Help me cash this 'Lottery Ticket'
June 12, 2010 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I have a rare book I want to sell. It's The Lottery Ticket by Jules Verne, 1st English edition, 1887, with an inscription dated Christmas 1886. Apparently this edition is so rare that I've only found one sale for it on the internet which was for $5k plus. Please help me find other sales or listings so I can get a more accurate idea of its value before put it up for sale. Advice about selling also welcome.

I've looked at previous questions regarding rare book sales. I've scrounged through AbeBooks and Biblio (the $5k+ value was from AbeBooks which we know has inflated prices). I haven't found any sales on eBay but I'm no google ninja.

I know the providence of the book (my father was its second owner and he bought it in the 1940s) and I'm hoping to sell the book for a reasonable amount so I can reduce my soul-stressing debt. Dad wouldn't mind.
posted by Kerasia to Grab Bag (51 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
To be clear, you have the Sampson Low first English Hardbound edition entitled The Lottery Ticket, published in 1887? I'm just double checking because, uh, I've never actually heard of anyone having one of those.
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2010 seems to have three copies of the first edition for sale for prices ranging from $735 to $982 USD. That said, looking at the descriptions seems to strongly imply that two of them are not at all the first editions [in fact both of those two are the same book]. Searching shows the same book in the $1200 range though I swear it's just the same people listing different prices for the book. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers seems to corroborate this $1200-ish amount and has photos of the book so you can see how it compares with yours.
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2010

Would it be worth it to contact a rare book appraiser? (Not that the ones listed on the AbeBooks page are the only ones you could contact; it might just be a good direction to get started.)
posted by scody at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2010

The copies that Jessamyn refers to, including the ones on the Antiquarian Booksellers site, are the second English edition. That's why I'm asking for confirmation that you have the real live first English edition which I thought was published in late 1886 but it is possible, I guess, that the date in the book is 1887 since I've never actually heard of anyone having a copy to check.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on June 12, 2010

Also, if you live where you're profile says you live, you may want to look for a local ANZAAB member to give you an honest appraisal. Selling it to a dealer for resale is likely to get you a decent price and be low hassle, even if ultimately your book will likely be resold for a higher price.
posted by jessamyn at 3:53 PM on June 12, 2010

Scody is correct: This is not a book that you sell on ebay, or in a yard sale, or to a local bookstore. If you really really do have the First English Edition, this is a book that either you or an intermediary sell to a super rich collector which he puts in his climate-controlled fortress library. Get it appraised.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Justinian. Yes. It's that edition, actually Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1887.

Jessamyn: all of those listings are for a second edition published in 1889.
posted by Kerasia at 3:56 PM on June 12, 2010

I mean this in a very nice way: We're not talking about a nice first edition of Fight Club or something here. I doubt anyone, including myself, can give you a realistic idea of what you can sell this book for. And anyone with the expertise can't do so without being able to examine the book. You need a professional rare and antiquarian book appraiser. Jessamyn steered you well with here link, assuming you are in Australia/New Zealand.

If we were talking about a $200-$300 dollar book maybe it would make sense just to pop it on Ebay and save yourself the hassle. But this book is really rare and worth doing it right.
posted by Justinian at 4:00 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Frankly, my advice would be to contact someplace like Sotheby's and have it auctioned in an Antiquarian book auction. You'll pay a little more in terms of fees, but for something like that its by far the best way to get the top price.

Melbourne Office

posted by anastasiav at 4:01 PM on June 12, 2010

I've tried to get it appraised by a very well known rare book seller in my region but he can't find a comparison either and won't make an offer.

I also contacted Melbourne Rare Book auctions and, again, because there are so few comparisons, they only quoted me a possible max. sale price at auction of AUD$800.

Three sellers of Science Fiction & Fantasy come up in the ANZAAB listing. A couple sell 'vintage science fiction'. I will contact them on Monday.

Thanks so far. Any other links, ideas, emails of rich-uncles who collect Verne?
posted by Kerasia at 4:01 PM on June 12, 2010

posted by mmf at 4:09 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

This was the first guy I thought of

dunno how you contact him, though.
posted by Gorgik at 4:11 PM on June 12, 2010

I have no clue about dealers, etc, in A/NZ, I'm afraid.

The book itself is obviously relevant to my interests but, of course, I can't afford to be a serious collector of Verne and Wells first editions. Unfortunately. But I gotta say that $800 AUD is not, in my opinion, a serious offer. Unless I was going to end up homeless and needed the money that bad I wouldn't even consider it. But that's me.

The only guy I know for sure here in Los Angeles that would handle that sort of thing is Barry Levin in Santa Monica. If I had that book here in L.A. that's probably where I'd go since he probably at least has contacts who would know what to do with it. On perusal, he does have a copy of Verne's The Castle of the Carpathians in the first English edition. It's not in the best of condition and he's still asking $2000 for it. And I believe the first edition of The Lottery Ticket is harder to find.

In terms of Verne rarities, the bible is The Jules Verne Encyclopedia by Taves&Michaluk. A lot of people refer to rare Verne books by the reference numbers Taves&Michaluk use. In your case, I believe that would be V031 pg 171 "A Lottery Ticket" from 1886. That might help when talking to serious collectors and dealers.

Ah! here is a link to the reference numbers.

Anyway, the problem you're having is that the very rarity of this book means most people aren't going to touch it or make serious offers. As I said, I would laugh at $800AUD but that's me.

Hell, it might be worth contacting Barry Levin SF&F just to see if they know who you should contact.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Swann... excellent auction house.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2010

Oh, just to be really clear: This is a very rare book and of great interest to serious collectors of various sorts (F&SF, Verne in particular, etc). But it's a niche book, so despite the rarity and my enthusiasm etc don't be getting pictures in your head of a $30,000 payday or something. It's worth a bunch but it's niche.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on June 12, 2010

Selling it to a dealer for resale is likely to get you a decent price


The economics of used books requires that they buy outright something which may or may not shift and if it does not shift, they cannot return it. Which is why so many used book shops have so many crappy books. Even at the high end, the mark up is going to be significant.

Ask dealers for offers, of course, but look into auctions as well.

Swann Gallery in New York might be able to help. Or these places in the UK. It's not as if you can't ship it overseas for a good specialists auction. Swann might do a Sci Fi classic sort of thing, and you would clearly want your book to be there rather than just a general merchandise event. (Check here for examples of their past specialist sales.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:34 PM on June 12, 2010

What kind of condition is this volume in, if you don't mind me asking?
posted by Justinian at 4:47 PM on June 12, 2010

This is not a used book. This is a very rare first edition. To realise full value and make sure it ends up in the hands of a serious collector who will properly cherish (and preserve) it, it needs to go to market via a significant auction house. This auction house is not likely to be in Australia.

Swann is a much, much better bet than Ebay for both appraisal and sale. They have dealt with Verne before.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2010

I only know that I enjoy looking at listings of similar rare books listed in the ad that runs in The New York Times Book Review, by Bauman Rare Books.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:14 PM on June 12, 2010

I don't know much about this area, but I do know that Swann is the place to start. Although the Barry Levin suggestion seems like an interesting alternative.
posted by dhartung at 5:32 PM on June 12, 2010

Justinian: fair-good condition, good for age etc (I don't know the lingo). No major foxing, no totally lose pages, complete. Photos here.

Thanks all for the links, especially to Swanns and Barry Levin. Thanks too for the encouragement to sell off-shore.

Ancillary question: how should I be caring for it? It's currently in a plastic sleeve on a bookshelf in a dry cool-temperate climate.
posted by Kerasia at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2010

I know some people very knowledgeable about rare books (particularly safe storage) can be found through the Lilly Library at Indiana University.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2010

Kerasia please please please post a follow up in this thread, whatever happens. God I love askme on days like this.
posted by smoke at 7:30 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the request for a follow-up. Those pictures are terrific, especially the inscription dated Christmas, 1886.
posted by cirripede at 9:24 PM on June 12, 2010

a local contact:
posted by bookie at 1:05 AM on June 13, 2010

WRT to bookie's advice with berkelouw - they are arguably one of the better/best rare book dealers in Australia, but in my humble opinion they still won't know/want to deal with your find properly - it's both too niche, too valuable, and too rare. If I were you I would be talking to people overseas; if you want to sell this book for real money, it would be unsurprising if the ultimate buyer was international, so I would recommend not limiting yourself to our very small pond.
posted by smoke at 4:35 AM on June 13, 2010

This picture of the title page worries me a bit. That binding seems a bit loose. But yes, it seems this is an extraordinary book.

I'd nth Swann, but I'm really curious about that inscription. Why is it pre-publication? It does create a twinge of suspicion. Of course grandmothers have forgotten what year it is before.

Anyone else look at that subtitle and think for a moment it said A Tale of Telemarketing? Man, that Verne guy really could see the future.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:51 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Toekneesan, maybe the book became available in late 1886, in time for Christmas, even though it was ostensibly published in 1887? I'm not really sure how book publishing works.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:05 AM on June 13, 2010

What about talking the guys at the Jules Verne Museum in France?
posted by thebrokedown at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2010

Well I'm somewhat familiar with how it works today, but I'd think how it worked in London back then might be very different. Justinian, you seem to know a lot about the edition. Would that have been possible? Any British publishing historians available? The press I work for used to publish SHARP's journal Book History and I just checked Project Muse for any indication of pub date policies at Sampson Low, or even any Victorian publication date practices, and I got bupkis.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2010

insectosaurus/Toekneesan, the entry in the bibliographic reference that Justinian gave shows a publication date of 1886.
posted by snarkout at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2010

Missed that. But again I wonder if that's good news or bad. I'm leaning toward Occam's razor here and suspect that the simplest answer for the discrepancy was the publisher choosing to post-date the edition. But there were periods in publishing and copyright history where doing that might have then left that edition vulnerable to unauthorized reproduction. You wouldn't believe some of the crap American publishers used to pull on their European counterparts. I don't know if that was the case here but I do find it curious. And like I said earlier, Grandmothers have been known to forget what year they're living in. Either that inscription is the slam dunk that it's a first, or it's worth further investigation as the title page may betray it's actually a subsequent printing.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2010

American publishers did pirate publish this Verne, actually. But the title was changed to Ticket No. 9672 and I don't believe it was hardcover, so happily the 1886/1887 Sampson, Low et al edition is both the first authorized English edition and the first hardcover edition.

I'm not sure it had multiple printings until the next edition which Jessamyn linked to in 1889. I think you're correct that the most likely answer is the publisher post-dating the edition. It probably came out in early December of 1886 or similar, was inscribed then, but was dated 1887. There are plenty of books where this happens. Given the information provided I don't see any reason not to believe this isn't a genuine copy of the first English edition hardcover. But, of course, an actual appraiser or dealer would be able to tell rather quickly upon inspection.
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2010

Ancillary question: how should I be caring for it? It's currently in a plastic sleeve on a bookshelf in a dry cool-temperate climate.

I just saw this.

Since you're going to sell it you're really only concerned with not damaging it between now and then. If it's been sitting around for 120 years I doubt another few weeks is going to make a difference as long as you're not letting people smoke near it or something. You're not, right???

Generally speaking you want to avoid exposing it to sunlight, big temperature swings, and big humidity changes. Best case would be keeping it in a climate-controlled environment like a serious collector of rare books would but like I said, a few weeks isn't going to matter if it's been in a drawer for longer than any of us have been alive. Something like 60-70F with 40% relative humidity is perfect but as long as it's not getting down to 40F or up to 90F in there or getting really, really humid it'll be ok for now.

Humidity is very bad. You don't want mold.
posted by Justinian at 3:32 PM on June 13, 2010

This is becoming an adventure.

A gracious MeFite's family member who represents literary estates and has 30yrs experience arranging for the appraisal and sale of books, manuscripts and ephemera sent this advice (paraphrased):

1. Detail the providence of the book and how I came to be the owner. A seller working on my behalf will want to be sure the book is mine to sell, plus it helps saleability.

2. Obtain a statement (not an appraisal) from a reputable Aust. rare book dealer who will write on letterhead something like: "Appears to be a 1st English edition of Lottery Ticket by Jules Verne, published 1887 etc in fair to good condition, with xx illustrations. I am unable to find auction sales of a comparable volume, indicating some rarity."

I should expect to pay for this statement, but much less than I would for an appraisal. It will give me some credibility when approaching potential sellers cos I'm a nobody in the bookselling world.

3. With these two statements and the photos I can approach Swanns and/or private dealers to gauge their interest and assessment of possible value. Cost out their commissions, assess my exceptions, and pick one to work with.

As Justinian noted above, this is a niche item and I may not get as much as my little-hopey-hopes dream of but I know now I shouldn't settle for too little either.

Great answers everyone. Thanks. I'll update when it all pans out.
posted by Kerasia at 6:02 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I checked our American Book Prices Current, and the only sale it records was at Bloomsbury in 2004, where it went for £2,400 (or $4,464) against an estimate of £1000 – £1500. See here. Is this the sale you refer to in your question? As it happens, Bloomsbury NY is about to sell a Verne collection (#237 et seq.), although none of the books are particularly outstanding.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:28 PM on June 14, 2010

> A gracious MeFite's family member who represents literary estates and has 30yrs experience arranging for the appraisal and sale of books, manuscripts and ephemera sent this advice

Man, this is a remarkable community. I too am looking forward to the follow-up!
posted by languagehat at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's really interesting, Horace Rumpole. Hmmm, the pound/Aud exchange rate in 2004 would have made it @AUD$5995 and my volume is in better condition. The sale above expected range shows too that there was some interest in the volume.

Yeah, languagehat, this is an amazing place. I've learnt more about my book, and selling rare books in general through this thread, than through my own months of study.
posted by Kerasia at 3:08 PM on June 14, 2010

You might want to check with Phillip Pirages, who seems to be the rarest of the rare book collectors in America. I know some area mefites have worked for Phillip before, they might be able to chime in as well.
posted by mathowie at 11:40 PM on June 14, 2010

Pirages is a great dealer, but he's not the optimum guy for this particular item. I think an auction house is the way to go, but if you wanted to contact a dealer, Levin (above) is the one.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:29 AM on June 15, 2010

Just thirding the request for follow up information. This is a fascinating thread!
posted by bardophile at 1:18 AM on June 17, 2010

Yes! Please please let us know how you get along! Fascinating, indeed.
posted by Philby at 2:50 AM on June 20, 2010

Writing a providence statement is hard when you don't know what form they take. I didn't (still don't?) know so I googled it. This is what I came up with.

Book details - title, publisher, year,

Ownership - first known & verified owner and period of ownership, then the next known owner and so on until it comes to the current owner. In my case the first owner I could verify was my father. He owned it until it passed through his estate to my mother who owned it for a period, then passed it to me.

Other details footnoted - the model I found had footnote tags in the ownership section which were expanded in the footnotes section. Things I footnoted included information on how my father may have come by the book, the fact that he had the book when he met my mother meaning he purchased it before XX date, and the conditions in which the volume has been stored through the period of the providence listed.

If anyone knows better details on how to write a providence statement for a book, I'd be grateful for them.


I dumped my local-ish rare book dealer and yesterday took the volume to the most dealer respected within 500 miles. He inspected the book, addressed the condition, verified that it is a first edition and paged through it to compare the illustrated plates with their index. It was a very interesting hour and he was kind enough to answer many questions about rare books in general. He also agreed that there was no point selling it anywhere but London or New York.


I checked out Pirages website and I don't think this is up his alley. But thanks for the link anyway, Matt.


I've been in contact with Barry Levin. I want at least low four figures for the volume but he doesn't have any collectors who would pay that and his profit/commission.


The rare book dealer mentioned above is composing my statement (point 2 in my post above) and I'll post it when I receive it. One thing I do know. Each of the times I took the book off the shelf as a kid and thumbed through the pages have probably cost me $100+ per thumbing in condition value today. The moral of the story is, if you have rare books, keep your inquisitive lock-picking, shelf-climbing children bolted to the wall in the cellar.
posted by Kerasia at 1:21 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah; selling to a dealer is quick and easy but almost always nets you less money since they need to resell it for enough profit to make it worth their time and expertise. On the other hand you could have the money in your pocket very quickly. If Levin can't place it for you at a price you'll accept then I think auctioning is likely your best best, because he's the only guy I know for sure who could handle your book.

I'm surprised he wouldn't offer over $1000, though. Either I am mistaken about the book's value, the book's condition is not so hot even for a 100+ year old volume, or it is rare enough that the number of collectors who it can be placed with is very small. I suspect a combination of the three.

Have you contacted any auction houses? Remember that they'll take a chunk too, so factor those costs plus getting the book somewhere to be sold, etc, into your calculations.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on June 23, 2010

I'm surprised he wouldn't offer over $1000, though. Either I am mistaken about the book's value, the book's condition is not so hot even for a 100+ year old volume, or it is rare enough that the number of collectors who it can be placed with is very small. I suspect a combination of the three.

My reasoning is a combination of the latter two and I asked for more than $1k.

According to the dealer I visited, the small hole in the spine is a downer for collectors. Spine condition is very important for the visual appeal on the shelf. And about a quarter of the 38 plates are loose through use and age. As they were inserted separately from the text block they loosen more easily.

I've been looking at World Cat and there are four listings for the volume: the universities of Sydney (appears to be missing), Indiana & Cambridge, plus the British Library. I'd love to find out the print run of this edition.
posted by Kerasia at 6:41 PM on June 23, 2010

The Taves and Michaluk reference book may have information about run sizes but given that it isn't exactly cheap either I don't have a copy to check for you. It would certainly be far more widely available at libraries if you ever find yourself at a major one and find yourself with a few spare minutes to check. It's not a rare book, just specialized.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 PM on June 23, 2010

Can that hole in the spine be restored? It might bring up the value well past what it might cost to have done.
posted by scody at 10:14 PM on June 23, 2010

Can that hole in the spine be restored? It might bring up the value well past what it might cost to have done.

I asked the dealer and he said, in regards to this volume it would not improve the value. Due to the type of binding used and the way the text block has been set, it's not really a suitable candidate for restoration. I think as a general rule, restoration is best left to rare books that have crossed the line in terms of condition and nothing but new binding will help them maintain integrity.

Justinian: Good idea. I've now written to the reference desk of an Australian library with a holding of Taves and Michaluk and asked for details, if any, about the publication circumstances and print run etc.
posted by Kerasia at 11:43 PM on June 23, 2010

...the journey so far...

The rare book appraiser has verified that I have "an original copy of the very rare first UK edition of Jules Verne's 'The Lottery Ticket'".

His verification and assessment statement went on to list the details of the book: title, subtitle, publisher, author, and publication date, as well as the number of pages in the front section, story text and publisher's catalogue in the rear. He noted that the publisher's catalogue was dated October 1886.

It is interesting that while the title page listed 38 plates there are only 37 in the list of plates. All are present although a couple were originally bound by the publishers a few pages away from where their location is listed in the index.

His assessment listed all the issues with the condition such as the small hole in the spine, a few dints in the cover, page and binding condition etc. I'd be happy to be in such condition at 125 years old.

While looking around the web I came across AmericanExchange. It has a searchable online mag for book collectors, a calendar of book auctions and another to book fairs and events. A premium research database of books sold at auction is available at a price - short or long term membership. It also has a chart of trends in book auction prices illustrating a drop in prices and sales since, not surprisingly, Feb 08.

Considering the data in that last link I may wait until either the markets pick up or a very suitable and targeted auction is planned. Now that I know what I have, I am in more of a wait and see mode.
posted by Kerasia at 10:34 PM on July 5, 2010

Yeah, if time is not a factor it might be worth holding on a while. I was considering selling a few books that are somewhat valuable but I put them on the back burner for now. I didn't know a book as rare as that would see big swings in interest depending on the economy but it makes sense I guess.

If you do plan to hold on a bit it is probably worth starting to think about how you're storing the book. It's not like you have to keep it in a nitrogen atmosphere UV-free climate controlled box but you should likely keep it away from sunlight and away from moisture or big fluctuations in temperature. And not let anybody play with it, obviously.

If you are holding it I guess the thread is about done! I hope when you do decide to sell you consider an update.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 AM on July 6, 2010

Thanks Justinian and everyone for your help. I'm going to store it for awhile and see how the markets go.
posted by Kerasia at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2010

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