Bookpoi - A guide to identify rare and first edition books

 

Identifying Book Club Edition Books

Book club editions for the most part (see the end of this write-up for the exceptions) are not of collectible value and cause a lot of confusion for many book collectors.

In most cases, books released through Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) are much nicer than book club editions (BCE) released by the Doubleday Book Clubs.

Doubleday Book Club books have a five-digit code (black numbers in a white block). This is a code is specifically for books released through the Doubleday Book Clubs. The primary Doubleday book clubs include:

  • Literary Guild
  • Doubleday Book Club
  • Mystery Guild
  • Science Fiction Book Club

Many of the books from these book clubs will have a statement such as "Book Club Edition" on the bottom corner of the front flap. Eventually, Doubleday discontinued this practice so a lack of this statement is no longer assurance that the book is not a BCE. For the most part these books are smaller in size, have thinner paper and cheaper bindings and use a smaller, less readable typeface when compared to the publisher' s trade edition. BCE copies often lack the bar code on the back panel of the dust jacket.  The books generally have a cheaper light weight feel to them and after a while you will be able to identify them instinctively.  Not that you should avoid buying them altogether as there are a few valuable exceptions which is discussed at the end of this page.

Some book club copies will state "first edition”. This statement in a book club book does not add value. Unfortunately, book clubs frequently do not remove edition indicators from the plates before the book goes to print.

The other major book club group is the Book-of-the-Month Club. Their books are released through:

  •   History Book Club
  •  Quality Paperback Book Club
  • Money Book Club

These BOMC books are almost identical to the standard trade publication, with a few important exceptions to keep a look out for:

  1. There is no price on the dust jacket front flap.
  2. The bar code on the back panel of the dust jacket (or on the back cover board if there is no dust jacket) is often blank on the top right of the bars. Publishers often use the digits found in this location to indicate the book's price.
  3. The endpapers are usually a different color, frequently white, whereas the publisher' s trade edition often has colored endpapers.
  4. The BOMC used to put a "blind stamp" on the back panel of the book (sometimes just an impression, round or square, sometimes with a color), this practice has been discontinued. In addition, BOMC dust jackets will sometimes have a "dot" on the bottom right corner of the rear panel.
  5. Some BOMC copies will have a statement on the bottom of the copyright page indicating a book club release.
  6. A "Book-of-the-Month Club" notation on the book's front flap is not necessarily an indication that the copy is a book club release. Occasionally the publisher will include this statement as a means of advertising the popularity or importance of the title.

Even without a dust jacket or a blind stamp on the back cover, it is possible to identify a BOMC book. Unlike the BCE volumes, which put a code on the back panel of the dust jacket, BOMC volumes have a number code printed sideways, top to bottom, at the bottom of the very last page before the endpaper. This code is sometimes hard to see since it is so close to the page binding. It may be possible to see it by reading from the back side of  the page. It may be necessary to slightly peel the last page away from the endpaper to see the code - DO THIS VERY CAREFULLY!

The lack of a price on the dust jacket is an obvious clue of a BCE or BOMC, but there are exceptions. Many books released by the major professional and educational trade publishers do not have a price. For example most university press books do not have a price, many books by publishers who release identical titles in the  U.S. and in England. Please note that Oxford University Press titles published in the U.S. have prices on the jacket.

Another clue for BCE’s books is that there frequently is no "bar code" on the back panel of the dust jacket. The publisher' s edition will have the bar code. BOMC editions generally have the bar code, but the number row on the top right of the bars is frequently blank.

Although most trade publications now include the Library of Congress '"Cataloging in Publication" (CIP) information, BCE’s rarely include this information in their reprints. BOMC editions generally do include the CIP information.

While the lack of a price when the book is published by a major American publisher is the most common indicator of a book club edition, the fact that there is a price present doesn't always means that the book is trade edition. The two most common examples of book club editions having prices are:

  1. The Family Bookshelf (uses other names but they are all similar.) These editions almost universally have a price on the dust jacket (at least through the early 80's), often (but not always) state "First edition" AND on the rear flap of the dust jacket they will have a statement "Family bookshelf edition" or similar statement. For the most part these books lack in quality and are smaller in size than trade editions.
  2. The Book of the Month Club included prices on their dust jackets in the 1970's. These books will have the regular price on the front flap - at the top of the flap it will say "Selection of the Book of the Month Club" with an asterisk - at the bottom of the flap the asterisk explains "trademark of the Book of the Month Club." These books will sometimes state "first edition" etc - all of them have the blind-stamped dot on the back cover. The most important identification is the presence of both statements on the front flap.

Book of the Month Club editions are typically published in much greater numbers than the trade edition. If you see a book which you suspect was a BOMC selection, and the corner of the dust jacket is price-clipped, make sure to check for that blind-stamped dot.

Since earlier BOMC books did not use the blind dot, if you find a copy of a book which was a BOMC selection without a dust jacket, then using the logic that 90% of more of the copies published were BOMC editions, you should assume that this was also a BOMC edition. Unless you have a dust jacket with the price present, you cannot safely or honestly call it a first edition.

Collectible Book Club Editions:

After reading all of the above you would think it is not worth the time to consider buying a Book Club edition book for your collection.  For the most part this is true, but be careful or you might be passing up an uncommon and collectible book.

The most obvious example is deluxe editions from Easton Press, the Limited Editions Club, Franklin Library, Book Club of California and others.  These books hold their value well and some titles have become very valuable.  Both Easton Press and Franklin Library have signed editions that are often quite valuable.

Some books are only published as BCE's or the BCE’s were the actual first edition, first printing. This is not a common occurrence but does happen.  The First Edition Society of the Franklin Library has produced a number of collectible and now valuable titles.

Some BCE's are the first appearance of a book in hardback form – more common in the Science Fiction and Mystery genres. These are most often not first editions (which were in paperback), but have collectible value, or make good reading copies compared to the fragile first edition paperbacks.

There are a few examples of BCE's having true collectible value.  This typically happens when the normal trade edition is so hard to find, that collectors will pay more for any copy of the book.  Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye are two examples.

Some BCE's, primarily vintage titles in dust jackets by collectible authors, are valuable because they are so hard to find. Many first trade editions in dust jackets of titles prior to 1940 are worth considering.

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