What’s the most expensive book you’ve ever bought?

what my kids are reading right now

Amazon is running their annual holiday book promotion right now (two weeks earlier than last year): use the code HOLIDAY30 to take 30% off any one book. (Get all the details right here. In short: $10 maximum discount; product must be sold and shipped by Amazon.com, offer expires November 30 at 2:59 a.m. EST.)

When I told Will I wanted to get the most out of that discount code, he asked me: what’s the most expensive book you’ve ever bought?

Aside from my college textbooks (the prices of which still make me cringe) I don’t have a firm answer.

st george's day

The most expensive books I own are these jaw-droppingly gorgeous classics from the Folio Society (that’s Pride and Prejudice, and I also have Emma and Anne of Green Gables), which cost $50-$60 each. But they were gifts. I adore them, but I’m not sure I would have bought them for myself.

The most expensive book I bought recently was The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, which I paid nearly $30 for back in August. (That’s full-fare hardcover price, plus local tax.) This was the 11th book in Penny’s fantastic Inspector Gamache series, which I inhaled in 2015. When I called my local bookstore and found out they had signed copies, already on sale, five days before release date, I rushed myself over and plunked down my money.

tundra books anne

This past year I’ve invested in a few box sets that make me happy every time I see them on my shelves (or catch my kids reading them).

First, the Tundra Paperbacks editions of Anne of Green Gables, published in Canada, are so beautiful. (They’re available on Amazon—for only $58 right now, which is pretty darn good—but the discount code doesn’t apply.)

IKEA borgsjo puffin classics puffin clothbound classics

I love my Puffin Young Readers clothbound classics. These books show up fairly regularly on instagram, and I always get asked what editions they are. Here’s your answer! These are running $66 right now on Amazon, and you CAN use the HOLIDAY30 discount code.

classics

(The partial set shown next to the clothbound classics, and in the above photo, is the 16-book Puffin classics paperback set available here. It’s sold on Amazon, but not by Amazon, so the code doesn’t apply, but that is a terrific price for these paperbacks.)

In Bloom collection Rifle Paper Co

I adore my Puffin in Bloom collection, which I bought a la carte when they first came out, but is now available as a box set (for only $38.40, which is craziness). This would be a terrific way to use that discount code. (Or use the code to save nearly $5 off the new addition to the collection, Alice in Wonderland.

Jane Austen clothbound classics

For this year, I’m eyeing this beautiful set of Jane Austen clothbound classics from Penguin. (I don’t actually own all of Austen’s works—can you believe it? I think this situation needs to be remedied.) Discount code applies, although it will be capped at $10.

My best advice for putting that code to use is to order whatever you’ve been dying to read yourself, or would love to give to someone else—whether it lets you “maximize” the code or not—and enjoy the savings. That beautiful hardback you’ve been aching to read and are still #272 on the library waiting list for? That just might be the book for you.

Practicalities aside: what’s the most expensive book you’ve ever bought? I’m so curious to hear your answers. 

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68 comments

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  1. Julie R says:

    The most expensive book I’ve ever bought was a red leather bound edition of the Lord of the Rings. I bought if for my husband for Christmas. We were both in school at the time, and I was only able to afford it because of the “employee appreciation day” discount I got when I was working at a book store.

  2. Holly says:

    All those books are so lovely! I wonder, though, if when you buy sets of lovelies you wind up with multiple copies of the same book? I have at least a couple of a lot of those sets (non-lovely, just cheap paperbacks) and would have a hard time duplicating OR not buying the complete set.

  3. mom2triplets04 says:

    Mine would probably be the new harry potter box set. I just love purple and I wanted a new set as my kids set was used and old.

  4. Amanda says:

    Oh, last Christmas I bought myself the Laura Ingalls Wilder annotated biography. I didn’t even care about the price because I was so excited. But then it arrived and it is huge! Well worth it. This year my code will likely go towards the illustrated Harry Potter 🙂

  5. Rebecca says:

    I bought the same thing another reader bought: red leather bound edition of LOTR for my brother for Christmas, using my employee discount. I want to say it was still around $50, even with the discount? But that was years ago. I -want- to get the Harry Potter series in hardback, and a leather bound LOTR for myself, but I’m waiting until my youngest stops rearranging my bookshelves (he’s 1 and thinks it is the funniest thing to pull books off?).

  6. Kari says:

    One of my daughter’s is named Scout. A couple years ago my husband gave me the most amazing gift. A copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that was signed by Mary Badham who played Scout in the film. For obvious reasons- I treasure it.

  7. Andrea ( aka rokinrev) Stoeckel says:

    My most expensive book….when I was a kid, my parents gave me a beautiful cookbook, Vincent and Mary Price’s last cookbook which sits on my shelf 30+ years later…I think it was $25.

    I still have champangne tastes, but a Cocoacola budget these days. I have found that if you wait a while, coffee table books like Barbra Striesand’s archetectural book and Anna Pavord’s book on the history of Tulip, both dear new at close to $80, can be had for a few cents when the newness wears off. I am on disabilty, but I can still indulge….

  8. Fun topic! I bought my husband’s favorite book (T. H. White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING) for him in the beautiful Easton Press leather bound edition shortly after we were married. I think it ran somewhere around $75. He bought me a leather bound PRIDE & PREJUDICE the same year, but he found it on ebay for much less. Later he found me the entire Anne of Green Gables series by Easton press, and even though I love the feel of the leather, I just adore that set you show above!

  9. My most expensive, bought decades ago, is the two- volume Oxford English Dictionary Compact Edition, which came boxed with room for its beautiful domed magnifier to sit neatly on top of the pages. Like yours, Anne, my other expensive books are from the Folio Society, but I have stopped buying those!

  10. EmilyR says:

    As you say, aside from college text-books!, the most expensive books I’ve purchased recently were a new set of Harry Potter. It was the only item on my daughter’s wish list for Christmas. She noted that our beloved hardcover first editions are “hurt”—they’ve been read so often, the pages are falling out!

  11. I bought the Noah Webster’s 1828 edition of the American Dictionary when we first started homeschooling. I paid $75 for it then, but we have certainly made good use out of it. Still, after all these years, I suck in my breath when I see it lying on the floor. 😉
    I purchased The Hidden Hand, a Lamplighter book, for my oldest daughter for $35. It’s a reprint of an old novel and remains her top favorite book to this day, so it was definitely worth it.

  12. Bekki says:

    My Cambridge Pitt Minion Bible–worth every penny. We also purchased the Chronicles of Narnia in a leatberbound set from Easton Press when we were newly married DINKs. They were $40 or $50 a piece. I’ve been slowly accumulating the Harvard “5 foot shelf of knowledge”, paying 25 cents to $5 volume for books worth $50 to $75 retail.

    • I had no idea those Harvard books were worth so much!! My husband and I bought some dirt-cheap at a tag sale once upon a time, but as we moved into smaller places we gifted them all to my uncle. Hope he is appreciating them. ?

  13. B J says:

    All of those sets would look so pretty on my shelves. The Puffin in Bloom set is beautiful. I may have to put some of those on my wish list for later! They are so colorful.

  14. Susan says:

    I don’t think I have a single book that was super-expensive. I’ve bought many Bibles in the $35-$45 range, though! And when our kids (now in their early-mid 30’s) were little, we bought World Book and Childcraft. I just love encyclopedias, and I find it sad that they’ve gone by the wayside, for the most part, because you can find things online. My parents bought World Book for me and I loved sitting down with a volume and learning things I never knew I was interested in.

    Now our oldest grandkids are in 1st and 2nd grade (and great readers, which we are SO happy about!). Our oldest just adores one-volume encyclopedias such as DK’s “The New Children’s Encyclopedia”. It’s one of her favorite books!

  15. liz n says:

    The anniversary editions of Daniel J. Boorstin’s “The Discoverers,” “The Creators,” and “The Seekers.” $75 each. Worth every pennny and then some.

    Best bargains, though, were a 1935 edition of “The Three Musketeers,” cloth-bound, with gorgeous color plates, for about $10 at a used book store, and a 1927 edition of “The Decameron,” with engraved and embossed cloth cover, for $5 at a library auction. Both turned out to be worth several hundred dollars. I did not, and do not now, care; never letting them go.

  16. Sassy Apple says:

    I’m a ‘Power Reader,’ so I don’t buy expensive books for myself. My brother bought me a beautiful leather-bound copy of The Hobbit years ago, which I treasure. I do, however, love getting my nieces a Robert Sabuda pop-up book for their birthday every year, and they always receive a hard-bound holiday book at Christmas. This year it was an illustrated ‘A Christmas Carol.’

  17. Terri says:

    I just bought a copy of The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield. I absolutely love Understood Betsy, which she wrote, and have read it at least a dozen times. I think you recommended another of her books, The Home Maker. After that, I was hooked on her books. I own a first edition of Made-To-Order Stories that I got through Paperback Swap. Obviously someone didn’t know it’s worth! It’s difficult to find because it wasn’t as popular as her other works. I found The Bent Twig in a high-quality used bookstore. It was $22. What finally tipped me over the edge and made me buy it was the original paper cover that contains advertisements for war bonds!

  18. Kayris says:

    I bought my son a hardback Lego book from the school book fair a couple of years ago. It’s huge and heavy and it’s a great book. I think it was almost 30 dollars.

    I recently borrowed Harry Potter: Page To Screen from a local library. It’s enormous and heavy and we were all fascinated by it. Full price it’s 75 dollars.

    I also have a leather bound Shakespeare compilation that my husband gave me for Christmas one year. No idea what he paid but I’m sure it was expensive.

  19. Cassie says:

    Either Oh She Glows Cookbook or a Gabaldon book. I know I bought several of these brand new in hardcover before everyone ran pre-order sales, because I NEEDED to read the next installment of the Outlander series.

  20. Jules says:

    I spent over $100 on a second-hand book for my husband! It was a local history and out of print. We had a wonderful second-hand book dealer in the city and he helped me track it down. My husband was so delighted it was worth every penny. I would love that Puffin in Bloom set, I just told my daughter if we knew her baby, due February, was a girl I would buy them right away! Maybe I will ‘just in case’ and they can stay on my shelves if we have another grandson!

  21. Leigh Kramer says:

    This is a great question and I have no idea what the answer might be. I’ve been gifted some lovely books but I doubt I’ve ever paid more than $25/30. There are some fashion tomes I’ve considered investing in over the years but I haven’t plunked down the money yet. I want to be sure I REALLY want them!

  22. Jana Pasche says:

    I found my favorite childhood book (that my mother sold in a garage sale) on ebay. There was another bidder bidding against me. I won it for $105.00
    Enchanted Mountain by Eliza Orne White

  23. Mary Beth Wallace says:

    I was lucky enough to stay 2 blocks from the Folio Society in London’s West End last summer. I was able to buy 2 books at a lower than regular price there. They were all so gorgeous. I chose Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and A Traveler in Time by Alison Utley. Love.

      • Mary Beth says:

        Did you ever read The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfeild? It’s, well….Magical. I think I wore the local library”s copy out when I was about 10 or 11 years old.

        • liz n says:

          YES!! I have the world’s most worn-out copy, back cover and title page missing, other pages falling out of what’s left of the spine. Some day, I will find a copy that’s in decent shape. I ordered a used copy from Amazon awhile back, but it was in almost as bad shape as mine. Terribly disappointed in that one.

  24. Anna says:

    I’m not sure what the most expensive book I’ve bought would be (outside of textbooks.) I have a few that would be around $30-$40, art books, things like that.

  25. Megan says:

    $65 for the 1939 My Book House 12 volume series and $90 for the pretty Jane Austen boxed set by Puffin, it’s my Christmas present ?

  26. Erika says:

    I’m a bibliophile from waaaaaay back, so there are a number of rather expensive volumes in my library. All second-hand! I remember the heart-stopping feeling of spotting Swinburnse’s Lesbia Brandon in a book dealer’s catalogue (pre-internet, so had to wait until lunchtime to hit the payphone and see if it was still available…). An art deco set of the comedies of Aristophanes. An extremely rare copy of Oldfield Howey’s The Lore of the Dog.

    THE most expensive single volume was Death’s Doings (1822, illustrated by Richard Daley), which I walked away from and then back, like a moth to a flame. $900 AU at the time and I still regard it as money well-spent.

  27. Kim Rendle says:

    I’ve spent more for a book, but the most overpriced book I bought was a used, faintly weary mass market paperback version of a story collection by Lucy Maude Montgomery, published about 20 years ago called “Across the Miles,” subtitled “Tales of Correspondence.” After checking it out at the library, I HAD TO HAVE IT, and paid over $20. The stories had been re-discovered, and there are a few other themed L.M.M. story collections published in the nineties, but this one is my favorite. The literary device of a letter changing the course of a character’s life is an appealing one, and a few of the stories are so achingly sweet that they are among my very favorite comfort reads. Happily, I’ve also acquired (for $6!) a more sturdy hardback version of the same volume at a homeschool second-hand store, but will never regret the pricey purchase. Just call me sentimental.

  28. Whitney says:

    I love book stories! I don’t have many expensive books beyond a few favorite college textbooks, but the most expensive one that comes to mind is the Pioneer Girl anthology as well. I just saw the one for Little Women this week at the bookstore and was more than a bit jealous.

  29. Theresa Reed says:

    I don’t remember the one that was most expensive, new, but then I don’t buy a lot of new books. I think my most expensive 2nd hand book was one that was out-of-print and not readily available. I wanted to do a ‘Mary Garden’ after reading about it in a catholic child’s publication. Half of the 4 books on it in English were from overseas (England), but I managed to first ILL a copy of ‘A Litany of Flowers in a Mary Garden’ and then fell in love with it. There were no copies available online and I despaired of ever having it, and then Amazon sent me an email that it had been posted for $35 and I jumped at the chance to buy it, so I spent around $40 on that one book. Most the time I spend between $4 and $10.00 on books though.

  30. Erin says:

    Books are generally so much more expensive here in Australia than America, so actually $30 is rather common price to pay. So to answer your question, I think when the Australian dollar was particularly bad several years back I paid $50 for a homeschool ‘how to’ book. I can’t even remember which one and it didn’t deliver.

  31. Jess Townes says:

    Fun question! When we purchased the fifth Harry Potter book on release date, it felt like a small fortune to us at the time. We had borrowed the first four, and could not wait for the fifth to be released, but we were young newlyweds fresh out of Americorps, with very little money. We bought one hardback copy and then read it aloud to one another so one of us wouldn’t have to wait for the other to finish. We went on to buy the next two in easier financial times, so I’ll always remember that fifth book as a luxury.

  32. Nicole says:

    My most expensive book was actually a set – Lord of the Rings! It is a hardcover, beautifully illustrated set, but a bit too large to handle and read. Still adore them!

  33. Terri T says:

    A boxed, cloth bound limited edition of Heinlein’s The Book of Job. It’s a limited print run of only 26 (A-Z). I think ours is J and its signed. I think I spent a couple hundred on it but that was 20 years ago. It was a wedding present for my husband. He was still in law school at the time so that was a lot of money. Pretty sure I spent more on that than my wedding dress.

  34. Karen says:

    I don’t buy expensive books. I am a borrower when I can. However the most expensive book in recent memory is Personality Lingo for just under $25. I don’t like book clutter, so if I want to buy a book, I usually will buy it used.

  35. Laura says:

    The most expensive book I have is a 1st edition copy of ‘The price of Salt’ by Clare Morgan the pseudonym of Patricia Highsmith.

  36. Marie says:

    I never pay full price for a new, hardbound book, so my most expensive books are the new hardcovers I bought at book signings for Paul Auster, Ian McEwan, and Billy Collins. Obviously worth every penny!

  37. Wendy says:

    I paid $45 for a $60 book called A Pattern Language. It’s about architecture and looks very dry, with tiny print and frankly crappy black and white photos. But I LOVE it. I got it when we were thinking about building a home, and even though we didn’t, I’m still glad I have the book.

    The other day I was at Powell’s and saw The River Why in a locked case. It is one of my very favorite books, so I was curious–turns out it’s a signed first edition, for $200. Yeah, I’m going to have to pass on that. My tattered copy holds more personal history anyway.

    • Anne says:

      I adore A Pattern Language!! But I don’t have my own copy and this is why. I check it out of the library so much I really should just cough up the cash because I would LOVE to have my own copy.

  38. Adrienne says:

    My great-grandfather was William McTaggart, a Scottish artist. His paintings are beautiful, and many of them include his children, including my grandfather. His son-in-law wrote a biography of him in the early 1900’s, complete with pictures (photographic plates?) of all his paintings. I tracked down a copy of this biography from a used bookseller in England to give to my mom for her birthday a few years ago. I don’t remember what I had to pay for it; it wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny.

  39. Kirsten says:

    I just returned from Ireland and paid $30-35 for a hardcover of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. While there I also purchased a hardcover of The Jungle Book for about $22. I’m trying to slowly collect some childhood books to reread, or the book versions of popular Disney movies. The new versions of Harry Potter are on my xmas list this year. My old hard covers are quite beat up!

  40. Elizabeth says:

    My favorite poet is Robert Burns, and I found an old, tartan cloth-bound collection of his poetry and songs in a tiny bookstore in Dahlonega, Georgia for $45. It’s not in perfect condition, but that’s what makes me love it even more.

  41. Kate says:

    Mine would be a limited-run out of print book on Spanish clothing in the late 16th and early 17th c. I had to order it from Spain, and if I recall correctly, including shipping, it was over $300. It *never* leaves my house. I make people wash their hands before they touch it.

  42. MSW says:

    I own some classics, but they were picked up at my local library book sale for quarters. It is a great place to find rare gems in good condition.

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