Ask a dozen rare book dealers what they think the most valuable mystery novel is, and you’ll probably get a dozen answers. Abebooks.com tells us that in 2011 the three most expensive mysteries to sell via its database are two Agatha Christies and a P.D. James, at $8,500-9,836.
That’s just one year, of course, and just one dealer database. Values can go much higher than that. Currently, abebooks has prices well above those numbers for Arthur Conan Doyle titles, the most expensive currently being His Last Bow in dust jacket for over $40,000.
If we venture into unique materials – manuscripts, correspondence, and the like – we find a mish-mashy collection of Raymond Chandleriana for over $75,000. If you skip that and go for just Chandler’s copy of the first edition of The Catcher in the Rye, you’ll be out $28,000.
For a similar price, you can get your hands on Agatha Christie's hand-typed manuscript of an unpublished Poirot story. If your budget is more modest, perhaps you’ll go for a triple-decker Moonstone for just $10,000.
Fellow blogger Josh Getzler and I, being Ellen Raskin fans, might get into a bidding war if this inscribed first edition of The Tattooed Potato & Other Clues were at auction. Instead, I think I'll just point it out to Josh's wife as a possible Hanukkah present for Josh.