First Edition 'Hobbit' Inscribed By J.R.R. Tolkien Sets Huge New Sales Record, Because Fans Will Pay A TON For a Rare Book

NEWMARKET, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08: The auctioneers gavel during the Tattersalls sales in Newmarket on October 08, 2014 in Newmarket, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Source: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

If you think you'd shell out a lot for a rare book, I bet you wouldn't pay this much. At a recent auction a first edition copy of The Hobbit inscribed by J.R.R. Tolkien fetched — are you ready for it? — £137,000, or about $209,000. The buyer paid an unprecedented amount for the rare book, exceeding even the already-staggering projected sale price. 

Leading up to the auction, The Guardian reports that the book was expected to go for between £50,000 and £70,000. Until that point, the most a copy of The Hobbit had fetched was around £50,000, back in 2008. Altough a record at the time, it looks like a steal in comparison to the latest sale. Book collectors can get seriously into it.

So, what made this particular copy so special that someone was willing to pay for it more than cost of my college education (and without the help of Sallie Mae, mind you)? Besides the fact that people love The Hobbit, it’s one of only a “handful” of inscribed presentation copies. The exclusive group to whom Tolkien gifted them includes the likes of his buddy C.S. Lewis. (I don’t think I even want to know how much that copy would sell for. Probably the equivalent of my undergrad plus a hypothetical medical degree.) This particular book was given to Katherine Kilbride. Now deceased, she was a student of the author at Leeds University back in the 1920s.

This makes me curious to see how high bidding will go when famed author Harper Lee auctions off six of her letters this week…

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