The latest of Donald Grant’s limited editions of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books has the title, The Little Sisters of Eluria. Actually, “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” which originally appeared in Robert Silverberg’s Legends in 1998, is a novella that only takes up about one fifth of the book. The other four fifths include King’s 2003 revision of The Gunslinger, the first book in the series, and a short essay and forward that were included in that edition. This is a beautiful book with Michael Whelan’s striking illustrations, some of them unique to this edition. The book comes in two states: a deluxe limited edition of 1250 copies signed by King and Whelan at $300 plus shipping (and likely sold out), and an “artist’s edition” of 4000 copies signed by Whelan alone, at $95 plus shipping. The deluxe edition comes in a lined tray case, while the limited fits into a blue slipcase. The question is: Can a book of reprints, even by Stephen King, with great illustrations, be worth $100 in this economy?
I recently reread “Little Sisters” and The Gunslinger and alternated between the Grant and original versions, which are available in paperback at Amazon for $6.99 and $11.02 respectively. I found the Grant version too big to read while riding an exercise bike and too heavy to take along while traveling, but the paperbacks worked just fine for both. The Grant book, however, felt and looked wonderful while in a comfortable chair at home. And regardless of the format, it was great fun to reread both of King’s tales.
Here are the reasons I favor the Grant version of the book:
- Like most books produced by Donald Grant Publishers, it really looks appealing and the production values are superior. This book should be around long after I am gone.
- I like the feel of the paper and the cover and slipcase.
- Many fine artists have illustrated King’s work, and I love the ones by Bernie Wrightson, but Whelan is my favorite. This edition contains quite a few illustrations not available anywhere else. They enhance the mood of the story.
- The Dark Tower is an enormous saga, it deserves big books.
- It looks good on my bookshelf.
Here is what I find disappointing about the Grant book:
- For the price one might expect something new from King, maybe an afterward or an essay about whether there are other tales to tell. Everything in the book, except the illustrations, has been published before.
- Although the illustrations are terrific, they are never in the right places to correspond with the text.
On the other hand, the paperbacks are inexpensive and easy to read. I don’t have to worry if I sweat on them while I’m working out at the gym, and they are easily replaced if I happen to leave them on a plane or bus. I can even pass them on to friends and not worry about getting them back. But they just don’t feel very good.
As investments, forget about the paperbacks. Used copies of both Legends and The Gunslinger can be had on online auctions for $.99 each.
You might get back more from your $100 for the Grant book. The cheapest I could find it online was $65. And other artists’ editions in the series have actually appreciated in price once they have been sold out from the publisher.
The conclusion I came up with is that the Grant book probably is worth $100 to a collector. Grant books have definitely outperformed the stock market this year. If you had invested the $100 in General Motors, you wouldn’t have much today, but The Little Sisters of Eluria is worth at least $65, likely to increase sooner than GM. The illustrations are worth a lot. Imagine reading a Dr. Seuss book without the pictures. The Dark Tower without pictures is a disappointment. By the way, if you were lucky enough to have purchased a Donald Grant first edition of The Gunslinger for the retail price of $20 back in 1982, you could sell it today for $500-$1000 or even more, depending on the condition. That’s a pretty good return on your investment.
Nevertheless, if you just like to read Stephen King, I’d go with the paperbacks. Most of the paperback versions of The Gunslinger even have the pictures, and there are only a few new ones in Little Sisters. However, in this economy, I might save the $100 under the mattress and check out the books from the library.