Put Your Misprinted ‘Masked Rider’ on eBay?

Neil tells the story in Roadshow about the disastrous second edition of his book The Masked Rider. And now I’m wondering if he’s created a tidy investment opportunity for a few book owners.

It was 2004 and the band was in Milwaukee for the R30 concert. The new edition had just come out and Neil, after a quick look, gave the okay to the band’s merchandiser to make the book available for sale at the concert. But not long before the band was to perform, Neil took a more thorough look at the book and saw the new edition was full of mistakes: photographs and captions were missing, new maps to replace the first edition’s crude line-drawn maps weren’t there, and there was an important textual change that Neil hadn’t authorize.

One of the rogue editions?

“I lugged my computer back to the Bubba-Gump room and sent an e-mail to Paul [McCarthy, literary agent],” Neil writes in Roadshow, and sent “a long tirade of outrage and disappointment, ending with, ‘I am crushed.'”

The book was pulled off the shelf and the publisher agreed to destroy the entire print run of 5,000 books, but not before 26 copies of the book were sold at the Milwaukee show.

When the corrected edition was released, Neil made an offer on the band’s website to replace each of the copies that had been sold with a signed hardcover copy of the corrected edition. By the time Neil recounted the story in Roadshow in 2004, only two of the 26 buyers had responded.

And that means . . . there are 24 copies of the misprinted edition still in circulation, unless any additional books have been traded in for the hardcover edition since Roadshow came out.

Sensing an eBay opportunity here for those who own the misprinted edition, I asked an employee of one of the oldest and largest antiquarian bookstores in the United States if the rogue copies were valuable as collector’s items. The friendly employee said they probably weren’t, and a quick look around the Internet seems to confirm that view.

Unlike rogue stamps and coins, rogue books aren’t considered valuable in and of themselves. Rather, they’re just considered defective. “Collectors will prefer a copy of the book which is as close to perfect as possible,” says an article on the topic at Empty Mirror Books. “Unlike with postage stamps (where printing errors will greatly increase the stamp’s desirability and value), printing or binding errors are not desired by book collectors.”

The friendly employee at the antiquarian book store with whom I exchanged e-mails said Neil’s misprinted book would have a better chance at attracting collectors if the misprint had added something to the book rather than taken something away, as it did by leaving out Neil’s black and white photographs: “What would have made it valuable is if the edition had photos that were not part of any other edition.”

I have no reason to doubt that from a collector’s point of view, the friendly employee’s assessment is correct. But from the point of view of a Rush fan, I think the view misses the mark. I suspect there’s a robust market for each of those rogue books—just as there surely is for the signed hardcover copies.

I guess to have the best of both worlds, you would want to have one of the rogue editions and have it signed by the author. But then if you had that, you probably wouldn’t want to sell it!

More This and That: an evolving collection of Rush randomness

~ by rvkeeper on March 7, 2011.

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