Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Collecting Christie

So on my 55th birthday, it seems appropriate to talk about a lifelong passion which has been to collect Agatha Christie firsts. As with many things in my life, I literally stumbled into it, but that's fine with me. The fun has definitely been in the journey.

As I've shared many times before, my love of all things Christie began with The Underdog and Other Stories, a short story collection that my dad gave me from a yard sale. Given his ways, I'm betting that he likely paid a nickel or dime for it. He gave it to me and suggested that I might like it. He was right (to say the least.)

I had yet to start reading mysteries, and that led me to begin devouring as many of the books as I could. The nearest bookstore was a place called The Little Professor, a mall bookstore with a limited number of Agatha Christie paperbacks. Since I read many of them multiple times, I soon realized that it was cheaper in the long-run to buy hardcovers. My editions of Elephants Can Remember and Passenger to Frankfort came in (special order) with the words "first edition" inside. I had to ask what those were, but the woman at the store explained to me what it meant and why those were more valuable.

It wasn't long before I was collecting in earnest. My favorite dealer was Bill Dunn. For those of you who knew him, Bill ran a mail-order business out of CT. He sent these thick catalogs out every month and I waited anxiously to see what he had and what I could afford.

I don't know where I found Bill. It may have been in the ads from one of the mystery magazines like TAD or The Mystery FANcier. I don't recall, but his catalogs became the highlight of the month for me.

Around the time of my high school graduation, which occurred slightly more than 35 years ago, Bill advertised a first edition of Styles from Lane for $100. Being flush from my graduation gifts, I bought the copy. It was the only one I ever saw advertised (until Abebooks came around.)

My oddest edition is a copy of Styles with the dj and binding for Curtain that was published around the time that Christie passed away. I also have a NZ first of The Moving Finger, which a dealer would not allow me to return (though the book was misidentified.)

I finished my collection by the time I was 30, though I've had to update things from time to time. There was a collector from AK who helped me when I learned that a few of my 1950s editions were actually book club editions (the only difference was the booklist in the front of the book). That was quickly corrected.

Currently, I'm trying to round out my collection by replacing some first with those having a dust jacket. The newest volume that does not have a jacket is Ordeal By Innocence, so if you're in the mood to get me a birthday or Christie for Christmas -- you know what to look for.


  1. That's a very complete collection, I'm very impressed Jeffrey.

  2. Thanks for giving us a little peek at your collection, Jeffrey. Like Moira, I'm very impressed!

  3. I have a third printing of Ten Little Urmwellahs that includes all the controversial language that has been removed from modern editions, including the antisemitic thoughts of one of these characters. As someone who writes about old books, I like to have the original language in a book accessible even when it's objectionable, as the original English title of that particular book surely is. Also I have a first of Lord Edgware Dies. With Christie though I have always enjoyed collecting paperback editions. She is so associated in my mind with paperbacks, having read her as a kid when that was all I could afford!

  4. Curt, it's funny that you associate her with paperbacks. Even the first Christies I read were hardback. So she's firmly associated with hardbacks in my mind.

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