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Buying Ian Fleming Books for Investment

Investing in James Bond 007 First Editions

As one of the world's foremost dealers in fine and rare Ian Fleming first edition books we are able to
supply both books and advice to those wishing to seriously invest.
The interest in this form of investment has risen considerably, so much so the Financial Times
wrote an article specifically on the subject. We are proud to say we were featured in the article by Simon de Burton
and supplied all the books photographed for the accompanying article.
We have reproduced the article from the October 4 2008 issue of the Financial Times
Article content is copyright Financial Times and the photographs were taken by Roy Kilcullen

 
When James Pickard speaks of his book collection it is in the sort of calm, decisive tones that might have been used by a James Bond nemesis - Auric Goldfinger, perhaps, or Seraffimo Spang. Indeed, he exhibits more than a hint of the obsession that drove Goldfinger to want to help himself to the contents of Fort Knox and Spang to become bedazzled by diamonds. But Pickard's fixation is entirely innocent - he has merely spent more than 25 years accruing the world's finest and most cat-strokingly covetable library of Bond books on the planet, ranging from a set of first edition paperbacks worth a relatively modest 7,500 to a hardback Casino Royale inscribed by Ian Fleming, which he values at 35,000.

This year is the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth and the occasion is being marked with the staging of exhibitions, the launch of a set of postage stamps, the broadcasting of a BBC radio dramatisation of Dr No and the publication of the latest Bond, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks.
Fans, however, have long known that Bond's true worth is to be found in early editions of Fleming's books, which have soared in value since the first copies of Casino Royale hit the shops in 1953 with a cover price of 10 shillings and sixpence. Pickard was 27 and working in Asia when he fell under the spell of the Bond novels in 1983. "Like many people of my age, I had seen the Bond films but not read many of the books," explains Pickard, who is now regarded as the leading expert on collectable Bond novels. "Then I came across a newspaper article about them which said that a first edition of Casino Royale could be worth up to 1,000. It piqued my interest, and I decided to set about finding one. When I did, it cost me 1,200 - a record price at the time. It's now worth 24,000."

Pickard retired from banking to concentrate on building his library and sourcing rare copies for other enthusiasts. One of the most valuable he acquired (now sold) was given by Fleming to his long-time friend and mistress Lisl Popper (a Bond-girl name if ever there was one) and inscribed: "To Lisl, despite whose loving care this was written." It is a collecting field that seems to hold a magnetic attraction for upwardly mobile professionals - Pickard is frequently approached by lawyers, bankers and highflying medics to source rare copies, and people who work in the movie business seem especially prone to accruing a collection of rarities.

The late film director George Cosmatos, for example, owned a complete set of first editions, some inscribed to him by actors who had played Bond. Bound in custom covers made by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, they fetched more than 20,000 at Sotheby's in 2005. Casino Royale is undoubtedly the most collectable individual title, with 4,728 first edition hardback copies being printed (around half of which went straight into the library system) compared with 7,500 of Live and Let Die (1954) and about 9,900 of Moonraker (1955). Fleming's last full Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, had a first edition, first issue print run of 82,000.

But, says Sotheby's book specialist Peter Selley, value is entirely dependent on edition and condition, regardless of the title. "To be worth a significant amount, it needs to be a first issue, first edition and not a reprint. With Casino Royale, there should be no review on the cover and the back of the title page must say 'First published 1953'. Condition is also vital." An avid book collector himself, Fleming knew the value of his own signature and was selective about handing out inscribed copies, meaning that survivors are particularly sought after, especially if they have associations.

Undoubtedly the Holy Grail of such association copies is the first edition of the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice which Fleming gave to an unexpected visitor who wandered up to his Jamaican island hideaway, Goldeneye, and pronounced himself to be the author of A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies. His name was Bond - James Bond. Fleming had adopted it for his character because it was "the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name that I could find". Fleming inscribed the copy with the words: "To the real James Bond from the thief of his identity", and it was last seen in public at a Sotheby's auction in 1996, lacking its dust jacket, where it fetched more than 12,000. Its whereabouts are unknown, but its value has doubled.

Eagle-eyed enthusiasts have more chance of discovering one of the highly collectable early copies of The Man with the Golden Gun that had a miniature gilt pistol embossed on the cover. A small batch was shipped to colonial outposts such as Australia and Kenya before it was discovered that a fault caused the guns to rust, meaning copies were withdrawn and pulped. A few, however, had already been sold and these are now worth around 4,500 in fine condition.

Fleming's publisher, Jonathan Cape, also created 250 numbered, limited edition copies of the 1963 novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service that were signed by the author and illustrated with a portrait of him by Amherst Villiers, the celebrated engineer who created the superchargers used on "blower" Bentleys (and fitted to Bond's car in Casino Royale). Good condition copies now realise up to 6,500. There is also a growing market for Bond novels by other authors. The most prolific was the late John Gardner, who penned 15 Bond books, the most collectable of which is a novelisation of the movie GoldenEye, fine first editions of which are now worth around 1,500. So should we all hang on to our first editions of Devil May Care in the hope that they rocket in value in years to come? Or shall we simply accept that the original is always the best, make like Le Chiffre and try our luck at the Casino Royale...
 


An Exemplary Set of Ian Fleming First Editions

2008 Financial Times - Simon de Burton. Photographs by Roy Kilcullen Photography

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