007 book auction: cashing in collections can be tricky

First edition copy of 1953's Casino Royale sold at auction

First edition copy of 1953’s Casino Royale sold at auction


The first rule of collecting is a collectible is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it.

This week, 007 collector Gary J. Firuta’s collection of first-edition James Bond novels, page proofs and other items was sold by Heritage Auctions. The auction showed how prices for collectibles can vary widely.

For example, A U.K. first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale novel sold for $21,250. (The auction company takes a cut so the seller doesn’t receive the full price.) Heritage has auctioned a number of other first-edition copies of Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel and the Firuta sale is in the middle of a wide range.

In 2010, a first edition copy of Casino Royale was sold by Heritage for $11,950. In 2014, another copy was sold for $32,500. Then, there was a special case. In 2009, a first edition copy of the book, which included a Fleming inscription (“to M”) sold for $50,787.50.

The condition of the book can be a factor. The book sold in 2009 was described by Heritage as a “stunning example of the first Bond novel in fine condition.” The book sold in 2010 was described as a “very good copy of the first Bond novel.” And the copy sold in 2014 was described as “a fine copy of a very rare title in dust jacket and much better than usually seen.”

Meanwhile, with the Firuta sale, the first edition Casino Royale did not generate the highest price. Instead, an uncorrected proof of From Russia With Love sold for $40,000.

Here’s part of the description from Heritage:

London: Jonathan Cape, [1957]. Uncorrected Proof. One of 75 copies printed, though few have survived. Octavo. 249, [7, blank] pages. Publisher’s printed wrappers (with “Uncorrected Proof” at the bottom of the front wrapper.) Some toning and wear to edges of wrappers, front wrapper with crease at lower corner and faint ink notes with erasure marks, spine slightly sunned, some rubbing to spine, hinges starting, title-page a bit loose, page 249 with small hole (very little loss to text). With a Jonathan Cape advertisement for From Russia With Love (“Spring List 1957”) affixed to the inner front wrapper. A very good copy of an extremely rare item.

With a textual change to page 94, in the final paragraph, changing from “In all respects. She is very beautiful. Naïve but obedient.” to “The woman said grudgingly ‘She is very beautiful. She will serve our purpose.'” This was done by Fleming to tone down the lesbian overtones of the passage. Moreover, the published novel features a significant expansion to the novel’s closing paragraphs. (emphasis in original)

What follows are some other highlights of the sale.

–A Moonraker first edition that included a letter by Fleming to G. Wren Howard, a co-founder of publisher Jonathan Cape. The letter concerned a would-be title for the novel, The Infernal Machine. Price: $15,000.

–A first edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that was No. 205 of a set of 250 signed by Fleming. Price: $10,312.50. However, another regular first edition of the novel went unsold.

–A first edition of Live And Let Die, price: $10,000.

–Three first edition copies of Fleming’s final Bond novel, The Man With the Golden Gun. Price: $8,750. Here’s a description:

One copy is the rare first edition, first issue, first state (trial binding) with the gilt-stamped gun on the front board; the other two copies are first editions, second state bindings, one with the first issue green endpapers, the other with the second issue plain white endpapers. Spines lettered in gilt, dust jackets.

Firuta’s collection of posters and related items will be auctioned later this month by Heritage.

007 collection, including first edition novels, up for auction

First edition copy of 1953's Casino Royale that's up for auction

First edition copy of 1953’s Casino Royale that’s up for auction

A large James Bond collection, including first-edition copies of Ian Fleming’s novels and short stories, is now up for auction at Heritage Auctions.

Collector Gary J. Firuta is selling off his 007 properties, which also include vintage movie posters.

Firuta’s collection includes both U.K. and U.S. first editions of Fleming’s originals, including a U.K. first-edition copy of the author’s first novel, Casino Royale.

As of Thursday evening, that copy of the novel had an opening bid of $12,500. Heritage describes it as “a near fine copy that shows well.”

The major auction for the books is underway and is scheduled to conclude Nov. 5. The auction for posters (and other items) will begin around the end of the month and conclude Nov. 22.

Among the posters being auctioned are a 1965 U.K. Thunderball quad poster.

To track down the items being auctioned, you may want to go to Heritage’s website and search for both “Ian Fleming” and “James Bond” because Heritage apparently doesn’t cross promote merchandise.

If you CLICK HERE, you’ll get the results of a search of “Gary Firuta” on the Heritage website. There are four pages of results.

Full disclosure: Firuta is a friend of the blog and has supplied copies of his 007 film scripts, which we’ve used for a series of posts.

UPDATE (Oct. 16) If CLICK HERE, you’ll see 83 books and related items (it’s from using “Ian Fleming” for the search). If you CLICK HERE, you’ll see 214 posters, lobby cards and related items (using “James Bond” for the search).  Most of the Firuta collection material can be found somewhere in these searches.

NYC hangout for Bond writers, collectors loses an owner

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker, a New York restaurateur, died this week at 71. He owned Chez Josephine, a colorful establishment that on more that one occasion served as a place for James Bond collectors and scribes who wrote about Agent 007 to gather.

One can only imagine how Ian Fleming would have described Chez Josephine. It was part restaurant, part shrine for Baker’s adoptive mother, Josephine Baker. There’s live music and the restaurant does brisk business from New York theater goers.

There was also something of a James Bond clientele.

Gary Firuta, a Bond collector, often brought the likes of writers James Chapman, Raymond Benson, Alan Porter, John Griswold, Anders Frejdh and Joseph Darlington to Chez as well as video producer Mark Cerulli.

Jean-Claude, upon seeing the Bond-related groups enter, would immediately say, “Oh, my friend!” in his French accent and fuss over those present. One could be away for months or a year or two. It was always the same when Jean-Claude spotted you.

Today, there are myriad Chez Josephine customers who wish they could hear “Oh, my friend!” just one more time.

For more information about Jean-Claude Baker’s colorful life, you can view AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES or a PLAYBILL OBIT.

UPDATE: Here’s the text of an e-mail the restaurant sent to customers:

With great sorrow, the Chez Josephine family mourns the passing of Jean-Claude Baker.

Throughout his eventful life, Jean-Claude fulfilled with passion and commitment his one true vocation: to bring laughter, joy and love to all who knew him. His larger-than-life personality and unfailing generosity touched everyone around him.

His spirit was irrepressible. His love will endure in the lives touched by his special magic. A magic that his Chez Josephine family will do its best to continue in his honor.

The restaurant is closed today–Thursday, January 15–out of respect to our “Maman Jean-Claude.” We will reopen on Friday, January 16, as Jean-Claude would wish.