Collecting Romance

Collectible/Hard to Find Books

What to collect:

Cover Art/Artist/Model Collections:

I don't intentionally mean to lump these together but it's easier because they are sort of interrelated. Some readers/collectors have a thing for the absolutely gorgeous art work on the covers. Art is expensive and what a great way to collect beautiful works of art then to collect romance covers. Its a nice way of having pretty things to look at when we cant afford something larger. To this end, we have noticed that there is a trend of collecting specific artists book covers. Now, I read an article that stated something to the effect that the authors are having a fit because we are buying the book for the cover only. We will leave you to form your own opinion on that. Collectors/readers might be specifically drawn to one artist over another and seek out examples of books that have Ennis, with his striking colors, or Pino and his detailing, as well as the haunting beauty of Hall are now a topic of collectors, especially if they have done other genres (such as Hall with his westerns). Other collectors/readers love hunting for one model or another. A case in point something we recently read in one of the monthly review publications/magazines that since Fabio had stopped posing for covers, this might be a topic for future collectibles. Especially, in all his hair shades. Another example would be Randy Lee the blond on the cover of Border Lord. This cover by Joyce Thies for her book Moon of the Raven is so beautiful and well done you actually feel the steam rising off the water.


Many times, if an author hits the New York Times Best Seller list, or some other nationally known survey of books being sold, its because lots of people are buying it. Great! The more people reading romance the better! It also means that the writer has gone mainstream. After reading the book, some people ask the question: What else have they written because I love this author. Thus the hunt begins for EARLIER WORKS of the same author.

For instance, Linda Howard who's latest full length novel is entitled Son of the Morning, started her career with Silhouette Special Edition (#22) entitled All That Glitters. Probably her most famous series centers on the Mackenzie Family. The first of which is entitled Mackenzie's Mountain. It has been re-released in trade format but the original Silhouette Edition with the art work is pictured below and is EXTREMELY HARD to get ahold of. Why? Because Silhouette and Harlequin as well as Loveswept and a few other lines have LIMITED RUNS of their books. They change monthly. Hence, you have to be quick to get these.

Hunting down past works of your favorite author gets a little tricky when they have used other names under which they published other books. One such example would be Diana Palmer. Does everyone know that she wrote as Diana Blayne for Candlelight Ecstasy Romance? Very very hard to find these gems. Why? Because they are (1) old, (2) out of print, (3) in bad condition and the used book store owner used it for kindling. But more importantly, who knew that Diana Palmer was Diana Blayne? Or that she would become such a powerhouse? It should be noted that Palmer also writes under Susan Kyle. So the hunt continues.

Then there are the publishers that went out of business. Sara Chance wrote for the Kismet line under Lacey Dancer also. Try finding Sara's Angel Kismet No. 60. Tough. Extremely tough. The queen of collectibles though are the Jayne Bentley books published by McFadden

For more information on what's collectible Author wise we recommend the following two websites: Hard to Find Books and Central Book Source


Readers will typically accept reissues whereas those with a collector or purist bent will only accept the original because of the art work that does not accompany the reissue. We firmly believe in acquiring the original. It may cost a little more but you are getting the whole experience of the book the way it was intended to be.

Topical collectors:

Some readers collect to read or just collect to own and keep safe books from the same genre or subgenre. Finding and reading all vampire romances, time travel romances, gothics, western American historicals, historical, romantic suspense, ghost, alternative reality, futuristic, regencies, etc. etc. etc. Some even collect all those books with the same title (the authors are of course different). Some collect the original and reissue as a comparison between covers, and then there is always the blooper on the cover (like the book that has two people in a clinch but 5 hands). You can get creative if you are a topical collector.

Series Collectors:

This is an interesting idea, fun to hunt for, a little different in nature. Trying to put together a series collection of say the first 300 Harlequin Presents or first 100 Silhouette Romances or better yet, the more elusive Tapestry, Kismet, Second Chance at Love, Candlelight Ecstasy Romance, Loveswept, and last but not least Rapture Romance. These are tough to find!! First off, Tapestry didn't start numbering their titles right away. I believe the first one was by the now very famous Maura Seger (title was Defiant Love). The second was Mariella by Ena Halliday. But once again these aren't numbered like the others. It also is tough when the company goes out of business after publishing a limited number of titles. Case in point would be Kismet and Rapture Romance both now defunct. Another problem comes in with condition. Many of the older series romances are very damaged due to glues of the price tags, water, warping, corner cut on the front, etc. So to get a clean full series collection takes a lot of patience but we all have great times hunting for them and when we find one its like finding oil!! The feeling is great.

Before Political Correctness:

Some readers refuse to read anything later than 1990 when it seemed all the books got to be sort of the same. Now this is not a pan at any author, publishing house, series etc. But it is true that over the years, romance fiction changes with the times. Today's romances have very strong women characters, they usually have the thoughts or views from both male and female perspective, some have babies as their main theme, and the one big change was the very responsible intro of a delicate subject of "little foil packets" in the current climate of things. We need to be vague here in order not to get into too much trouble. Some women though, get a little tired of always being in charge and older romances offer very dominating lead male figures, hence they will read older romances OR the newer alpha males that appear as werewolves, vampires, ETs, etc..

Suggestions when selling or trading your books to the bookstore:

Know your titles, authors, publishers etc. and separate them. Make the bookstore tell you how much they are giving for each book and know what they are subsequently charging as this will tell you what their markup is. There are many categories of used book dealers. Those that specialize in romance will know what you have and may be willing to give you a little more for certain titles because they know there is a demand for said book. Other used book dealers will give you maybe a quarter per book. This happened to us recently when we went out to do some research as to selling romance books. When we brought in the box of books in all grades, all genres, subgenres, authors, etc. they thumbed through and gave a round figure of a whopping amount under the sum of $10. The paper costs more than that so we declined to sell them. This is your right. After asking what they are buying the book for you do not have to accept it! Or you may want to keep those that you consider to be collectibles and sell the others. Since you have done a presort it will be easier. Timing and circumstance are great determiners of what to sell when. If you're moving from a 100 acre estate to a one bedroom apartment, then its probably in your best interest to sell right then and there. REMEMBER: The faster you want the exchange for trade or cash the less you will get. This is true for all collectible markets be they stamps or artwork/antiques. You have to choose whether it will be a fire sale. Admittedly, many don't have time to go around from store to store bartering here and there.

Buying romance books:

It should be noted once again that any book that you purchase should be grade C and above. If you purchase a torn, spine ruptured out of shape book that the glue has been chewed off by something with too many legs, you will not be able to even trade it in to the used book dealer. Their view is, thank you for buying it but don't expect us to take it back.

An Overview--Gradings:

There exists a scale with die hard collectors of romance on one end and readers of romances on the other. They are not mutually exclusive by any means. What differentiates them is what level they are at in their reading and collecting pastimes.

Readers of collectible romance should only purchase those books that are at minimum a C in grade. This means that there are creases in the spine and maybe on the tips of the cover. Basically, it is a readers copy only. At this point, many readers would like to get their hands on even a C graded copy of Mackenzie's Mountain.

Collectors typically hunt for mint to near mint condition copies of their favorite books. They are grades A and B respectively. An A grade is basically an unread book. No book store stamps on the edges, inside the front cover, etc. The book is as close to perfect as possible. These are typically very difficult to find for older books written in the 1980s and near impossible for those in the 1970s and earlier. A B grade is given to a book that is slightly creased in the spine. Might have name, initials, light stamp in the book.

Reference Guide

There is a book out by Dawn Reno and Jacque Tiegs called Collecting Romance Novels. It is published by Alliance Publishing, P O Box 080377, Brooklyn, NY 11208-0002. This book has it's critics and I have heard rumors that other guides are due to be published but when and where is anyone's guess. In the mean time this book is a step in the right direction in discerning what collectible romance books are.

Well, we hope this has helped some of you and as always, if you have any questions or comments email us.

By the way, the average retail price for Linda Howard's MacKenzie's Mountain-first edition, original art work-publisher: Silhouette $20-30

Cover of the Fortnight