices are getting higher every year. Thirdly, and maybe most important to me is this: Tolkien used these books and therefore had read these works. Reading these books and studying these books can give us an insight into tolkien's background. Who knows what is inside these books that could have been of importance in the creation of Middle Earth. This is also the reason why i started assembling a list of all books which have been up for sale and can be found around the globe in numerous library's. Soon i hope to be able to finish and publish this list since it would be a great resource. Not only for collectors (to verify whether the book is on the list) but mainly for Tolkien scholars. All help to accomplish this list is more then wanted and you can there for always contact me here.
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