Identify a True 1st Edition “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Run a search on ebay looking for a copy of 1st editions of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and you will get dozens of hits. The prices on these “1st Editions” range from $4.99 to well over $2000. The person selling the $4.99 ‘first’ are not being dishonest, they are naive.

Harper Lee was an unknown author in 1960. To Kill A Mockingbird CoverTypically publishing houses would only print a small batch for new authors. There were only 5000 copies of the book printed for the July 11th 1960 release date. Most of those went to libraries around the country. The book was a hit; it had 14 printings in the first year. It was chosen for three American book clubs and sold more than 2.5 million copies. I was on the best sellers list for 100 weeks and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Values of the 1st edition book are skyrocketing. Collectors who want this book will pay large amounts of money for it. 15 years ago a first edition went for about $250, today I have seen prices well over $20,000.

There are a few things to look for to identify if your copy is a first edition. The dust jacket was printed in four colors; black, white, green, and brown. The title is in a black band and a tree on a brown background. The back of the dust jacket has a picture of Harper Lee taken by Truman Capote. On the bottom right corner of the photo, is Truman Capote’s name. The front inside flap of the dust jacket has the price $3.95 at the bottom of the flap. First editions are also a hard cover, unless it is an advanced paperback (another article someday). The hard cover is brown with a green spine.

First Edition To Kill A MockingbirdThe most important identifier is the copyright page will say “First Edition”. Most of the first edition books on ebay do not say anything on the copyright page, so sellers assume they have a first edition. What they really have is a book club edition. I fell into that trap myself when I stumbled upon a ‘first edition’ at a thrift shop. I eagerly grabbed the copy and paid a dollar for it. I was spending the money I was to earn all the way home. I have a book club edition. DOH!

A signed 1st edition is very desirable, but an inscribed copy is rare and sought out. Harper Lee did not do many signings. I would always seek a professional opinion on a signed copy because her signature is a simple one.

I don’t know how to price a first edition to sell on ebay, as a matter of fact I do not think that I would market it ebay. I would seek out an auction house with an upcoming high-end book auction to list the item. If the auction house also does ‘live’ on ebay, it wouldn’t hurt.

Good Hunting.

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43 responses to “Identify a True 1st Edition “To Kill A Mockingbird”

  • Lucy Ledbetter

    Greetings.

    Regarding your article True First Edition, “To Kill a Mockingbird”:

    I am looking for the best copy that I can afford
    as a gift to someone who loves the book.

    20,000 is not what I want to spend, but
    regarding other categories, what general prices ranges
    do you think are reasonable, and what would you suggest
    as a reasonably priced substitute for a coveted first
    edition?

    I am considering the 150 – 350 price range.

    Thank you. LDirr@aol.com

  • Tom Klein

    To answer Lucy’s question. There are signed anniversary copies that usually sell for $200.

    If you go up higher on the price range (but way south of $20,000) you might consider a second printing. They sell for between $1,000 and $2,000. They look identical to the first printing, but the copyright page says “SECOND IMPRESSION” and the dust jacket says “Second Printing”. If a first is not an option, I think a second printing unsigned is a better investment than a signed anniversary edition.

    Also, to see photos of the exact identification points of To Kill a Mockingbird, check out:

    http://www.firsteditionpoints.com/BookDetail.php/KillMockingbird

  • howie

    What is the general value of “first editions ” that are later “impressions”?

    What does the W mean on the copyright page?

  • Caren

    Has anyone ever seen a “W” listed under the printing/impression line on the copyright page before? Can you tell me what it means?

    Thanks,
    Caren

  • Tom

    I have seen the “W” on many Book Club editions. But I not sure exactly what it stands for.

  • Markus

    Is it possible to purchase a first edition / first printing Dust Jacket only. Not sure if they ever come on the market.

    Thanks,

    Markus

  • Leila

    Other than the stated printing on the DJ how can you tell if the book itself is a book club edition?

    Also curious what the cost of a First edition, fourth impresion would be… with thanks.

  • jason

    I have a book club edition that I am trying to find the value of any things I sould be looking for

  • Paul Robbins

    I have a first edition 1st printing TKAM. There is a small library tradestamp inside the cover. Would this have any affect on the overall value? I know a good number of the first printings went straight to libraries around the country. Secondly, what are the chances of a first printing dust jacket only ever becoming available for sale? Thanks!

  • tim

    I have a book club 1960 edition of To Kill a Mockingbird,with the dust jacket that you described. Could you please give me a ballpark figure of it’s value? The book is in excellent shape. Thank you.

  • carter

    Hi, I have a copy of this book, it is 5 3/8 x 8 1/4 in size, the spine is beige cloth and the rest is brown, not cloth. It was published by Lippincott with a copyright date of 1960, no mention of first edition and no DJ, but under the ISBN # it shows the following sequence of nos.: 89 to 93 followed by 50 to 48. Thank you very much. I am interested because it is signed though I do need to have it authenticated of course.

  • Maria Gonzalez

    I’m racking my brain trying to find the right To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) book. I don’t want it to be a book club edition. I’ve seen the W but don’t know what that means. Can you tell me if the ones that were from libraries are a good catch? Thanks!

  • Maria Gonzalez

    If there is no jacket but the book says first edition, brown with green, 296 pgs, what is it you have? Thanks!

  • Karen Dulak

    I found a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird recently at a local Goodwill store. I does not have a dust jacket. It is a hardcover book and has a brownish cover with a black spine. It is published by Lippincott and copy right page reads Copyright 1960 by Harper Lee and then Printed in The United States of America. Any idea on it’s worth? It is in very good condition.

    • Patricia Pittman

      There seems to be little value to those books that are not first edition.

      • renee

        Hi you seem to know a lot obout books I sure don’t but my son is crazy about them I want to buy him the best I can afford which is in the 300 dollar range do you have any idea what I should go for Is it wortk buying a first edition of a later impression I see many of those for sale are they valuable or should I not bother I would appreciate any help you could give me I would love to buy him the first edition period but not in my price range ( wish it was hahaha)

      • Patricia Pittman

        I really don’t know much about books. I found a “1st”edition in a yard sale as was so excited, until I found out it was a library 1st. So I just shared what I learned. I really don’t know more than what I already wrote. Perhaps someone else who reads this can help

      • David Holt Preaus

        Hello Patricia,

        I inadvertently came across this site, for the question asked by Karen caught my eye.

        This is her question and your reply: “I found a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird recently at a local Goodwill store. I does not have a dust jacket. It is a hardcover book and has a brownish cover with a black spine. It is published by Lippincott and copy right page reads Copyright 1960 by Harper Lee and then Printed in The United States of America. Any idea on it’s worth? It is in very good condition.
        Reply

        Patricia Pittman
        January 23rd, 2010 at 2:01 pm

        There seems to be little value to those books that are not first edition.

        I have this IDENTICAL copy, EXCEPT my copy DOES have the dust jacket, is NOT stained or soiled and back when the 35th Anniversary Edition was released, a shop in Monroeville, Alabama, her home town, was selling her books with Ms. Lee signing them, so a friend told me. So, I called and order 25 copies but mention MY copy to the lovely lady who is a friend of Ms. Lee, asking her IF she thought if I SENT MY copy to her Ms. Lee MIGHT consider inscribing it “To David, Happy Birthday, Harper Lee”, as it was given to me for my birthday.

        Well, for reasons unknown other than Ms. Lee told the lady she could tell I had read the book and treasured it, she in fact DID inscribe it EXACTLY as I asked and it along with the 25 new copies were sent to me.

        Something tells me there are FEW “Happy Birthday” inscribed copies of ANY edition of the book then adding my name to it and her signature.

        I have no clue the value but KNOW with her signature and an inscribed one it has more than just some minor value, thus it kept locked in my bank safety deposit box.

        Without seeing the book, do you have any idea some ballpark figure? I MUST insure separately if over $10K and would acquire an appraisal, but it is one of my most treasured treasure, me growing up in a small northern Louisiana town much like the fictitious Maycomb.

        My best,

        David H. Preaus
        davidpreaus@msn.com

    • Angie

      I have the exact same book no – jacket. have you found out any information about it? I paid around $60 for mine. Thank you for any information you can give me.

    • Gonzalo

      I think we have the same book. Does it say in you book J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY PHILADELPHIA & NEW YORK
      and does it have 255 pages?

  • k.l.buggy

    I have a real first addition which I’m trying to sell. It’s been in the family a few years now. My mother bought it about 20 years ago. It was a library book. Our family were related to Gregory Peck,so Mum always had an iterest in anything of a ‘Peck’ nature. Gregory Peck’s father had married an Irish women called Ashe,blah, blah ,blah.
    Anyway a 1st edition of this book states it’s a first edition, there is nothing else, there are no congress numbers, or ISBN numbers. The real thing…….before Coke changed the formula !!

  • Debby Bourgeois

    I have a 1960 21st Impression of To Kill a Mockingbird with no dust jacket. Would anyone know how much it would be worth? It is brown with a green spine hardcover and 296 pages.

  • robert

    I have To Kill A Mockingbird, inscribed to my grandmother and signed by the author- 1960 copy with ( fourth impression)no dust jacket. What do you think I can sell it for?

  • Paul Olguin

    I have a copy of the book that says “Twenty Third Impression” it is copyrighted 1960. So does this mean that it is the 23rd edition? What does impression mean?

  • Theresa A. Stevens

    8.3.10
    I have a copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird” Copyright 1960 and inscribed by the owner 8/60. It is brown with black spine and the cover is identical to the one described as a first edition. It does, however, have a note on the inside dust cover “book club edition.”
    From what I’m reading above Book Club editions are worth nothing?? I wouldn’t sell it anyway due to its deep sentimental worth but was curious why, when its identical would a Book Club edition be such a pariah.
    Thank you.
    p.s. to me it is priceless

  • Theresa A. Stevens

    8.3.10
    As a p.p.s. to the above question about “Book Club” editions my copy has the b/w photo by Truman Capote on the back dust cover with his credits (name) below the photo.

  • Bobby Foote

    I have a copy of To kill a Mockingbird which I beleive was produced prior to actual printing by the publisher. It was given to my mother by Harper Lee after the doctor she worked for had Harper Lee as a patient. My mother said after her appointment Harper went to the car and came back with the book which she gave to her saying it would soon be in stores. It only has the copyright 1960 and is light brown or grey with a black left end with white lettering. The only signature is my mother’s name in the front inside (she will be 98 in a few days). Any idea of what the value might be if I ever decide to sell?

    • Toady

      Hi- when you say ‘black left end’ do you mean the spine? Is this book bound like a large paperback or does it have a black plastic comb binding (like mine) or perhaps bound with black manuscript tape ?Where is the lettering and what does it say? Thanks- Toady

  • Bobby Foote

    Sorry it took so long to reply — Obviously I am not familar with the termanolgy but the spine is black and approximately 1 inch wide both front and back. I am not sure how it is bound but there is no black tape or plastic. Actually it appears yellow but that may due to age. The bottom and top of the spine each have a design like a flower and a vine all in white lettering. The upper part says Harper Lee and the bottom says Littincott. The title TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is in large white letters. My son tells me this is probably a “publishers edition”.
    Hope this helps.

  • Toady

    Hi Bobby- As far as I have found out in researching mine that there are some ambiguities with this title.(go to Abebooks.com; click on used books and enter Lee in the Author spot and advance in the keyword and hit search) There seems to be two states of the ARC (advance reading copy) and neither describes yours. Mine is what is called a Crane for it was done by Crane Duplicating Service and predates the ARCs and is therefore rarer and thus more valuable (an Arc markets from 6,000 – 19,000) It really sounds like you have something possibly like a bound manuscript or a working proof or a special arc made for the author or finally a third state of an advance. Does it state: uncorrected proof on it (Mine states it on the front cover). If you go to Abebooks, you can see a couple pics of an ARC. There is also an Arc for the first UK edition as well, but I don’t think it was by Lippincott. As for value it could be high. I will check back here more often. There is very little out there on pre-publication for this but you have great provenance on this one. Also, i am not an expert however I have been collecting ARCs and Proofs for a lot of years. Let me know what you think and thanks for responding. I would love to see it!! All best- Toady

  • Toady

    Hi Bobby- Add to kill a mockingbird in the ‘title’ of the search being done at Abebooks.com. Needed to clarify that- Toady

  • Marym

    I have been looking for a copy of this book for a little while for my grandaughter, and since finding that any copies worth having, were very highly priced, I decided, like many others here, to do some investigation. Some of you may find the following site useful, as not all book club versions are valueless according to:

    http://modernfirsteditions.net/to-kill-a-mockingbird-by-harper-lee/

  • Jeff

    Hello all,
    I have a true first editions of this book and am interested in selling due the poor economy and having bills to pay. Any suggestions as to the best place to advertise the book? The dust cover is long gone but the book is in better condition than most I’ve see.

  • Judy McBrayer

    i am looking for a value on a 24th impression 7th printing signed by harper lee to kill a mockingbird

  • William

    Hi, I recently found a 1960 copy of To Kill A Mockingbird with a brown board and green cloth spine.

    The only information listed about it’s edition is a sole “W” under the copyright information. There is a small brown indentation similar to a BOCM blind stamp on the back spine. It’s 296 pages long.

    Can it be decided it’s a BOCM book?

  • John J

    I have what may be a book club TKAM with black spine and tan boards in VG condition. It has no ISBN. Copyright 1960. It does not state “First Edition.”
    What makes it unique is that both Mary Badham and Phil Alford signed the title page (in my presence, and I have a photo of the 3 of us as provenance.)
    Of course, my question is “how do I determine a fair market value?”
    Thanks in advance. JJ

  • Angela Duvane

    I have a “Third Impression” edition. The cover is completely green with white writing. The dust jacket has the picture on the back. I value this book because it was a library book at a Southern Women’s College starting in 1962 (with the last stamp in 1966) and it was a gift. I am curious of the value though, and have found nothing online about a full green hardcover third impression copy. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!!!

  • Addison

    I have a first edition eleventh impression book, good condition no dust cover. how much would that be worth and how much if it did have a dust cover?

  • Gonzalo

    My book says COPYRYGHT © 1960 BY HARPER LEE
    PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    I thought it was a first edition, it does not say it.
    It also says J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY PHILADELPHIA & NEW YORK
    It is a hard cover with 255 pages.

  • ellen B

    I have been searching for a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a bookseller has one to sell, says it is a 1st edition second impression, however, when he sent a picture of the copyright page, it only said second impression, no mention of first edition. He wanted 1000. for it. What do you think?

  • Bob Currlet

    Alot of people are asking about the W. The W means it is a particular book club edition. This book has came out with many types of book club editions. If on the copyright page it only mentions the date with no edition or impression, it is a BCE.

    Book club features:

    All Black and Thin = Book Club
    Black Quarter Spine, the rest grey = Book Club
    Any book with the “W” = Book Club
    Any book with a listed impression (i.e. 24 Impression) with a W underneath = Book Club.

    Usually, sellers will have a 7th printing dust jacket mix-matched with a later impression. This is a clue that the book’s DJ is a facsimile.

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