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Newark window cleaner makes £18,600 profit from selling Lord of the Rings first edition trilogy


By Connor Thompson


A window cleaner made £18,600 profit from selling a trilogy of books.

Joe Bass, of Newark, bought the Lord Of The Rings first edition trilogy at a local auction for £400, before selling them on for £19,000.

The avid reader has been collecting vintage books for more than 30 years but only recently has started using the hobby as another source of income.

Joe Bass holds a picture of the triloigy in the Bonhams auction catalogue. (6147308)
Joe Bass holds a picture of the triloigy in the Bonhams auction catalogue. (6147308)

“It was a hobby at first,” said Joe.

“I would go to junk sales, auctions, charity shops and boot sales looking for gems. Anything vintage or collectable I would buy.”

After suffering from tennis elbow he struggled to complete his job.

Joe looked for a way to sustain a regular income and opened book shops on Ebay and Amazon called Books From The Blue Grotto.

His injury eventually cleared up, but his book shops remained.

Joe said he found the Lord Of The Rings trilogy while looking through a box of assorted first edition books.

“They were in very good condition and the dust wrappers were almost in mint condition, which is unusual for first editions,” he said.

“The previous owner must have put them on the shelf and left them there for 60 years.

“They looked unreal.”

First edition copies of Lord Of The Rings books are highly collectable and very rare.

In fear that the books would not sell, the author John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien published copies separately between 1954 and 1955.

Joe said he was excited to spot the books, which belong to the third best selling novel collection in history.

After a night spent wondering how many others had noticed the books, Joe returned to the auction.

He had one competitor, who said he would have bid more if he wasn’t short of money that particular week.

Having won the auction, Joe sent photos to Bonhams, who valued the books between £6,000 and £8,000.

Joe was invited to sell his series of books at their auction. He accepted the offer, and the trilogy went for nearly three times its valuation.

They sold for a hammer price of£23,750, including the buyer’s premium and commission, of which Joe netted £19,000.

Joe said he was pleasantly surprised.

“Every book collector dreams of a find like this,” he said.

“It makes all my efforts searching dusty shelves and poking about among boxes of books worthwhile.”

Looking ahead, Joe has target his next treasure.

He said he hopes to stumble across a signed first edition copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses book ­— a novel valued at around £80,000.



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