Author's autographs in a book may be considered in various categories, including signed limited editions, signed trade editions, and association copies. We've discussed limited editions elsewhere on the site.
Signed trade editions are copies of the regular trade first edition signed by the author, with or without an inscription. These signed books will usually sell for at least twice as much as an unsigned copy, but the real determinant of price will be the value of the author's signature. Some authors are very generous in signing their books; as a result, their signatures may be worth only $10 or $15, representing the price difference between a signed and an unsigned copy of a first edition, or the price of a signed later printing. On the other hand, some authors very rarely sign a book and their signatures alone may be worth $50 or more; again, this would establish a price. Further, some authors are very free with their signatures but very rarely inscribe copies of their books, and therefore inscribed copies, even if the recipient is unknown, will command a premium.
Value of Signed vs. Inscribed Books
We are often asked about the value of a first edition that is inscribed by the author to another person versus the value of the same book just signed by the author. We understand that if the original recipient of the book is not well known, or of general interest, some collectors prefer the author's signature without the inscription. From our point of view we would always prefer an inscribed copy and think it is worth more than a copy that is just signed by the author. However, we understand that if the author is young and the collector hopes one day to meet the author at a signing, or perhaps send some of his books to get the author to sign, the collector will not want to buy a copy of the book inscribed to some unknown person. From our point of view, we know that after the death of an author, inscribed copies are always worth more than copies that are just signed, Also, from our point of view, the inscription allows us to have more of the author's handwriting to examine to assure ourselves and our customers that it is a genuine author's autograph.
Association copies are books that include a signed inscription from the author to another famous personality or someone important within the framework of the particular author's life and work. These will be valued more highly than the normal signed first edition, depending on the importance of the recipient involved.