Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Much Is a L. Frank Baum Inscribed Wizard of Oz Worth?

by Stephen J. Gertz

'Twas Mr Dooley dear Mr Dooley,
 He said: 'I'll live and die in
 Mosquitoes charm me
They cannot harm me
 For I am Mr. Dooley-ooley-oo!

 August 17th
 L. Frank Baum.

Nate D. Sanders Auctions is now offering a first edition copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first volume in the Oz series. The book is in the second state, and in binding variant C.  It is in awful condition, grimy, worn, and lacking two plates. On a good day, it's a $2,000 - $2,500 book.

But it has something very special going for it. L. Frank Baum inscribed it with a whimsical verse. 

Signed or inscribed copies of The Wonderful Wizard... are quite rare. Sanders is offering it for $45,000. The inscription increases the copy's value by a factor of twenty-two.

A fine, untouched first edition, second state copy of the book is currently being offered by David Brass Rare Books for $35,000. It contains an inscription that reads "To my dear Lyman with a Merry Christmas greeting from Aunt Maud / 1901." Baum's wife was named Maud. The "L" in L. Frank Baum stands for "Lyman." In consultation with Justin Schiller and Baum co-bibliographer, Peter E. Greene, the leading authorities in the field, we were unable to find a connection to a nephew named Lyman, and the handwriting seemed a bit off from the few samples of Maud Baum's  that were examined. The tantalizing possibility still exists that the inscription is Maud Baum's but we had to price the book on its condition alone.

The inscribed Armour copy sold at Christie's - New York in 2005 for $100,000, one of only two signed first editions to fall under the hammer since 1975. That copy was presumably  a first state copy (the auction record is unclear), and included a signed  autographed letter (ALs).

Included with the Sanders copy is a letter of provenance from the granddaughter of the original recipient, Dorothy Lake. Within she relates that her grandmother was 11 years old in 1902 and went on a holiday every summer to Waukazoo on the shores of Lake Michigan. Baum was reportedly charmed by Miss Lake and by the coincidence of meeting a real Dorothy in the same resort area in which he wrote portions of The Wonderful Wiz...

This rich letter of provenance cast this as a Presentation copy, and Presentation copies of Baum's masterpiece are extremely  scarce on the market, those with verse inscriptions particularly so. 

The Rechler copy, the only other copy inscribed in verse that I am aware of, was offered by Christie's - New York in 2002. It had some spotting and soiling, and a small margin tear to one of the plates. It sold for $130,000. Without the inscription its value would be around fifteen-to-twenty percent lower than the DBRB copy, $28,000 - $29,750. By that formula, the inscription was valued by the buyer at $100,250 - $102,000.

$45,000 (OBO) is a fair price for the Sanders copy, perhaps a little shy. It's a wreck but it will sell.


The Sanders copy:

BAUM, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Illustrated by W.W. Denslow. Chicago: George Hill Company: 1900. First edition, inscribed by the author with an original verse. Original pictorial cloth stamped in red and green (variant "C"). Leaf with inscription is browned and a little chipped at edges and with a 2-inch closed tear through "A" of "August." Plates and text leaves frayed with some extremity loss. With 22 color plates, missing the two facing pages 80 and 254. Volume has been rebacked with original spine laid down, to an attractive, presentable condition though boards still remain heavily soiled.

Blanck, Peter Parley to Penrod, pp. 111-113. Greene and Hanff, pp. 25-27.

Second state points: p. [2], the publisherís advertisement is not enclosed in a box; p. 14, line 1 begins: ìlow wail ofÖî; p. 81, the fourth line from bottom has ìpiecesî; p. [227], line 1 begins: "While The Woodman"; and the colophon on the rear pastedown is set in thirteen lines and is not enclosed in a box, with the initial letter in black; with broken type in the last line of p. 100 and p. 186. The verso of the title has the copyright notice.

Variant C Binding:  Light green cloth pictorially stamped and lettered in red and a darker green with the publisherís imprint at foot of spine in plain, unserifed type, stamped in red rather than green, and with the ìCî of Co.î encircling the ìoî). Color pictorial pastedown endpapers (the front pastedown printed in black and gray and the rear pastedown printed in black and red). Issued without free endpapers.

Images courtesy of Nate Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.

1 comment:

  1. I have an August 1900 Wizard of Oz book and wondering the price


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