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Annotated Reference Guide to Collectible Books

Anderson Fairy Tales

Some stories are so iconic that people don't know where they came from.

How many people know The Ugly Duckling, or The Emperor's New Clothes? You could ask almost anyone on the street about those stories, and they'd be able to summarize them without blinking, but few can probably name the author or when these stories were published.

Early printings of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales are hard to find, largely due to a swarm of recent copies for sale that have cluttered booksellers and marketplaces since the stories entered public domain. The true first printings in the late 1830s were also several volumes of unbound sheets, making them nearly impossible to find and incredibly expensive. Even an anthology published in 1845 can go for $8,500.

However, Andersen's stories were printed in the early 1900s by a couple of different UK publishers, and these first thus editions still maintain a strong value. A Collins Clear-Type Press edition from around 1920 sold back in 2005 for $660, despite not being marked as a first edition, while a 1932 first American trade edition from London publisher George G. Harrap is currently listed for $1,450.