First-edition vintage books worth up to £140,000 – is one on your bookshelf?

First-edition vintage books are driving prices higher – collectors will pay up to £140k for rare editions. Is it time to dust off your old bookshelves?

Original first edition of the vintage book Robinson Crusoe by English author Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many of us grew up reading classics like Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - but how much are the collectables worth?

Like vinyl records, old VHS tapes and even Barbie dolls, early and special editions of classic children’s novels are sometimes passed down as heirlooms and often have incredible value. 

If you have managed to hold on to these vintage books, you could be sitting on a fortune of up to £140k. 

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A dusty old first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has an average valuation of £139,356, according to research by specialist home insurer Homeprotect.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe has an average first-edition listing price of £39,221.

We reveal how much some early copies of classic books could be worth – time to rummage through your bookshelves to see if you have any hidden away.

Top 10 vintage books worth up to £140,000

Taking the top spot as the biggest literary hidden treasure is Jane Austen’s beloved young adult classic Pride and Prejudice, with some first-edition copies listed for £139,356.

Originally published in 1813, early editions of the story sold for 18 shillings, equating to roughly £52 in today’s money, a value increase of 267,892%.

Austen’s classic love story is her most popular, having sold 20 million copies globally since it was first published, equating to over two-thirds of her total book sales.

The second most popular classic children’s book is the adventure novel Robinson Crusoe by 18th-century writer Daniel Defoe.

Considered “the first English novel”, it was published in 1719 at an estimated price of five shillings (£36.89 in 2023) - a 106,219% price increase over 200 years.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit first edition is the third most valuable, with an average listing value of £27,174.

Upon its initial publication in 1937, just 1,500 copies were released and each novel was sold for roughly £17.81 (when adjusted for inflation), an increase of 142,329%.

The fourth and fifth most valuable first editions are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with first-edition listings averaging at £20,381 and £18,735, respectively.

Carroll’s fantastical tale has sold approximately 100 million copies since its publication in 1865, and its initial pricing of four shillings is worth roughly £16.54 today, a 123,126% increase.

Dickens’ Christmas tale sold out just five days after it was published in 1843, and its five-shilling value is now equal to roughly £19.08 (a 98,094% increase in value).

We look at how much each of these vintage books could be worth: 

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - £139,356

2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - £39,221

3. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - £27,174

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - £20,381

5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - £18,735

6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - £16,953

7. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome - £15,133

8. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - £13,353

9. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne - £12,383

10. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm - £10,008

Other vintage books worth up to £13,000

Households with rare copies may still be able to find some value in other classic novels. 

Another study by All Top Books has revealed some early copies that could be worth up to £13,000. This includes some of Britain’s most loved storybooks by Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie.

In first place is Ian Fleming’s James Bond: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, whose rare copy could be worth a whopping £13,000. Most of these have been snapped up by collectors but if you’ve got a copy, you may be in luck. 

Harry Potter fanatics with first-print, first-edition copies may also find their rare copies are worth thousands. Vintages doing the rounds now include Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, worth up to £5,000. Those with signed editions could be looking at six-figure sums. 

Those who love a murder mystery may find that Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie could fetch them up to £5,000. 

Meanwhile, if you own an Alice in Wonderland with the Riccardi Press Edition, it could be worth around the £2,000 mark. 

Here are the top vintage books that could fetch you thousands. 

1. James Bond: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming - £13,000

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling - £5,000

3. Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle - £5,000

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin - £2,500

5. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - £2,000

6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling - £2,000

7. N or M? By Agatha Christie- £2,000

8. Now We Are Six, Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne - £2,000 

9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - £1,000

10. The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse by Beatrix Potter - £1,000

Should you sell off your vintage classics?

While many have an attachment to the books they’ve collected over the years, selling off your collectables could be an option if you no longer regularly interact with your rare finds. It can be worth a lot more to someone else as a form of art or to preserve its good condition. 

Dilip Sinha, director of All Top Books said: “Most households possess at least a few books here and there with many of us holding on to our favourites for many years. But most people fail to realise how valuable books can be with many making excellent investments. 

“The good news is that there are thousands of these books still out there undiscovered on bookshelves so it is definitely worth dusting down that old collection and turning the pages to see if you have an early edition.”

Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.

With contributions from