“Romance Novel - The Forlorn Collectible”

Bitchery reader Darlynne forwarded me links to’s newsletter article this month, which focuses on romance novels as collectibles.

Now, E. D’Trix sent me a business card holder made out of an old Harlequin cover and she bought herself one made from the cover of a book that I believe is called “The Pink Phaeton.” Cover arts and crafts aside, however, is there a market for collecting romance novels themselves?

G.A. Hazelwood writes an interesting article about romance novels as collectible items that, as Darlynne says, errors in grammar notwithstanding, is not the least bit condescending. In fact, given this quote, I might go so far as to say that Hazelwood “gets it:” “few seem to take the romance novel with much seriousness, except their readers and fans of the genre.” Mr. Hazelwood, come on over here and sit here by me.

Does anyone out there collect romance novels, such as the first editions of favorite authors? Signed editions? Or just favorite books to re-read until the cover splits and falls off? Some books, such as Laura London’s The Windflower are listed for more than $29 US, while others are merely $1. Do you have a romance collection that’s potentially worth a good deal?



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  1. 1
    Nifty says:

    I don’t have a collection that’s worth a good deal of money, but I have one or two books that sell for bigger bucks out on Ebay or places like that.  I have a copy of Nora’s “Promise Me Tomorrow”.  I paid $50 for it many years ago when I was trying to collect all of her books. If I could get at least that amount of money for it, I’d be willing to sell it.

    I also have a copy of Stormfire by Christine Monson, which I know is selling used on Amazon for about $29 right now.  But seeing as that’s one of my favorite books and one I re-read every year or so, I’m not likely to try to sell it.

  2. 2

    I don’t collect, but I do re-read until the pages flutter out and the front covers rip/fall off. Then I go out and buy a newer copy to re-read. Rinse and repeat.

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    I just went back through my buying history and I paid over $15 for my copy of The Windflower. I wonder if there’s a collector who has compiled a list of rare, valuable romance paperbacks?

  4. 4
    Dragonette says:

    i used to collect them; i had over 3,000 at one point, before i decided to stop pack-ratting.  i donated them to a library that nearly wept.  from gratitude, i’m sure.

    i know a couple of people that collect them and have custom-made bookshelves installed on nearly every wall of their house.

    rabid fans, ahoy!

  5. 5
    Karen says:

    Oh jesus, I’ve totally read The Pink Phaeton. It was…pretty terrible, actually. Creating something crafty out of the cover is probably the best thing you can do with the book.

  6. 6
    Phyl says:

    I have a complete collection of Mary Balogh’s paperbacks. I spent some big bucks for about a half dozen of the older, rarer Signet trads. I imagine I could get some or all of my money back if I wanted to sell them now. But I know Ms. Balogh is working at getting her back list republished. As that happens, I assume the value of my collection decreases. But I never thought of these books as a financial investment. I just fell in love with her writing and HAD to have them. Same with my copy of The Windflower and probably a few other older books in my collection. They’re for me. Just me.

  7. 7
    Eli says:

    I find it difficult to get rid of books. After years as a military brat with enforced purging of books to keep down the move weight and many of the “oh crap, what was the title of that book with the (fill in the blank)”, I reacted by keeping pretty much anything I read once I was in a pretty stable location. I do have all but about 5 of the Loveswepts published before the line was discontinued. At this point there are boxes that I haven’t gone through in years.
    I tried to come up with a rough count once.  I gave up when I hit 1000 (and that was just romances.) I am an omnivorous reader, so I also have a considerable collection of non-fiction and other genre fiction.

  8. 8

    I collect vintage Dell mapback romances. Most mapback collectors collect mysteries, so I can usually pick the romances up cheap. I sometimes collect other pulp romances, and I like hardback romances from the 20s and early 30s—lots of show-biz stories about brave Midwestern girls who go off to Hollywood or New York to find their fortune and end up being pursued by both a billionaire playboy and a poor (but honest) Boy With A Dream. Of course, they always end up with the BWAD. I love those.

    I also collect all the Faith Baldwin I can get my hands on. She was extremely prolific, so I still don’t have every title, even though I’ve been collecting her since 1979.

    I’m sure that none of mine are worth as much as the modern firsts that some of you collect… I just like them. :-)

  9. 9
    fiveandfour says:

    I have only a couple of signed books and any first editions that are valuable would be by accident only.  So far as I know I have only 1 book with any particular value beyond the greatness of its story and it’s not in the romance genre.

    I do sometimes wonder if the family would find any surprises if I were to go before them and they had the fun of getting rid of my books.  I’m sure they wouldn’t let *all* of them go, but 99% of them are goners I’m fairly certain.  (In return, my husband gets to wonder what’ll happen to his music, so it’s a fair trade).

    I do have all but about 5 of the Loveswepts published before the line was discontinued

    Eli, I have a friend who had saved all of her Loveswepts for years – I wonder if she still has them (or more accurately, I wonder if her mother still has them).  I think with fondness of some of the books from that line once in awhile; I remember quite enjoying a good number of them.

  10. 10
    Sarah Frantz says:

    I know one of Suzanne Brockmann’s books used to go for $1000 on eBay.  Long story, found here, and it’s been reissued now, so that $1000 is worthless.  ;)

    I’m not a collector.  I’ve got three books that are over 200 years old, but they’ve got personal connections for me, so I keep them for that reason, rather than because they’re valuable, because they’re not really.

  11. 11
    JSTOYJOHN says:

    I guess it’s up to who you ask. I don’t collect books I read them. My husband hopes if anything ever happens to me they are worth something…he thinks I’m a collector.

    I have lots of books. Not for collecting but for re-reading. All Nora’s but PMT. All In Deaths. Linda Howard, Some really old Iris Johansen, JAK (I found Shield’s Lady in a half price store)All Garwoods. I have some hard to find at the time like Knight of a Trillion STARS by Joy. Taming Natasha, Roberts. most have been re-issued but I didn’t buy to collect, just to read.
    BTW, I would happily give $50 for PMT

  12. 12
    Emily says:

    If you’re *patient*, you can get cheap copies of collectibles on eBay, including the Baloghs.  They tend to show up fairly regularly.  You pay a premium when buying them through Bookfinder or Abe or Amzon.

    I know because I considered selling some of my Baloghs and the prices people were getting for them were insanely low compared to Amazon($2-5).  I had multiple copies of Windflower (at one point 10 or so) and they were going for $2 or not selling at all.  Even the originals of the London/Curtis regencies were going for a song.

    You can also sometimes get collectibles for very reasonable prices at the Yahoo group bookstorejunkies or WBS (weeklybooksale).

  13. 13
    Nifty says:



    Yeah, I feel safe about my Promise Me Tomorrow and Stormfire.  Nora strongly dislikes Promise Me Tomorrow and considers it a “deeply flawed book”—did I get that right, Nora?—and she has said that it won’t be reprinted.  So…  That one’s safe.

    And Christine Monson is deceased AND Stormfire is of that mid-80s ilk that has definitely gone out of favor with today’s readers.  It’s got rape, abuse, enslavement and a hero who is the epitome of the romance anti-hero—all those elements that qualify it for wallbanger status.  So I don’t see that one being reprinted anytime soon, either.

  14. 14
    AAR Rachel says:

    I don’t collect romance novels, per se, but I do have a number that are worth something that I’m hesitant to let go of.  Dance by Judy Cuevas wasn’t really a keeper for me, but I know I’d never pay for another copy if I let mine go. 

    I also have two editions of The Windflower, hardcover and soft.  And I crave the one that came out in the early 90’s – just so I’d have them all.

  15. 15

    I occasionally paid more than cover for used romances (this before mass-markets went up to $7-8) that I really wanted to read and could not otherwise find:  Judy Cuevas’ DANCE was one, and also one of Suzanne Brockmann’s categories, HARVARD’S EDUCATION.  I think also a couple of my Carla Kelly Regencies were difficult to find, and I might have paid around twice their cover price.  But that’s about it.

    I have lots and lots of signed sf and fantasy; I think it’s more common to collect in those genres, because it’s a smaller community, and writers frequently attend conventions, so it’s easier to meet up with them.  (I’m a writer myself, so I have signed books of writers whose work I admire as well as signed books written by friends, some of which have most amusing inscriptions.)

  16. 16
    Jackie L. says:


    I have all of those too, except PMT by LaNora, but I also have all of Georgette Heyer (except The Great Roxhythe—you have to draw the line somewhere) including all of her mysteries.

    I admit with shame that I have all of Dara Joy’s books, except the self-pubbed.

    I told my daughter when we die, just have an estate sale and get rid of all 7500 (estimated) books her father and I own.

  17. 17
    DS says:

    I collect first editions of certain sf and mystery authors.  You have to do some research to tell a “true first” which is what most rabid collectors want.  I have only met one collector of FE romances in the sense that she knew what the points of the first editions she was looking for, i.e., step back cover, certain ads in the back, etc.

    A true collector won’t care that the book has been reprinted because having the true first is the holy grail of book collecting.

    I think I might have a true first of Irish Thoroughbred which I keep for it’s irony value, not because it’s a hot collectible—The ad in the back is for a book by Janet Dailey who was then a well known Silhouette author.

    I’m also collecting some particularly bad clinch covers because I think in another decade it might have the same interest as Good Girl Art has now.

  18. 18
    trixie says:

    My mother has every loveswept and every regular harlequin printed throughout the course of history. She also has every title of other harlequin and Silhouette special imprints or editions like the series of the 50 states and others. I’ve tried to get her to donate them to the popular culture collection at Bowling Green State University
    in Ohio, but she says no.
    These are all housed upstairs in the three bedrooms my siblings and I used when we lived there. My father is certain he will be crushed to death at some point.

  19. 19
    Jill says:

    I collect. A lot. From a set of The Waverly novels (uncut) to all of Nora’s originals (signed), all of Jenny Crusie’s originals (signed), Evanovich’s, a couple Erin St. Claire, Jude Deveraux, Ian Flemming, etc, etc. I save everything and have for more years than I can count.

    I checked on Promise Me Tomorrow. $80-$1,000. Jenny’s Sizzle- up to $80.


  20. 20
    lijakaca says:

    I don’t collect, but I have spent more than cover price for books that I really wanted and weren’t in print – the LoS series mostly.

    My sister used to buy Regencies by the truckload and they’re all still in our parents’ basement, some of them might be worth something – I’ve found one early Anne Stuart online that was going for $20 – but we like it so it wouldn’t be sold. Might be a fun exercise to assess the collection (well, fun for a number-cruncher like me :D ).

  21. 21
    EmmyS says:

    I don’t collect, but I do have hundreds of books. It’s hard for me to let go of them, so I keep as many as I can. I did start boxing up bunches that I know I’ll never read again to take to Half Price Books.

  22. 22
    Marianne McA says:

    Don’t collect, and I’m not careful with my books – I imagine if you had an eye on value, cracking the spine would be a bad thing.
    From time to time I see a book I have at a silly price on Amazon – I’ve always wondered if anyone buys them at the more inflated prices.
    I wonder will POD change the dynamics of collecting?
    I take DS’s point that the true collector wants the unblemished first edition, but I suspect that the high prices paid for something like Suz Brockmann’s book didn’t come from collectors, but more from readers who couldn’t get the book any other way.
    If the books were available in another format, would there be enough collectors to drive the prices up?

  23. 23
    Gennita Low says:

    I have many of JD Robb’s first print, the first ten signed.  I have all the Linda Howard McKenzies originals.  I have Justin Dare’s Lord of the Storm and Skypirate.  Hmm. I was the one that jacked up the Suz B. book all the way up there because it was an auction to pay for a baby’s surgery.  I love all the old Anne Stuarts and own almost every one of her books, spending hours at sales for the 1970 originals.  Stephanie James.  Hmm…yeah, you can say I collect romance books ;-).

  24. 24
    D. says:

    I’ve been reading romances for 12 years, but collecting them seriously for 7. It started when my paperbacks started falling apart and I wanted hardcovers.

    I’ve got about 5,000 books (mostly hardcover), and some are worth a bit (Balogh’s Christmas Promise published by Severn House $150+) and some nothing.

    I collect:
    1. my favorite authors backlist’s
    2. large print
    3. foreign editions
    4. books that have covers by Alan Ayers.
    5. books with a specific character name. 

    I started collecting seriously when I got a copy of my grandmother’s favorite book. It was a tattered old romance from the 50’s that I treasure. But I didn’t want it to literally fall apart in my hands so I found another copy to read.

    I buy multiple copies of books based on editions. I own every edition of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Fantasy Lover (don’t laugh!). I also have every Linda Howard book printed in every edition but large print. I collect book club editions, b/c most time those books never go into hardcover again.

    Condition is big to me. I read for enjoyment, but I still treat my books carefully. No cracked spine, no taped up covers and dog earred pages. I’m the same with books from the library. Just because they’re public doesn’t change anything.

    I’ve got so many books my poor shelves are collapsing, but I refuse to put them in storage. Why??? Because its taken my a lot of time, a lot of $, and its a huge sense of satisfaction to know that I can track down a paperback for less than $5 when its worth $100+.

    And now its a habit. Its a thrill to find a book that I’ve been searching for, and not have to spend a fortune. I’ve tracked down real first editions of Stephen King, a rare tv show tie-in called Roswell: Turnabout, and have a copy of Nora Roberts elusive Promise Me Tomorrow ($2 at a estate sale).

    If I died tomorrow my family would have quite a bit of $ from the sale of my books alone.

  25. 25

    Yes ma’am.

    I have a collection of first edition Georgette Heyers, and am growing my Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels first edition collection as well. (Not technically romance novels, but close enough in both cases.)

    I also have a few first edition (paperbacks) of out of print Mary Baloghs and a no-longer oop Crusie.

    So, the short answer is: yes, to some extent, my favorite authors.

    Oh, and I hunted far and wide until I could find the book club editions (the only hardcovers) of Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde Chronicles.

  26. 26
    darlynne says:

    I used to collect mysteries and modern fiction and would be stumped to even guess about romance, particularly when you get into all the category novels.

    As, I think, DS said above, the first edition is the thing and its value is not typically affected by subsequent reissues. And the real value of any book will always be what’s between the covers. With that in mind, collecting should be about acquiring what you love. After that, the things that make a modern book collectible are scarcity (number published) and popularity, followed by condition. Think Harry Potter and Philip Pullman in the UK editions as examples.

    One word of caution about buying collectible books on eBay: some sellers are not particularly knowledgeable or, sadly, honest. I’ve seen too many claims of “true first edition” for books that simply are not, either out of ignorance or intent. If you want to collect first edition books, start your research with a dealer, many of whom can be found at, and The book descriptions can often provide information you need about what makes a first edition and what makes it collectible, which is not always the same thing.

  27. 27
    Dragonette says:

    I’m with ya, Eli – I used to have damn near all the Loveswept, all the Kismet (loved Lacey Dancer), all the yellow Temptations, and quite a number of Candlelights.  I would buy any cover drawn by Pino, and had to have any and all Garwood, Krentz, Devereaux and Lindsay. I was a weeee bit manic.  Now I only have the ones that I luuurrve and reread constantly. A lot of early Krentz and historical Garwood, quite a few Lindsay and the medieval Devereauxs.

    However, I bow to you, D. I am not worthy.

  28. 28
    Dragonette says:

    speaking of valuable romances, a friend told me once that McKenzie’s Mountain was up there.  it was a Native American romance (very popular at the time) with a jack-off scene (very risque at the time).

  29. 29
    Wry Hag says:

    It’s been my impression that early, early Harlequins and, especially, early pb “sleaze” and lesbian-suggestive fiction are coveted by collectors.  Condition, cover artist, and publisher are major criteria in assessing desirability.

  30. 30
    Anonym2857 says:

    I collect first editions, but mostly my favorite authors – not just for the sake of collecting.  And while some might have monetary value, most I keep for sentimental reasons.  For example, I have first editions of all of Nora’s, most of them signed, including both an American and British version of PMT. I also have a complete signed set of Gaffneys, Crusies, and all of the early categories for Evanovich/Hall and Plum books, all signed up through about #12 or so.  I also have a mostly complete set of signed Brockmanns, tho I did sell one of the more HTF ones at a point when I was financially embarrassed. It paid the phone bill and bought gas and food as I recall. LOL   And Howards,  Lowells, Krentzes, Greenes, etc.  Those, and a few thousand other books live upstairs.  Most I’ve kept because I love the author, but a few I’ve kept because they are unique – I have a signed copy of Dodd’s infamous three-armed lady on the cover, for example.  I also have quite a few signed copies from other authors that I’ve picked up at RWA or other signings.

    I also used to do a lot of selling on eBay, back before everyone else got into it and the fees became so high.  Back then, it was not uncommon to sell a hard to find coveted book for $30 – $80.  And the Holy Grail ones, like PMT, early Howards or the very early Castle/Krentzes, etc, would go for obscene amounts of money. Some of the early Joys and a Deveraux or two were also amazingly lucrative, as well as the dark-haired Fabio covers, for some reason.  Now that everyone sells on eBay, and the publishers are capitalizing on the demand and reprinting, I decided it wasn’t worth the time it took to list things for sale, but back then I’d troll the used bookstores, thrifts, yard sales, etc, and gather up the coveted titles. It was a sport for me. I loved finding a book for a quarter and selling it for a hundred dollars.  At one point I had about 80 cases of coveted and HTF books in the garage that I planned to sell some day.  To the relief of my neighbors (we share the garage), I have since culled out and given away most of them, but still have about 20 cases that I just couldn’t bring myself to toss out – including several copies of the Windflower and other early London/Curtis books,  plenty of categories from authors who’ve gone on to mainstream fame, etc.  I usually give those away or use them as replacements when I’ve re-read a book until it’s fallen apart.

    Selling books is like any other collectible hobby – the demand and the value are fickle. Some hardcore collectors will pay a hefty price for first editions, but prices can range from pennies to hundreds of dollars.  If you are not selling them because you enjoy it, it may or may not be worth the time it takes to sell them.  It’s still a joy to find a collectible for a steal, though.

    And who knows – those PMTs may be part of my retirement portfolio someday.


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