Video: Most Expensive Modern Book on the Market – The Great Gatsby $120,000 – $180,000

Catherine Williamson discusses what may be the most expensive modern first edition on the market today. The audio is a bit faint but you can still make out the dialog.  She estimates the auction value of this book to be between 120k-180k.

What makes this book unique is that the dust-jacket is taller than the book itself. In many cases, the d-j was trimmed to match the size of the book. However, this particular d-j was left untrimmed in its original form and therefore makes it more desirable for a collector.  I’ve also included more information about The Great Gatsby below.

About The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published on April 10, 1925, it is set in Long Island’s North Shore and New York City during the summer of 1922.

The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the “Jazz Age.” Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the “roaring” 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime. Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamor of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it.

Although it was adapted into both a Broadway play and a Hollywood film within a year of publication, it was not popular upon initial printing, selling fewer than 25,000 copies during the remaining fifteen years of Fitzgerald’s life. It was largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II. After its republishing in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership and is today widely regarded as a paragon of the Great American Novel. The Great Gatsby has become a standard text in high school and university courses on American literature in countries around the world, and is ranked second in the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Time included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

The Great Gatsby - Dust Jacket
The Great Gatsby - Dust Jacket

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons
Publication date April 10, 1925
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA & reissue ISBN 0-7432-7356-7 (2004 paperback edition)

Historical background

Fitzgerald wrote, and Gatsby was set, in America of the 1920s. Following World War I, the American economy was booming, the stock market was growing explosively, and the decade was known as the Roaring Twenties. It was also a period of great social upheaval. In November 1920, women had been granted the right to vote (see History of women’s suffrage in the United States), alcohol had been prohibited by a constitutional amendment (see Prohibition in the United States), and a predominantly African-American form of music, jazz, was becoming mainstream. Fitzgerald had dubbed this era the “Jazz Age”.

Writing and publication

With Gatsby, Fitzgerald made a conscious departure from the writing process of his previous novels. He started planning it in June 1922, after completing his play The Vegetable, and began composing it in 1923. He ended up discarding most of a false start, some of which would resurface in the story “Absolution.” Unlike his previous works, Fitzgerald intended to edit and reshape Gatsby thoroughly, believing that it held the potential to launch him toward literary acclaim. He told his editor Max Perkins that the novel was a “consciously artistic achievement” and a “purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world.” He added later, during the editing process, that he felt “an enormous power in me now, more than I’ve ever had.”
Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island was a partial inspiration for Gatsby’s estate.

After the birth of their child, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neck, Long Island in October 1922, appropriating Great Neck as the setting for The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s neighbors included such newly wealthy New Yorkers as writer Ring Lardner, actor Lew Fields and comedian Ed Wynn.[2] Great Neck, on the shores of Long Island Sound, sat across a bay from Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck Peninsula, which includes the communities of Port Washington, Manorhaven, Port Washington North and Sands Point, and was home to many of New York’s wealthiest established families. In his novel, Great Neck became the new-money peninsula of “West Egg” and Manhasset Neck the old-money peninsula of “East Egg”.

Progress on the novel was slow. In May 1924, the Fitzgeralds moved to the French Riviera, where he completed the novel. In November, he sent the draft to his publisher Perkins and his agent Harold Ober. The Fitzgeralds again relocated, this time to Rome, for the winter. Fitzgerald made revisions through the winter after Perkins informed him that the novel was too vague and Gatsby’s biographical section too long. Content after a few rounds of revision, Fitzgerald returned the final batch of revised galleys in the middle of February 1925.

Original cover art

The cover of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of jacket art in American literature.[7] A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel, with Fitzgerald so enamored of it that he told his publisher he had “written it into” the novel.

After several initial sketches of various completeness, Cugat produced the Art Deco-style painting of a pair of eyes hovering over the bright lights of an amusement park. The woman has no nose but full and voluptuous lips. Descending from the right eye is a green tear. The irises of the eyes are a gouache, depicting a pair of reclining nudes.

Fitzgerald’s remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (the novel’s erstwhile proprietor of a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson’s auto-repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as “blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.” Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs”.


The last piece was the title. Fitzgerald was ambivalent, shifting among Gatsby, Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, Trimalchio, Trimalchio in West Egg, On the Road to West Egg, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, and The High-Bouncing Lover. Initially, he preferred Trimalchio, after the crude parvenu in Petronius’s Satyricon. Unlike Fitzgerald’s reticent agonist, Trimalchio actively participated in the audacious and libidinous orgies that he hosted. That Fitzgerald refers to Gatsby by the proposed title just once in the entire novel shows it a misnomer. As Tony Tanner observes, there are subtle similarities between the two.

On November 7, 1924, Fitzgerald wrote decisively to Perkins — “I have now decided to stick to the title I put on the book […] Trimalchio in West Egg” — but was eventually persuaded that the reference was too obscure and that people would not be able to pronounce it. His wife and Perkins both expressed their preference for The Great Gatsby and, in December, Fitzgerald agreed.[9] A month before publication, after a final review of the proofs, he asked if it would be possible to re-title it Trimalchio or Gold-Hatted Gatsby, but Perkins advised against it. On March 19, Fitzgerald asked if the book could be renamed Under the Red White and Blue, but it was at that stage too late to change. The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald remarked that “the title is only fair, rather bad than good.”


The Great Gatsby received mostly positive reviews, but was not the commercial success of Fitzgerald’s previous novels This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. The book went through two printings for a total of 23,870 copies. At the time of Fitzgerald’s death 15 years later, some of these copies were still unsold. Many of Fitzgerald’s literary friends, however, wrote him letters praising the novel.

When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he had been largely forgotten. He believed himself to be a failure. Many of his obituaries mentioned Gatsby as evidence that he had great potential that he never reached. But people began to read his book again, aided in part by the Armed Services Editions giving away around 150,000 copies of Gatsby to the American military in World War II.

In 1951 Arthur Mizener published The Far Side of Paradise, the first biography of Fitzgerald, which sparked further interest in his life and writing, by scholars and the general public. By the 1960s the novel’s reputation was established and it is frequently mentioned as one of the great American novels.

Film, TV, theatrical and literary adaptations

The Great Gatsby has been filmed four times:

1. The Great Gatsby, in 1926 by Herbert Brenon – a silent movie of a stage adaptation, starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson, and William Powell. It is a famous example of a lost film. Reviews suggest that it may have been the most faithful adaptation of the novel, but a trailer of the film at National Archives is all that is known to exist;
2. The Great Gatsby, in 1949 by Elliott Nugent – starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Shelley Winters; for copyright reasons, this film is not readily available;

3. The Great Gatsby, in 1974, by Jack Clayton – the most famous screen version, starring Robert Redford in the title role with Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan & Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, with a script by Francis Ford Coppola;
4. The Great Gatsby, in 2000 by Robert Markowitz – a made-for-TV movie starring Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd and Mira Sorvino.

Famous American author Truman Capote was originally hired as the screenwriter for the 1974 film adaptation. In his screenplay, Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker were both written to be homosexual. After Capote was removed from the project, Coppola rewrote the screenplay.

Australian film director and screenwriter Baz Luhrman has also announced that he will adapt the book into a movie, with principal photography scheduled to commence in 2010. Luhrman is also the director of the critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge!.

The 2002 film G (released in 2005) by Christopher Scott Cherot claims inspiration from The Great Gatsby.


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