Before the world's favourite spy became a movie franchise to rival even the might of Star Wars, James Bond was a character bursting to life on page from the pen of author Ian Fleming (1908-1964).
Collecting Ian Fleming novels is something that many find rewarding and these rare books are bound to find an appreciative home if you intend to give them as a gift.
But what do you need to know if you plan to start collecting Jams Bond novels, or Ian Fleming first editions?
Ian Fleming novels
Ian Fleming is best known for his Bond books, which make up the vast majority of his published work. Ian Fleming's first book was also the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, and his final book was Octopussy and The Living Daylights, a two-story book published posthumously in 1966 (later editions would go on to include additional short stories The Property of a Lady and 007 in New York). However throughout his writing career Fleming also published a few other books.
As well as James Bond, Ian Fleming created another household name - the colourful car Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, first published in 1964 and adapted for the screen in 1968, with a screenplay by none other than novelist Roald Dahl.
Two other books complete the non-Bond Ian Fleming bibliography, and they're both non-fiction. The Diamond Smugglers, published in 1957, is an account of Fleming's meeting with John Collard, a member of the International Diamond Security Organisation (IDSO), and 1963 saw the publication of his travelogue Thrilling Cities, a look at 13 cities around the world the author visited in 1959 and 1960.
All Ian Fleming first editions are published by Jonathan Cape.
Ian Fleming non-Bond first edition dates
- The Diamond Smuggers first edition published 1957
- Thrilling Cities first edition published in 1963
- Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang first edition published 1964
What to look out for with James Bond first editions
• It should say Jonathan Cape on the title page;
• It should say “first published…” with the correct year (and no other) on the back of the title page (see below)
• To be truly collectable it should also be in its original dust jacket which should be in a good condition. You can tell is an original jacket as it won’t have any quotations from critics.
James Bond first edition publish dates
All books should be Jonathan Cape, London
- Casino Royale first edition published 1953
- Live and Let Die first edition published 1954
- Moonraker first edition published 1955
- Diamonds are Forever first edition published 1956
- From Russia, with Love first edition published 1957
- Dr. No first edition published 1958
- Goldfinger first edition published 1959
- For Your Eyes Only first edition published 1960
- Thunderball first edition published 1961
- The Spy who Loved Me first edition published 1962
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service first edition published 1963
- You Only Live Twice first edition published 1964
- The Man with the Golden Gun first edition published 1965
- Octopussy and The Living Daylights first edition published 1966
How much do first edition James Bond books sell for?
Prices for James Bond first edition books can vary depending on condition and scarcity. In March 2020 a first edition of Casino Royal described as "a crisp and bright example of Fleming's first novel" sold at auction for £13,500, while later that same year an edition described as having "light rubbing to head and upper cover... light fading to spine... light creasing to head" sold for £7,500. This demonstrates how much prices can vary even for the same first edition, and the price difference between each different book can be even greater, with some of the later books being around £100 or less, depending on how easy they are to get ahold of and what condition they are in.
If you have a first edition James Bond novel you can get an idea of value by visiting Forum Auctions and examining the 'full details' of recent sales to find an edition that roughly matches your own copy.
Are some James Bond books more collectable than others?
When The Man with the Golden Gun was first published, a very small number of copies were decorated with a golden gun on the front of the book. Unfortunately, this was quickly abandoned for economic reasons so books with a golden gun on them are rare and will fetch more money.
Ian Fleming signed a limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service books which are also rare.
Scarcity plays a role in determining the value. Very few copies of the first three books were published (Casino Royale, Live & Let Die and Moonraker) whereas Octopussy, Ian Fleming’s last book, had a much larger print run and is therefore much more common, so fine copies start from just £65.
Apart from the above, the price of Ian Fleming collectibles depends on their condition. Perfect copies cost tens of thousands of pounds with an edition of Casino Royale fetching £50,000 in 2013, whilst nice ones are available from only a few hundred pounds.
Special dedications can also increase the value of the book, and Peter Harrington auctioned an 81-piece collection of rare Ian Fleming books including first edition books inscribed to prominent figures such as Robert Kennedy and Winston Churchill, for £2.5m. One book is even signed to James Bond, a fan who happened to share the name of Fleming's super spy. In 2020, the same book dealer listed a collection of books inscribed to Ian Fleming's friends and mistresses for £500,000.
Peter Harrington, established in 1969, is one of the leading rare book dealers in the world. For over 50 years they have dealt with thousands of rare books, from classic Shakespeare to the Harry Potter series. Peter Harrington have two shops in London (Mayfair and Chelsea) and they specialise in fine books dating from the 15th to the 20th century. For more information go to peterharrington.co.uk
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