Modern Library Pricing
eBay Prices Realized on Scarcer Titles
April - September (or so) 2008

© 2008 Peter Chocheles

[Editor's Note: This information is obviously quite old. Tracking was only done for two years. We're keeping it on the website for historical interest. — S.K.]

This is my first pricing column for our Modern Library web site. Essentially, it will be a continuation of my compilations for the Modern Library Collector, which has ceased publication. As usual, I will be referring to ebay auction prices unless otherwise noted.

Unfortunately, I have to report that prices still are weak, despite the availability of a lot of quality early material. From the Boni and Liveright era, a Whitman- Poems from 1924, VG+, only reached $125, while a Wilde- Intentions, VG, hit $169. A Maupassant- Mademoiselle Fifi in a fair to good jacket sold for $101. Meanwhile a Stevenson- Treasure Island first listing twelve titles opposite the title page and in VG condition but without the extremely rare DJ hit $57. On the plus side, a Gorky- Creatures, a VG first from 1918 with 37 titles on the DJ reached a solid $270.

From the 1925-1927 ML Inc. period, a Joyce- Portrait of the Artist first, VG+, only hit $97. And a Russell- Selected Papers first, VG, sold for only $50. There were similar realizations for first ML editions of Bierce, Douglas (Calabria), Cellini and Spinoza all sold in the $55 to $65 range. Given the above, it was somewhat surprising that a later edition Chesterton- Man Who Was Thursday reached $53. I should note that a VG first of Tomlinson’s The Sea And The Jungle reached $118 in a competition among three bidders.

One of the top prices in the flexie first area was Mencken’s Selected Prejudices which hit $105. A Norris- The Pit sold for $87 and a Fineman sold for $77. Homer’s Iliad, VG, sold for $87 and a Dreiser- Sister Carrie reached $78. Perhaps most disappointing, a Gatsby first in a later DJ, a great copy, VG+, with a starting bid of $360, received no bids.

The highest realization in the flexie era was a Hardy- Return of the Native from 1929 in an art deco Hynd jacket from the gift set sold for $295.

There is nothing much to report from the hardbacks. A Traven- Treasure of the Sierra Madre VG first, four bidders, only reached $27, while a Pynchon- V, VG+ and not price clipped, sold for $63. A ML Giant Moby Dick, G/VG, not first, hit $43 and an Anna Karenina giant in a very nice jacket from 1937, also not a first, sold for $48. An Illustrated Bible without the slipcase sold for $113.

With the problems in the economy, I don’t expect prices to recover to prior years’ levels anytime soon. That probably is good news for collectors who need a lot more material in their collections. For the long term, however, we need more collectors. I’m just not sure how we go about getting more people interested in our hobby.

Please let me know if I have missed anything or if you have any suggestions for future columns.

Peter Chocheles (