Bloomsbury Auctions autumn sale of Literature, Manuscripts and Modern First Editions was held yesterday, and results are now available online. Prices seem to hold up well for rare and unusual items, but a significant proportion of sales for modern firsts were at or below the lower estimates, and some notable books did not make their reserve.
One of the most striking sales was a paperback first of Alexander McCall Smith's The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. The first printing from Polygon, 1988, was apparently issued in a print run of around 1500 copies, and is distinguished by a picture of Precious Rambotswe on the cover. There must be copies lurking around bookshelves, but many are likely to be tattered by now, and certainly very few appear on the secondary market in collectible condition. The Bloomsbury copy was estimated at £200 -250, and sold for £500 (or £610 including the buyer's premium). This seems an exceptional price for a modern paperback, but the only other copy currently available online is £800. The series is exceptionally popular, but probably too late to assemble now. This is a book whose value could easily be missed by an unwary seller, as it looks unremarkable.