10 first-edition books worth up to £140,000

If you have a vintage book lying around, it could be worth a small fortune. We reveal 10 classics that could net you thousands of pounds - time to check the attic for any hidden treasures.

(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 vintage jewellery, classic watches, old VHS tapes and even Barbie dolls, first-edition books are often worth a small fortune.

Early and special editions of classic children’s novels are sometimes passed down as heirlooms, and over the years, can gain incredible value. 

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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 the most valuable first-edition classic books - time to check your attic to see if you have any hidden away!

Top 10 first-edition books - ranked by average listing price

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

How much have classic books increased in value by?

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).

David Joyson, chief customer officer at Homeprotect, comments: “It’s amazing to see how much the value of these novels has increased, and during tough financial times, it may inspire a lot of us to dig through our garages, attics, and storage units for hidden treasures that may be worth far more than expected.

“First-edition books are a highly collectable but often overlooked and underestimated item of value, so before you give away or donate your old children’s books, do your research to ensure you aren’t throwing away a small fortune!”

Homeprotect conducted the study by looking at Penguin’s “Top 100 Children’s Books”, adding a few extra children’s classics from a previous study, and then searching for them in AbeBooks, a popular site for selling rare books online. It looked at “most recently listed” first-edition books, and ignored listings of books in extremely poor condition, or those with bespoke author signatures/letters/illustrations included. The estimated prices may not include taxes or shipping fees. 

Ruth Emery

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.