What To Collect

Refining Your Science Fiction Book Collection

How to refine a science fiction book collection to a manageable and worthwhile hobby.

1st Edition, 1st Printing of _A Swiftly Tilting Planet_ by Madeline L'Engle

It starts off innocently enough.  You discover tales of wild adventures in space as a young child and it strikes your fancy and feeds your imagination.  Over time, you branch out and learn the classics of science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and other giants of the genre.  Soon your fancy becomes a fandom!

The books that have enchanted you for years quickly become something more than simple ink on paper, and begin to transform into pieces of art, literary history, and something worth holding on to.  The next thing you know, you are a collector, and if you are like me, the stacks of books in your home can make the hallways difficult to navigate.

So, you may consider this an intervention.  It is time to focus and narrow down the teetering piles into a smaller, well-cared-for collection of science fiction literature. The task of caring for, researching, and pricing those stacks of books can be daunting.  It may well be that many of the titles on your bookshelf are worth some money, but where do you begin?  How do you pare down your beloved books to a sensible quantity for a beginner to maintain while building the foundations of a strong science fiction collection?

We’ve come up with a couple of ways to manage your collection.  Choosing one of the following directions, and then you can narrow the scope further by collecting only signed copies, or first editions within your chosen category.  Trust me, the farther you drill down into the wide world of book collecting, the more specific you will be able focus your collection.

By author: Choose your favorite author to focus on; for example, Jules Verne, or Madeline L’Engle.  Now you have a direction for your research and can aim your resources towards collecting the best from one of the earliest authors of Science Fiction.

Amazing Stories 1942, Volume 16, from bookseller John McCormick

By publisher/press: Tartarus Press. Easton Press. Ballentine Adult Fantasy. Avon. Ace Science Fiction Specials, and more specifically, Ace Doubles.  This realm take quite a bit of research, but there are substantial checklists everywhere.

By cover art:  The pulp era of science fiction has given our culture an amazing collection of art from the oddest corners of the artists’ imaginations.  If you have a favorite cover artist, this is a fun and easy way to build your collection.  Or choose your favorite : robots; clunky starships; seriously bizarre aliens; desperate shrieking damsels and even cosmic footballs are oft-repeated themes.

By award: This gives an easy avenue to focus your collection!  The Nebula Award, for example, names the best novel, novella, and short story for each year, as voted on and presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.   Choosing to collect the works by winners of a given award provides a manageable annual checklist to follow for managing a reasonable and effective science fiction collection.

By theme: This is a bit more vague of a focus, and the choice is all yours.  Do you prefer to read tomes of Gothic horror over the more traditional tales of time-travel and robotics?  Finding a first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth might be a bit out of your initial price range, but there’s also newer authors in that genre that are more affordable, and worth building a collection with, such as Poppy Z. Brite or Neil Gaiman.

Whatever method you use to refine your collection, always remember that the main key to keeping those collectibles worth the investment is keeping them in the best condition possible.  Our blog has more resources to help you learn to properly store and care for your books, identify a Book Club Edition, and more.


Collecting Science Fiction Books

Biblio Unbound: Collecting Science Fiction Pulps and Digests by Michael Haynes

The LOCUS Index to Science Fiction Awards


  • How about telling me how to get rid of the discards? I have dozens of Galaxy, F and SF, and Amazing from the 50’s and 60’s.

  • Another great avenue, especially for folks newer to collecting, is the hyper-modern area. Choosing first books by new authors is a great way to build the basis of a collection, especially if you choose carefully based on positive reviews in respected venues such as Publishers Weekly, Locus, NYT Book Review, etc. It’s also fairly easy to obtain author signatures at this point in an author’s career, making your books even more unique and adding another layer of value to your collection.

  • Getting rid of the discards – Find your nearest Paperback Exchange or used bookstore that carries a reasonably large SciFi Section and contact them. Since SciFi readers tend to keep their books, we’re used to seeing them come in with large piles when they hit that moment of finally deciding they have to clear out some.

  • to jon anderson please as a collector i can say please put those issuses on ebay for sale trust me someone out there needs them to complete thier own collection

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