December 2011 | Nate Pedersen

AbeBooks' 2011 Most Expensive Sales

marx-das-kapital.jpg I'm a sucker for year-end lists and I enjoyed reading Abebooks' freshly released list of its most expensive sales in 2011. The list is conveniently divided into a variety of categories--overall highest sales figures are followed by an array of genres and fields, including science fiction, mystery, photography, art, science, travel, and religion.

By far the highest grosser this year was a first edition of Das Kapital by Karl Marx which went for a little over $50,000. It doubled the price of the runner-up, a signed first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird which took in $25,000. Other notables in the top ten include a complete run of Aspen magazine ($22,900), a first edition of The Hobbit ($20,400), and a first edition of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs de Mal ($14,900). The most unique item on the list was a handwritten manuscript by John Ruskin reflecting on his reading of Thomas Carlyle which was purchased for $18,700.
In children's literature, the most expensive sale was a signed, complete set of the deluxe editions of the Harry Potter books, which took in $11,700.

In mystery fiction, two Agatha Christie novels led the charge, both first editions: Death on the Nile ($9,800) and Ten Little Niggers ($9,500).

A 1629 folio of the King James Bible was the most expensive religious book at $5,600.

In travel and exploration, the first French edition of Cook's third voyage published in 1785 in Paris, brought home $8,500.

But my favorite category is "Most Expensive Sales of Ephemera," owing to the inherent uniqueness of the materials: The front runner here was the aforementioned complete run of Aspen magazine, the first "3D magazine," which came with a variety of materials including postcards and movie reels. In second place was the Civil War diary of Captain Emanuel D. Roath who served with the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry and spent part of the War in a Confederate prison. And rounding out the list was a Mexican postcard from Hart Crane to his stepmother just a few short weeks before his suicide in 1932, which went for $5,500.

Abebooks said "it was a bumper year for rare bookselling." Let's hope 2012 is even better.