Collecting Popular Authors of the 1990s
Collecting popular fiction from best-selling authors may seem like heresy for some – there is nothing rare about most of these commercially printed books, and some book scholars may snub their noses at the literary value. But collecting doesn’t have to be high-brow or based purely on monetary value, it can just be fun. If you have a passion for a popular author there is no reason to not dub yourself a bibliophile and take part in book collecting in any way you choose. Perhaps you have a favorite author and want to collect signed first editions of every one of their works – that would be fantastic!
And although some popular authors tip the scales at over a hundred published books (clear the shelves!) reasonable book prices can make it an affordable feat for the average person.
A book’s potential value is determined in large part by its scarcity in the market. If you are interested in value, look for the first books of these authors, before they made it big, as they would have the lowest printing numbers. Also, signed presentation copies, and copies inscribed by the author to someone of note can increase the desirability of these volumes.
Danielle Steel (8/14/1947) is one of the best-selling authors ever, and amazingly prolific. She has written over 120 novels and sold more than 800 millions copies worldwide. Starting with Going Home in 1973, Steel continues to publish multiple books a year, reportedly juggling up to five books-in-progress at a time.
Some of the most popular titles are The Gift, Sisters, Zoya, Kaleidoscope, Jewels, Changes, The Long Road Home, Prodigal Son, and Big Girl. You can find a list in chronological order of all Steel’s title, which could fill a library, and since you can find used first editions of most of her books for a bargain, it may be a doable challenge.
Her first three books, Going Home, Passion’s Promise and Now and Forever were only published as paperback, and the first hardback, The Promise, published in 1978, is scarce, so may be a worthy find, valued between $50 and $100.
Also look out for signed limited editions of Steel books, like 100 copy release of Bungalo 2 from Delacourt Press in 2006.
Signed editions of Steel’s books can go for around $100. Steel rarely does books signings, doing only four in her entire career. She explains on her blog her negative experiences at signings and how she would rather be at home writing and raising her children.
Her last signing was for the book Pure Joy: A funny and moving memoir about the magic that dogs bring into our lives.
Sidney Sheldon (2/11/1917 – 1/30/2007) 7th best-selling fiction writer of all time – 21 novels selling over 300 millions copies. Starting with The Naked Face, written in 1969 and published in 1970 when Sheldon was 53, his last novel Are You Afraid of the Dark? (2004) was published just a few years before his death in 2007, just shy of his 90th birthday. Sheldon wrote for Broadway and Hollywood before becoming a book author, best-known for his TV hits The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie.
Look for limited edition runs, like Memories of Midnight released in 1990 in a first edition of just 200 signed and numbered copies and are available from $50-$1200.
Signed first editions of Sheldon’s books can be worth a few hundred dollars if they are in very good condition, such as Bloodline (1978) for around $300, and The Other Side of Midnight (1974) for around $500, and Stranger in the Mirror (1976) for around $200.
You can find many signed editions of Sheldon’s book, even first editions, for under $20–a perfect addition to your collection or gift for a Sheldon fan.
Stephen King (9/21/1947) has written over 54 novels that have sold more than 350 million copies. Starting with Carrie in 1974, his latest novel Elevation will be released October 2018.
He has the record of the most film adaptations of his work, currently standing at 34 books adapted to film. Rage, published under the pen name Richard Bachman, and published in 1977, is no longer in print as requested by King, stating that the novel is one of his biggest regrets due to its ties to several school shootings.
According to an interview with Rolling Stone King considers Lisey’s Story to be his best book – first edition signed values at almost $1,000 today.
The first printing of Carrie was just 10,000 copies – subsequent printings of King novels started at one million or more. The first edition set of the Dark Tower Series is another highly collectable and valuable King find: 12 volumes of the 9 book set are available – signed and numbered, for around $20,000.
An interesting collectible title in King’s library is My Pretty Pony, with text by King and artwork by Barbara Kruger. This is the sixth of the Artists and Writers Series published by the Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum and only 250 non-numbered and 30 numbered author/artist copies were printed.
Dean Koontz (7/9/1945) has written over 120 books, under his own name in addition to 10 pen names. His books have sold more than 450 million copies. His first published novel, Star Quest, was published in 1968 as an Ace Double – two novels in one small paperback, the other novel being Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. The double novel, published by Ace Books in New York, was 60 cents.
Koontz’s latest novel is The Crooked Staircase (2018)
Charnel House has released multiple signed limited edition Koontz books in quantities of 500 numbered and 26 lettered editions, including Dark Rivers of the Heart (1994), Forever Odd (2006), The Husband (2006), Life Expectancy (2004) and The Book of Counted Sorrows (2003) which is a book of dark poetry that Koontz often quoted but that didn’t exist, so he wrote it for his fans.
Mary Higgins Clark (12/24/1927) has written 51 books that have sold over 80 million copies. Starting with Aspire to the Heavens in 1968.
Clark was a widow supporting five children who began her writing career publishing short stories until the market collapsed in the 1960s. To pay her bills, she then wrote radio scripts, but also pursued novel writing as a way to generate income. Her first published novel was a fictional portrayal of George Washington that grew out of radio scripts she wrote titled “Portrait of a Patriot.” Published by Meredith Press in 1968, Aspire to the Heavens did not sell well and is a rare find – a first edition with dust jacket in fine condition, un-price clipped can sell for around $500, but many first editions don’t have dust jackets, or the jacket is price-clipped – if so they market for around $275 today.
Undeterred by her initial lack of success, Higgins continued to write, refocusing her energy on suspense writing where she had previously had some success in short story form. Where are the Children was published in 1975, earning Higgins a small advance of $3000, and a year later more substantial paperback rights sale of $100,000. Two years later, her second suspense novel, A Stranger is Watching, sold for $1.5 million.
Copies of her first novel, Where are the Children, along with Aspire to the Heavens, are among the most valuable Clark novels to collect. Also look out for special inscriptions! While inscriptions are generally not something book collectors look for, if the inscription is to a notable person the value can be greatly increased – such as this Mary Higgins Clark book inscribed to Bill Clinton:
John Grisham (2/8/1955) has written over 30 novels that have sold more than 275 million copies, beginning with A Time to Kill in 1989. Inspired by a case Grisham witnessed in court in Mississippi and written while he was a practicing lawyer, A Time to Kill was rejected by multiple publishers before it was finally published by Wynwood Press in a limited printing of just 5,000 copies. The copies were cheaply made, so finding one in good condition is very rare. Grisham gave away or sold 1,000 of his own copies, keeping 50-60 of them for himself. Grisham, a rare book collector, has said that he has these copies buried in his backyard. Signed first editions list for around $4000.
After his bestselling book The Firm was published in 1991, with first editions running from $500-$2,500 depending on signatures. Signatures from actors and others involved in movies based on Grisham’s work, such as Tom Cruise, can greatly increase the value as well.
Doubleday took over the contract for A Time to Kill, reprinting and remarketing it for a release in 1993 that sold 1.5 million copies. Doubleday also released another ‘first printing’ and a limited numbered edition in 1993 that is highly collectable. One of Grisham’s latest books, Camino Island (2017), is about rare-book collecting and even includes a biblio-heist. Signed first editions of Camino Island can be purchased for under $100.
John Michael Crichton ( October 23, 1942 – November 4, 2008) wrote 25 books that have sold over 200 million copies. He is best known for his science fiction, thrillers, and medical fiction. Crichton attended Harvard University, first studying literature, but after suspicions that a professor was purposefully giving him low grades he changed his major to biological anthropology. He graduated in 1964 and then attended Harvard medical school, where he received his MD in 1969. While in medical school he began publishing novels under the pen names ‘John Lange’ and ‘Jeffrey Hudson,’ Both of Crichton’s pen names were playful acknowledgements of his height, which at the time was 6’9”; Lange means long in German, and Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous little person in the Queen of England’s court in the 17th century. Crichton’s first published novel Odds On was only released as a paperback in 1966 under the pseudonym John Lange, as was Scratch One in 1967.
In 1968 he published 2 novels, including his first hardback novel (as Jeffrey Hudson), A Case of Need, which won him the Edgar Award, and also marked the use of technology in his novels.
In 1969 Crichton published three novels, including The Andromeda Strain which established him as a best-selling author. Signed first editions list for around $700.
The eight novels published as John Lange that Crichton wrote before graduating in 1969 are considered ‘The Med School Collection,’ – Odds On (1966), Easy Go (1967), Scratch One, The Venom Business, Zero Cool (1969), Drug of Choice, Grave Descend (1970) and Binary (1972).
In 1970 Crichton published a book with his younger brother under the pen name Michael Douglas, Dealing or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues which you can collect signed first editions for around $150, or Book-of the-Month-Club from 1970 for a tenth of that.
In 1975 Crichton ventured into historic fiction with The Great Train Robbery which also became a best-seller and signed first editions are worth around $500 today.
Other novels to note are Eaters of the Dead (1976) signed first editions valued around $300-$600, Congo (1980) signed first editions available around $250, and Sphere (1987) signed first editions available around $250.
Anne Rice (10/4/1941) ) has written 27 books, selling close to 100 million copies. She was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien, after her father, since her mother believing the masculine name would give her an advantage in the world, but she changed her name legally in 1947 to Anne when she began school, supposedly because she liked the name and didn’t want to be teased. Rice’s first novel Interview with a Vampire, was published in 1976, written in five weeks in 1973. Signed first editions with the $8.95 priced foil jacket go for around $1,500 today.
Rice also authored erotic fiction under the pen names Ann Rampling (Exit to Eden 1985), and A. N. Roquelaure.
As Roquelaure, Rice penned the Sleeping Beauty Quartet, initially a trilogy, as her own political statement, beginning with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty in 1983.
In addition to her Vampire Chronicles (another notable – Queen of the Damned 1988) and erotic novels, Rice has written about witches (The Witching Hour 1990), wolves (The Wolf Gift 2012), race (The Feast of All Saints 1979), and Jesus (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt 1995, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana 2008).
In 2008 she also penned an autobiography Called out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (2008).
Rice prefers to sign her books in a purple sharpie pen.
Tom Clancy (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013) wrote 17 novels, selling over 100 million copies. His first novel, The Hunt for Red October (1984), he sold for $500. It later became a bestseller when President Ronald Reagan praised the novel after receiving it as a Christmas present. Today, signed first editions, printed by Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, MD, go for around $1,250 in Fine condition. First editions have no printed price, making them easy to confuse with book club editions.
Clancy’s novel Clear and Present Danger (1989) sold 1,625,544 hardcover copies, making it the #1 bestselling novel of the 1980s, and Clancy is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing.
Almost all of Clancy’s book involve CIA analyst Jack Ryan, and 17 of his novels topped the New York Times Bestseller’s List. His name is now a brand and continues to publish technically-detailed espionage and military science story-lines under ‘Tom Clancy.’ His name brand also put out a number of video games, including Rainbow Six which was released in 1998 at the time the novel of the same name was published.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.