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Dear John:

I just found a beautiful copy of Chiefs by Stuart Woods. I am confused about how to determine if it is a first edition." (E. Peters, London)

John responds:

Determining whether your book is a true first is confusing to any collector, new or experienced. The best resource we have found is a little book called McBride's Pocket Guide to Identification of 1st Editions. It provides complete and easy to use information for determining the conventions used by most US publishers for identifying first editions. As for Chief's, the true first was published in 1981 by W. W. Norton as stated on the copyright page. The words FIRST EDITION appear near the top of the page, and a number line 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 is found near the bottom of the page. In addition the jacket flyleaf should have a price of $14.95. CHIEFS was reissued in 2006 as a 25th Anniversary Edition. This book is a "first thus," as it is a reprint, but is still a first edition, first printing of this release of the book.

The first thus is found frequently when an author has books released prior to having that "breakthrough" book that made them famous. Many authors, including Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz used pseudonyms, and later had their books reissued under their real names. After his megahit, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's earlier books, Digital Fortress, Deception Point and Angels and Demons were reissued in such a fashion.

While the true first is the collector's obvious first choice, don't overlook reprints. They too have value, and in many cases increase rapidly because of their small print runs. A true first of Chiefs could set you back $700-$800, but the 25th Anniversary Edition has already topped $100. Reprints of Clive Cussler's Iceberg and Med Caper are fetching $400-$500.

Happy hunting!


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