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Determining the Current Value of the Catcher in the Rye (SEP 26, 2018)

Determining the Current Value of the Catcher in the Rye

What gives a book value?

How and why do books gain or lose value over time?

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged conduct while a seventeen-year-old student at Georgetown Preparatory School is currently the news of the day and the subject of the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee meeting on September 27, 2018. The issues that are before Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley this week were also the undercurrents that vexed Holden Caufield. The fictional Caufield continually contemplated throughout the book about what Ward Stradlater had done or may have done to Jane Gallagher. J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, the Catcher in the Rye, was about currently relevant subject matter. This edition of the Captain’s Log steps into the 20th Century literary classic minefield: the Catcher in the Rye. We explore the mysteries as to why some books such as the Catcher in the Rye increase in value over time.

Catcher in the Rye has a very real international mystique. The Lead Curator of American Collections, Mercedes Aguirre, at the British Library in London wrote: “It is also one of the most censored books in American literature…. the debate around the book is still very much alive today. Salinger’s novel was listed in the top ten most frequently banned books in schools and school libraries in 2001, 2005 and 2009, according to the yearly list provided by the American Library Association.”[1] Catcher’s subject matter is edgy, provocative and disturbing. Many have said the book is not appropriate for American teenagers to read.

The Book Depository states, “it remains one of the most translated, taught and reprinted texts, and has sold some 65 million copies.”[2] Catcher’s original publisher, Little, Brown and Company was started in 1937. Hachett Book Group (HBG) now owns Little, Brown and Company. HGB states “the novel remains widely read and controversial, selling around 250,000 copies a year.”[3] A hardcover Catcher in the Rye that was published on February 16, 2018 sells for $26 new. A single 2018 mass market paperback lists for $8.99. The publisher also has a centennial edition trade paperback that sells new, for: $16.99.[4] Anyway you do the general math, the Catcher in the Rye is a book that allegedly generates millions of dollars in world-wide book sales every year. On average, the book is sold 685 times a day- every year. What kind of book of fiction continually sells, on average, six hundred newly minted copies a day?

Originally, the book made its July of 1951 debut into this world at a price of three dollars. Today, a July 1951 book club edition with a photo of the author on the dust jacket that is in good condition is worth hundreds of dollars.[5] On line book dealers list book club editions with the acronym: BCE. It is “generic term denoting a book which was produced or distributed by one of any number of book club organizations. Usually the overall quality of the book's materials is lower than the same book as printed by a traditional publishing house.”[6] While a 1951 book club edition is worth hundreds of dollars, a true First Edition in good condition sells for thousands of dollars.

The first key take-away is that dust jackets matter. A hard-bound book with a dust jacket will generally have a higher monetary value, than a book lacking its original dust jacket. The inside flap of the dust jacket often has the publisher’s recommended selling price printed onto the jacket. When people give books as a gift, some snip the price off the dust jacket. A dust jacket missing the originally listed price is termed: “price clipped.” Books sellers will also clip off the price of over stocked books to avoid customer confusion.[7]

Customers are occasionally disappointed when they try to sell me what they think is a valuable first edition book. If it lacks a dust jacket or the dust jacket has been clipped, the likelihood is that I will have a hard time finding a buyer willing to pay a princely sum. Therefore, I am very selective when it comes to dispensing of funds for a pre-owned first edition book.

Recently, what appears to be a sixty-seven-year-old book that could have almost disguised itself as “new” slipped into the store. Pre-owned book dealers generally do not use the term “new.” New is a term for books the come straight from the publisher to the book dealer. Pre-owned books that possess the qualities of a new book, get rated as: “Very Fine.” Our book that entered the store has a few scuffs on the feet and head of the dust jacket due to its 67-year journey, so it is more in the “Very Good” Category. Books take on a humanistic quality. We assess the book’s condition, in part- by how well the head, spine and feet have weathered the ravages of time. This book’s general lack of scars and blemishes are a complete story unto itself.

The book was reportedly reprinted five times in July 1951. There were three reprints in August of 1951. Two reprints were conducted in September of 1951.[8] Little, Brown and Company published the book with a title page stating July 1951. The reverse side of the title page is a copyright page. It is on the copyright page that “FIRST EDITION” will be found, if the book is a true first edition. The words are at the top of the page underneath the copyright. Those twelve letters are the primary, initial means of determining if your JULY 1951 book is a true first edition, or simply a Book Club edition.

Each publishing house has specific attributes that they use to denote a first edition.

The fictional character Holden Caufield mentioned “phony” thirty-five times.[9] If your back cover of the hard-bound book has a small indentation by the spine, you have what is called a blind stamp. The Advanced Book Exchange ( has a superb BCE definition that states:

Book Club Edition (bc, bce)

A separate edition of a book usually printed especially for a book club such as "The Book of the Month Club" or "The Literary Guild." These copies will usually have the words "Book Club Edition" printed on the bottom right corner of the front flap of the dust wrapper. Occasionally, if the book club does not wish to do a separate edition they will have a publisher blind stamp on the rear board and print a supply of dust wrappers without a price on the front flap and now without the bar code on the rear panel. Book Clubs are not solely an American phenomenon as there have been numerous British Book Clubs over the years.[10]


An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not colored or gilded, usually appearing on the binding. One way that the Book Clubs have marked their editions when they are otherwise identical to trade editions is to use a small square, round or sometimes leaf-shaped blind stamp in the bottom right corner of the rear board.[11]"

A sharp book club edition of the Catcher in the Rye has value. The Book Club Edition (BCE) dust jackets with Salinger’s photo are worth more than those without the photo. The original BCE dust jackets looked very similar to the original FIRST EDITIONS that had a price on the inside cover and a photo of Salinger on the back of the dust cover. (The term dust cover, jacket or wrapper can be interchangeably used.) The original BCEs have a couple hundred-dollar value because they are similar to the original FIRST EDITIONS. An original FIRST EDITION in very good condition runs from $6,000 to $10,000, up to $25,000. Thus, BCEs remain popular, particularly for the beginning book collectors.

Photo of Catcher in the Rye Book Club Edition Blind Stamp on back cover.

You can stop by the Captain’s Book Shoppe and pick up a pre-owned paperback copy of the Catcher in the Rye for $2. (While supplies last.) We also have other editions of the book that are gorgeous. Please stop on by and take a look. Browsers Welcome!

I welcome your observations about the general topic of book collecting or about this specific book: the Catcher in the Rye. Books have multiple stories to tell. There is the actual narration printed on the pages. Additionally, the public’s reaction to the content can create a whole different story. The continual ebb and flow sensations about the Catcher in the Rye helps to illustrate not only literary history, but it gives us an insight to our collective cultural and political mindset over time. J.D. Salinger was of course, only talking about fiction. His novel touched upon scores of timeless themes that not only youth, but entire humankind continually struggles.


July 26, 2022 Update:

AbeBOOKS reported on July 11, 2022, that a First Edition Catcher in the Rye with dust jacket sold on their site for $13,750 during the April to June 2022. time period. [Most expensive sales from April to June 2022 ( accessed July 24, 2022).

First edition photos (black background) used with written permission from Abe Books.

[1] (Accessed, August 28, 2018).

[2] (Accessed, August 28, 2018).

[3] (Accessed, September 6, 2018).

[4] (Accessed, September 6, 2018).

[5] (Accessed August 23, 2018).

[6] (Accessed 23, 2018).

[7] (Accessed September 26, 2018).

[8] (Accessed 26, 2018)

[9] (Accessed 28, 2018).

[10] (Accessed 26, 2018).

[11] (Accessed 26, 2018).

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