‘Condition is the key factor. Look for a pristine copy that appears to have been lovingly read rather than one that has endured the heat, liquids and dirty fingerprints of a working kitchen. Is it signed by the author or someone of note? Does it have a dust jacket? Is it a first edition? Is it out-of-print? These are all important factors to take into consideration before purchasing.
‘Although countless cookbooks can be easily found at garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets, the Internet has become the preferred way for collectors to enhance their collections with quality rare books by purchasing from professional booksellers who put their inventories online.’
So how do you know if you’re sitting on an in-demand title? Well the most expensive cookbooks sold in recent time - see list below - include many old titles, so experts suggest looking through books that may have been handed down through the generations to see if any of these titles are in your collection.
‘Many collectors are drawn to these older books because they catered for kitchens before electricity, microwaves, and refrigerators,’ says AbeBooks. ‘Their recipes reflect dishes, ingredients and styles of cooking that have been forgotten.’
But that doesn’t mean that modern titles catch fetch a pretty penny either. Experts say first edition cookbooks are always sought after - especially if they’re in perfect condition with no tears, food stains or discolouration.
Some of the first celebrity chefs - including Julia Child, Margaret Fulton and Ellen Sinclair - also attract interest from collectors, due to the emotional connection. Explains one expert: ‘People recall their mother or grandmother using the book, so there is a sentimental attraction.’
AbeBooks suggest going through your collection and cross-referencing it with titles online, to see if there’s a high demand. If you think you’re onto something, then try contacting them or have a crack on eBay. You just may make yourself thousands!
The Most Expensive Cookbooks Ever Sold on Abebooks
1. La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise
Sold for $1751.43
Sold for $650
Sold for $600
Sold for $585
Sold for $452.74
Alice B. Toklas
Sold for $447
Sold for $397
Sold for $350
Apicius (translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling)
Sold for $300
10. Anglo-Indian Cookery at Home: A Short Treatise for Returned Exiles by the Wife of a Retired Indian Army Officer
Sold for $261