Can you Identify a Book Club Edition?

BCE and non-BCE versions of Clan of the Cave Bear
This image from MyWingsBooks' guide to BCE demonstrates the subtle differences in the smaller size of hardcover BCE books.

So, you have just entered the world of book collecting, and have probably realized that the task of properly identifying collectible books is not as simple as it first appears.

You know that first edition printings describe a book that is likely to be worth more than a second printing or later edition, but what of that hardcover on your shelf that appears to be a bit smaller than the others? Is that worth something, too?

What is a Book Club Edition?
The basic definition: A book club edition (BCE) or book of the month club edition (BOMC) refers to a book printed by a “book club” with cheaper materials than the original publishing house, and is generally not worth much to the serious collector.

How Can You Identify a Book Club Edition?
Just as in standard book-collecting, the indicators vary between the different book clubs. There are some general rules that do apply that can help you to correctly identify BCE:

  • Book club editions are generally not priced. In fact, some book club editions will have a blank box where the bar code normally goes.
  • Hardcover book club editions may be a little smaller than a trade hardcover, and may feel lighter. See the image for an example using Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear.
  • Paperback book club editions are often a little larger than the trade paperbacks.
  • The paper used for the pages is often thinner and of lesser quality than trade editions.
  • The boards (the book cover) may be bound with thick paper instead of cloth.
  • The dust jacket may be made of thinner or uncoated paper.
  • The book’s endpapers may be white instead of in color.
  • There may be a blindstamp impressed into the back cover of a hardcover BCE, right next to the spine. The stamp could be any number of things, a circle, dot, square, triangle, or even a small white dot.
  • When checking the dust jacket, make sure you search the flaps for a notation of “Book Club Edition” or a similar phrase.
  • You can often find the name of the book club on the copyright page.
  • Often, book club editions will have an string of numbers on the last page of the book near the margin, running vertically, just before the endpaper.
  • Book club editions also may have four or five numbers printed in a contrasting box on the back of the book.

I’m Still Not Sure if I Have a Book Club Edition…
When in doubt, do a web search for a complete bibliography of the author in question. You can also search for a bookseller in your area to assist you in identifying and valuing your book for the standard appraisal rates.

Often, the same printing plates from trade editions are used to print the book club version. Any of the aforementioned indicators of BCE’s overrule the information printed on the copyright page of the book in question, including any statement of “first edition” or a complete number-line.

Has your book been “price-clipped?”  Often, used booksellers or previous owners will cut out the corner of the inner flaps of the dust jacket where a price had been listed.  Some of the more unscrupulous sellers may cut the corners even on a BCE to make it appear that there was once a price listed, making it harder to identify correctly.

Are there any Book Club Editions that are collectible?
There are some Book of the Month and Book Club publishers that are more respected in the field of book collecting.  Easton Press, The First Edition Society of the Franklin Library , the Limited Editions Club, the Book Club of California have all produced some high quality books, signed editions, and first edition, first printing of titles that have become valuable.

If your BCE is in the Science Fiction or Mystery genre, you may want to do some extra research before tossing it out. There are some titles that first appeared in hardback form as a book club edition after first being printed in paperback. While they are not first editions, they stand up to time better than the paperbacks and may have value, if for nothing else, as a good reading copy.  (For a detailed overview of Science Fiction BCE’s, see Tim Doyle’s article on Bookthink.com)

Well-known authors whose first edition trade copies are hard to find cause almost any printing of their books to have worth, even BCE’s.  Some well-touted examples include Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

Cameo Editions of Nancy Drew books with original dust jackets, early BCE’s by author P.G. Wodehouse, and Doubleday’s 1985 printing of David Eddings’ Belgariad are considered collectible, as well as any other pre-1940’s titles with original dust jackets by well-known authors.

Examples of Book Clubs
The Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild, and Science Fiction Book Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, Money Book Club, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, Heritage Press, and hundreds more!

Bibliographic Resources:

MyWingsBooks – provides images of common BCE identifiers

BookThink – in-depth article explaining the identification marks of BCE, BOMC, and the different clubs that printed those books.

GWTW Books – provides information about collectible BCE of Gone With The Wind



This entry was written by and posted on November 4, 2010 at 11:24 am, filed under Book Collecting, Book Identification, Book Value, How-to and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink

9 Responses to “Can you Identify a Book Club Edition?”

  1. think clean

    are books marked time warner book of the month book clubs

    Reply
  2. Susan P.

    Not sure about my GWTW.
    The date is listed as MCMXXXVI
    published by The McMillin Company, New York. 689 pages with double columns on each page.
    Thanks for your info.
    Susan

    Reply
    • Amber

      Susan, I am sorry this comment was unnoticed until now. I searched Biblio with the title “Gone With the Wind” and the MCMXXXVI in the keyword field, and found one listing. Is this the same as yours? http://www.biblio.com/books/517685972.html

      Reply
    • Jerry

      The date in roman numerals indicates it’s a book club edition. The fact that MCMXXXVI is 1936 doesn’t mean your book was published in 1936. The book club edition may have been published many years later, with MCMXXXVI merely indicating the date of the original publication. The first edition/printing has on the copyright page, “Published May 1936″, The second printing is, “Published June 1936″. No roman numerals.

      Reply
  3. Mike

    Most often a “Book Club” edition weighs
    less than a true First editon. Just by picking the book up will give you your first clue.

    Reply
    • Amber

      Good tip, Mike! Thank you – the smaller size and lighter weight are a dead giveaway for sure.

      Reply
  4. stanley clarke wyllie

    Not sure if these might prove that book club editions might be valuable or not:
    Macmillian’s Pocket American and English Classics, which were used by students in the early part of the last centenary, and was an early pocketbook, although hard bound.
    Also the Conservative Book Club published selections that were collected in a series of volumes entitled “Omnibus Volume” I believe only six were published. These I believe might be sought after by conservative readers.

    Reply
  5. Una

    Very nice write-up. I absolutely appreciate this site.
    Stick with it!

    Reply

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