ERB: In Focus

ERB in Focus

Robert Zeuschner

How can I tell what I have?

The average query regarding ERB books for valuation and collectibility to the ERB list servers usually lacks pertinent information.

First of all, the condition of the book(s) is not only important, it is crucial.

If the described book is a first edition, then a like-new copy might be worth $100, but a barely intact copy will be worth $5 or $10.

Second, the publisher and actual date of publication is critical for value determination.

Each and every Tarzan book displays the first edition date on the copyright page, therefore, that date will not tell you anything about the actual publication date of any book. The first edition publisher of the early Edgar Rice Burroughs novels is A. C. McClurg. The first reprint publisher is A. L. Burt, with many volume reprints appearing continuously between 1915 and 1925. After 1925, Grosset & Dunlap reprinted the books continuously into the 1960s. These latter editions are not as desirable as the more rare (so to speak) McClurg editions.

To determine the actual date of publication of Grosset & Dunlap books, we need to know the color of the cloth cover (bright red, brick red, tan, etc.) and the number of interior illustrations (one frontispiece, no frontispiece, a line drawing on the title page, etc.). These are necessary to determine the actual print run and date of the volume. Also, is there a color applied to the top of the pages, such as yellow or green? A further indicator of volume age is how many Burroughs books are advertised in the pages at the back of the book.

Determining worth of any volume requires precise descriptions regarding the condition of the book. If the covers are worn, or torn, this must be revealed. If the print on the spine is clean and shiny, or worn off, say so, the former is a plus, the latter is a hit on value.

Common reprints in poor condition, such as the G&D volumes or the self-destructive Madison Square editions, have little or no value to Burroughs collectors, though these might, in decades to come, have more value.

Finally, ultimately, and repeated ad nauseum: condition is everything.