June 2013 | Nate Pedersen

1984 Sales Surge in Antiquarian Market

As has been widely reported elsewhere, sales of Geoge Orwell's dystopian classic 1984 have surged in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal. Amazon reported a massive spike of 5,800% in sales of the "centennial edition" of 1984 after it was reported that the NSA has been monitoring phone records of U. S. citizens.


The same surge has also spilled over into the antiquarian book market. Abebooks reported the sale of two British first editions of 1984 last week. The first edition, first printing in a green dust jacket went for $3,000, while the first edition, first printing in the red dust jacket brought home $2,845.

1984 was first published by Secker & Warberg in Britain in 1949. The publisher issued two dust jacket variants, one in red, the other in green. There is still some debate about which is the true first edition, however the general consensus is that the red jacket appeared first.


If you feel like you've missed out on the fun, more first editions of 1984 are coming to auction on Thursday. Swann Galleries will offer two first editions of 1984 on June 20th. The American first edition (issued with a red dust jacket) is estimated at $400 - $600, while the first English edition (with the green dust jacket) is expected to roughly double that at $800 - $1200.  Of course, with the recent attention garnered by the novel, it's possible that both will blow through their estimates.  They are, after all, quite a bit cheaper than the Abebook copies that sold last week.

676526.jpgMy personal favorite edition of 1984, however, has to be the pulpy Signet classics edition from 1954 with its lurid cover and its false hints about the book's content: