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. Typically 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.
The 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.