About the Statistics
Book value is typically based on a combination of demand versus supply. The above charts highlight these factors to show what is going on in the Pulitzer Prize book market. The first chart is an indicator of demand. It ranks the most popular books via a point system based on request statistics from the PPrize.com web site. The second chart is an indicator of supply. It ranks rarity based upon the availability of true first editions in true first issue dust jackets on websites such as eBay and ABEbooks. The third chart is an indicator of value. It ranks the most valuable books based upon how much true first editions in first issue dust jackets are selling on websites such as eBay and ABEbooks.
The rarest Pulitzer continues to be So Big by Edna Ferber. Although we finally found a copy of the true first edition book, the dust jacket remains elusive. The thumbnail we used on this website is from the 12th printing dust jacket.
One particular book to watch is A Confederacy of Dunces. Only 2,500 true first editions were printed. While it is not in our top ten rarest, it is not far off the list. Demand is strong, as shown by its consistent high placement on our Most Popular chart. Yet the book didn’t make our top ten for Most Valuable. One explanation is that the book is popular with readers but not necessarily with collectors. If these readers turn into collectors over the next several years, this book could appreciate significantly in value.
There were four Franklin Library Signed First Editions that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. They are American Pastoral, Rabbit at Rest, Foreign Affairs, and Breathing Lessons. These Franklins are leather-bound and signed by the author. These are true first editions, meaning that they were published before the first trade edition. For collectors of Pulitzers, all four are must-haves.
The value for each of these Franklins varies greatly. The Franklin first edition of American Pastoral sells for more than $350, and Rabbit at Rest can be purchased for $150. These are understandable prices for signed leather-bound first edition prize winning works from major authors. But given that criteria for valuation, the other two Franklins seem like bargains. The signed Franklin first edition of Foreign Affairs sells for around $60, while the signed Franklin first of Breathing Lessons sells for less than $50.
But of course there are more ingredients when it comes to book values. One significant factor is supply, and there seems to be less seller listings on AbeBooks.com for American Pastoral than for the other three titles, which suggests it is scarcer; and that helps explain why it is more expensive. So that covers the supply end. But what about demand? It is not clear whether the supply of American Pastoral is low because there weren't that many printed, or because high demand has reduced inventory. It begs the question - is there more demand for Philip Roth than Anne Tyler? Do a Google Search on both and you will see that Phillip Roth has significantly more results than Anne Tyler. This suggests that there may more Roth readers than Tyler readers.
So although the first editions of American Pastoral and Breathing Lessons are similar in many ways as physical collectibles, American Pastoral seems to have more demand and less supply that has kept its asking price higher than that of Breathing Lessons. But will this always be the case? And what might the demand look like ten years from now? If you believe that there will be greater demand for Anne Tyler books than for Phillip Roth books, then Breathing Lessons might be a bargain right now. Or if you believe that there might be more Pulitzer collectors ten years from now, Breathing Lessons still looks like a bargain.