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Collectable (high value/high price) Cookbooks?

I was reading another thread about favorite obscure cookbooks. "River Road" was mentioned and a link was provided. Looks like those books go for a good chunk of change. (I have the '59 edition.)

It got me thinking...what are some rare/collectable/high value cookbooks that folks are familiar with? Like a lot of readers (I imagine), I scour book sales for cook books. What should we be looking for?

Rick Bohan
Wellington, OH

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  1. I have a hardcover edition (don't know if there even IS a paperback) of a cookbook by the Duchess of Windsor. I think it's called Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor. I have trouble picturing her slaving away in the kitchen. Somebody told me it is valuable, but I haven't done anything about it. Too much fun to own it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: oakjoan

      i just saw that in the used bookstore, i think it was selling for $35. hardcover, pic of the (young) duchess on the front cover. blue cover iirc. i opened it up for shits&giggles, to a recipe for chicken gumbo!

      1. re: soupkitten

        Bet she never put one iota of herself in the kitchen after she bagged the King...

        1. re: buttertart

          Well, a Duke as it turned out.

          There's a royalty buff in my family who affectionately refers to me as the Duchess because evidently Wallis had a passion for cookbook collecting as well!

          1. re: buttertart

            Well, she looked like she may have had a solid recipe for Cracked Windsor Oysters, served on the half shell, fully tenderized and pre-masticated.

        2. Here is a link to the most expensive cookbooks ever sold by Abe's Books:


          1. I was just wondering the same thing. My local thrift shop just set up a really big section of just cookbooks and I was thinking would I pass over something I should be jumping on. Now at least I know to look for inscriptions, that's a start.

            I picked up a James Beard book, an older Frugal Gourmet and a wonderful book on Greek cooking all for $2 each. I had found a 1960s edition of Craig Claiborne NY Times at a different shop last year for 50 cents. I'm always tempted by those community/church collections, they had a couple but I browsed through them and wasn't impressed. But I should go back and get them anyway, maybe if you had enough you could sell the whole collection on eBay. I love just having them on my bookshelf in the kitchen, as if they send good food vibes my way.

            7 Replies
            1. re: coll

              The Community/Church collections of recipes are history books.

              You see what items were popular to eat (Brazil nuts, PET milk, salad oil, sweetbreds, junkets), what utensils were used (wax paper, freezer trays, an oblong baking dish, liquid smoke) and what they were called (alligator pears, Eagle Brand milk, Karo,oleo).

              You also see little things, like the receipe author is Mrs. Edward Smith, Miss Pat Jones...in more 'current' years they are Mrs. Edward (Nadine) Smith and no 'Miss' in front of the unmarried (spinster) names...

              I love old cookboks. They are valuable to me.

              One I think may be collectible is The Settlement Cookbook, a sort of cooking and housekeeping manual. I have a 1949 copy and it is fascinating to read.

              1. re: Cathy

                I do have a few; my favorite is one my sister in law sent when my brother was stationed in Okinawa, it's called something like Marine Wifes Favorite Recipes. As you can guess, they are from all over the world. but just really old fashioned simple recipes.

                1. re: coll

                  That makes it collectible. And priceless. To me.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    Oh yeah nobody's getting that book!

                    1. re: coll

                      I have two early copies of the Settlement Cookbook, given me from each of my grandmothers, who lived in separate parts of the country and were far apart in age but had the same edition. Grandma Celia had written her maiden name in Hebrew-like bubble letters, a name she hadn't had since the 1920s. The SC was so ubiquitous they aren't worth much, dollarwise.

              2. re: coll

                A few years ago I noticed a community cookbook on e-Bay. A few e-mails with the seller determined that at least 2 of the contributors were beloved long-since departed family members. I bought the book for next to nothing, photocopied sections to share with other family, and now have a wonderful little piece of our family history and a charming reminder of one of the best cooks our family has produced.

                1. re: rockycat

                  That's a wonderful story rockycat! Nothing better than having a book like that in the hands of someone who values it.

                  I had a garage sale this summer and among other things, I was selling a number of old cookbooks I'd purchased in a box lot at auction. A woman came up to me totally blown away. One of the books ( over 50 yrs old) was from her Grandmother's church in another Province. She found some of her Grandma's recipes in the book. Who would have thought so many years later, so so many miles away, this woman and a piece of her family history would be brought together. Some things are just meant to be! . . . . and no, I didn't charge her for the book.

              3. I think that Vincent and Mary Price's cookbook always goes for a lot.

                1. One more recent, but out-of-print, title that is always listed at very high prices is The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, by Claudia Fleming. Current Amazon listings begin at $150 for a "good" used copy, and shoot up to an unbelievable $875 for a new, signed copy.


                  It's an excellent book. In recent years, seeing the crazy prices, I've been especially glad I got it when it first came out. I don't intend to sell it though - i want to cook from it!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    I can't believe that I had two of these (one autographed and bought at North Fork Inn and Table), and I gave one away! I kept the autographed one!

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      I'm glad I got it when it first came out too, and I don't intend to sell my copy either.

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        Oh that is so disappointing. I really want that book but those prices are ridiculous. Will just have to keep scouring those used bookstores.

                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        They reprinted it and I bought a copy last year but now that is sold out.

                      3. I think Nick Malgieri's Italian Baking fetches a pretty high price.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: roxlet

                          Yes it does; out of print and popular, I've been looking for an affordable copy for some time, that and Vincent Price's book.

                          Cathy's upthread mentioned The Settlement Cookbook, I had a 1954 copy left behind by a roommate, sadly gone now, pricey to replace.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            I got it at the Strand maybe a year ago for under $20.00, actually.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                You know me. It was just waiting there, under the bodice-ripper paperbacks, whimpering for me to take it home. Didn't know it was valuable - obviously neither did the Strand!

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Have you cooked from it, or are you still just dating?

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    I made something with nuts, don't remember which, and it was good, but we're not going steady yet. I'm in love with its younger brother, the Baker's Tour.

                                2. re: roxlet

                                  Really, sounds like bt was in the right place, right time.

                                3. re: buttertart

                                  I didn't want to mention it, but I got that book off of e-bay maybe 6 or 8 years ago for very little. I know it had to be very little because I'm cheap and it's not like me to pay more than $15 for a used book.
                                  And like buttertart, I had no idea it was OOP and rare. I just like both Nick Malgieri and Italian baking.

                                4. re: bushwickgirl

                                  Vincent and Mary Price's A Treasury of Great Recipes can be found on Ebay almost constantly at good prices. I picked up a copy under $30 (around $25 if I remember right) that is in great condition aside from missing the dust cover (as most are), and having quite a bit of fading on the spine. Otherwise, very nice with both ribbons and even the original paper bookmark, first edition.

                                  Looking today there's some nice copies up for sale as well, some with bids of only $10 thus far. It's one of those books that's MUCH easier to get on ebay then trying to find elsewhere, and generally much cheaper (particularly true if you're looking in used bookstores).

                                  1. re: sumrtym

                                    I've seen it start the bidding war for $10 at Ebay, and then it goes onnnnnnwards...someday.

                                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                                      Can you hear me kicking myself for ditching my copy?

                              2. Albert Adria's Los Postres de el Bulli would go on that list.

                                1. Tandoor: The Great Indian Barbecue by Ranjit Rai

                                  Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras

                                  It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking
                                  by Kasma Loha-unchit

                                  Dancing Shrimp, by Kasma Loha-unchit

                                  The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine
                                  by John D. Folse

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                    Oy. I just donated Dancing Shrimp to my local library book sale. Wonder if I can get it back. I simply have (had) so many Southeast Asian cookbooks that I had to thin the herd.

                                    1. re: pitterpatter


                                      I always check the prices on Amazon, etc., before I donate books. I have sold some of my books for a lot of money, including one that went for over $125. (Although that wasn't a cookbook.)

                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                        Lesson learned. I did sell The Last Course several years ago for over $100, but I guess I was in a clear-out-the-shelves frenzy.

                                  2. The hardcover of Marco Pierre White's White Heat runs between $113 and $600 on Abe, depending on condition. Maybe I should sell it (mine is in very good condition as I've never cooked from it) in order to buy The Last Course by Claudia Fleming (which I would cook from a lot).

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JaneEYB

                                      JaneEYBE: Great idea!

                                      I took Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook (a gift which I found I NEVER used) to the bookstore figuring that I'd get a pretty penny for it in exchange for other books. HAH! The guy wouldn't take it as all in trade. He said he already had about 4 of them and they never sold. I ended up giving it to them to send off to a charity.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        If you are looking to sell books, the best place to do so is on Amazon, or similar sites. I've found Amazon to be the easiest by far. I've sold at least 50 or 60 books that way and got good money for all of them. You get fair market value on Amazon (minus Amazon's commision but you also get credited for the shipping fees.) Going to a retailer requires you to sell the book for less than fair market value because they need to make a profit.

                                    2. Diccionario Enciclopedico De Gastronomia Mexicana by Ricardo Munoz Zurita
                                      Last one I saw was $400+ now I think you would have a difficult time finding a copy.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: chefj

                                        Wow, I have this book. I paid about $500 pesos for it, or around $45 in Oaxaca 7 years ago. It is currently out of print. It is one of the definitive books for the serious Mexican cooking person. I wouldn't pay $400 for it, but I'd probably pay somewhere between $75 and $100. Mine is not for sale, BTW, at any price ;-)

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          And there we have the Dinero Mucho ! ( - :

                                      2. Be afraid, be very afraid Rick...cookbook collecting can be addictive! Your question needs more information. Do you want to collect to sell or increase your own collection. After I hit cookbook #5,456 in my collection, I realized that I can't take them with me so I am in the process of finding homes for them, and selling them. This time of year it's a lot of fun. I've sold a few cookbooks for hundreds of dollars and for as little as $5.00.

                                        If I were to collect all over again, I would:
                                        ONLY buy cookbooks in mint or near mint condition.
                                        Like at least 10 recipes in the cookbook in case you want to keep the cookbook.
                                        Try and find the 1st Edition of a cookbook - it could take a while to work up to finding that 1st Edition especially if it from the 1950's etc. (I've have found four 1st Editions of Vincent Price's cookbook--one just last night.)
                                        Make friends with your local used book seller if they have a good cookbook section (mine holds rare books for me--with a nice gift for them at Christmas.)
                                        Learn to walk away if the price is a bit high. With the internet there is always someone selling the cookbook you want at a cheaper price.
                                        Check out the book: A Guide to Collecting Cookbooks: A History of People, Companies and Cooking by Bob Allen. Will help you recognize cookbook covers when you see them.
                                        Here is a blog about the surprise of cookbooks:

                                        Where to buy: Estate sales, church sales, garage and tag sales--even Craigslist. Look at Junior League cookbooks, church cookbooks--look for chapters that have "ethnic" recipes or themes (Italian, Scandinavian, etc.).

                                        Use eBay to check titled and even Google shopping for finding ALL cookbooks for sale on the web. eBay isn't the only game in town, but does have the lion's share of titles and gives you an idea on what is selling.

                                        Happy hunting!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: JustAsk

                                          Great primer, thanks JustAsk...I am strictly amateur, but started collecting when I worked with a women's service magazine many years ago. I sold a couple of vintage things to a genuine collector who later wrote a book on the subject for quite a bit...very nice feeling to see them go to someone who cared and shared their unique historical perspective.

                                          1. Hmm...interesting question. I haven't done much research but off the top of my head are a couple:

                                            Vincent and Mary Price's "A Treasury of Great Recipes" 1st edition, with the padded embossed cover and original bookmark. Thanks to a discussion on Chowhound http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3838... I got it on Ebay in 2007 for $18 and it looks brand new.

                                            The other is a signed copy of Jean-Louis Palladin's "Cooking With the Seasons", which I bought at a special dinner he guest-cheffed at in Boston the year he died.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Rubee

                                              There's the Vincent Price Treasury, 1965 1st edition in very good condition on ebay right now at a starting bid of $9.95. It'll be interesting to see what the final bid will be. There's also a "buy it now" copy available for $250, sans autograph, for those with deep pockets.

                                            2. I have a Better Homes and Garden Cookbook from 1967. You cannot go wrong. Get one.

                                              1. I read through the posts, probably missed a lot. My sisters and I collect the little cookbooklets. They're not all that helpful for cooking but they're interesting and some of the artwork is beautiful. The Jell-O books that Rose O' Neill illustrated especially.They can get a bit pricey. I think the most my sister has ever paid is about $70 or so,could be wrong though. I love the ones with stories and advice on how to prepare the layers of the table cloths,(getting right on that),household tips. I have one called "Her Book" that was evidently presented to women at the time of their marriage. I have a few hundred cookbooks, my sister has untold amounts. They're such fun to read.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: MellieMag

                                                  Hey, I collect those too! My hubby brought me home the O'Neill Jello cookbook and has currently hidden it from me in an attempt to discourage me from cutting it up and framing it...
                                                  hmmm...maybe offset printing.

                                                2. I have a cookbook put out during WWI. It is put out by the government telling women how to cook within their rations. It is not in very good shape so I doubt it is worth much. I played with it when I was a little girl ~cringe~.

                                                  My sister has a very old copy dating from the 1800's of the Carolina Housewife. I covet it mightily. It has been in our family - well since the 1800's and has lots of funny remarks written in it by the women in our family.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    My sister would be all over that cookbook. She is wanting Civil War or pre-Civil War cookbooks. You are so good not to steal from your sister. I would steal that from my sister in a heartbeat. I have one from the late 1800s. She's tried to steal it from me for years. It's something that goes along with the World's Fair, I think in San Francisco, been so long since I looked at it . That cookbook must be precious to your family. We've lost (stolen by idiot cousin) the Bible my Great Grandpa carried during the Civil War and wrote his thoughts in. I would give anything to have that back.

                                                    1. re: MellieMag

                                                      I tried to bribe her with a hoosier cabinet at an auction. No go. Tough cookie!

                                                      Someone stole a family BIBLE? If you could see the look on my face.

                                                  2. I have a Chinese cookbook from 1917 published in New York that belonged to my mother. There are foodstuffs mentioned in it I've never heard of which were apparently available in NYC at the time. It has a helpful guide to ordering groceries from Chinese stores on Mott St and Park Place including a suggested letter format. It also has a nutrition guide giving caloric values for various foodstuffs and counseling moderation...everything old is new again, it would seem. Quite charming but rather daunting inasmuch as it gives instructions on how to make your own peanut oil among other things!

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      get to work, buttertart. i need a gallon of peanut oil!

                                                      i'll trade you a skinned raccoon, with a recipe from the old cookbook i have about wilderness cooking.

                                                      yeah, like *that's* gonna happen! ;-).

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          The skinned raccoon reminds me of an odd book I picked up at a church booksale: Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices. Mix of recipes, tips, and household tips, including the "norwegian method of getting rid of rats."

                                                          I bought it because of the detailed instructions for making dandelion wine, which I have not yet attempted.

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              That is it, thanks. "Strangest and zaniest collection....." as posted by one reviewer is right on. It is the only food-related book on my desk at work thanks to its diversionary abilities.

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            I worked with a guy who told the funniest story about his cousin cooking a raccoon...you definitely had to be there, the whole thing was mimed out (raccoon was deceased before he got involved).
                                                            Norwegian method? Does it only work on Norway rats, I wonder?

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              Supposedly the "method" was brought to Minnesota by Norwegians, hence the name. It involves poisoning the rodents with a mixture of white bread, lye, and some sort of syrup, placed in the "runways" of the rats. Haven't tried it myself but have immensely enjoyed reading these tips.

                                                              1. re: tcamp

                                                                What is it with Norwegians and lye?

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  russians have vodka, norwegians the lye. death wish.

                                                        2. Lambeth Method 1936, signed. Love this book!

                                                          1. I own Ruth Reichl's very first cookbook, which seems to be pretty valuable:


                                                            When I bought it (library book sale) I had no idea who she was. It is an extremely fun cookbook, and I have no interest in selling it.

                                                            I also own this:

                                                            but it's recently been reissued, so I don't know if the value will hold.

                                                            I have many other old and enjoyable ones that are not worth anything (yet). Fave titles: ' "Tycoons in the kitchen : the favorite recipes of the men who run big business," "Cookery for men only," The Republican Woman's Holiday Cookbook (from 1962), The United Airlines Luau Party Planner...

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: loraxc

                                                              Believe it or not I have two copies of that Ruth Reichl book. The first one - tattered to within an inch of its life - was a gift from a friend when I moved out of my parent's house at 21. I used it all the time - it was absolutely my bible. I learned so much from that book - not that the recipes were particularly special (or even especially reliable) but Ruth Reichl modelled fearless, inventive cooking - and exciting concept to me. (The second copy, I bought online as a back-up a few years ago but I DID NOT pay $99 for it!) For a young person who learned to cook from a fussy, neurotic, control-freak Hungarian Jewish mother, this was the polar opposite and I just ate it up. I once wrote Ruth a letter telling her how much her book meant to me and that I blamed her for my interest in cooking. I had just written my first cookbook and I sent her a copy. I got a nice reply.

                                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                                It's really an enjoyable book. I used and loved it for years (while being highly amused at the VERY weird art) before my husband said, "Ruth Reichl? Isn't that the Gourmet woman?"

                                                                1. re: loraxc

                                                                  I was just reminded that when I was a 20-something single, living in a high rise apartment in Toronto, I went out and picked a grocery bag full of dandelion flowers along the train tracks through the city. I then came home and made a couple of gallon jugs of dandelion wine, using the extremely sketchy and inadequate instructions in the Reichl book. I had no wine-making knowledge or experience and no special valves or equipment. Just a couple of big ol' jugs and some corks. Well the first jug exploded in my living room on the second night, the second one somehow stayed corked and we tried to drink several months later. It wasn't good. At all. But I learned that you can make an alcoholic beverage on the 16th floor from practically nothing. It was a great lesson.

                                                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                                                    Sounds like me trying the same sort of things on the 17th floor of 666 Spadina (first ever apartment). Marrons glac├ęs not a success...

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      Round about the same time, I was a stone's throw away on the second floor at 54 Madison...however, making one's own alcoholic beverages was a less important passtime than more 'herbally' based activities as I recall...though a bottle of Faisca or Mateus Rose were considered real treats!

                                                                      Oh, how long ago that all seems...

                                                                      1. re: LJS

                                                                        Shame, isn't it? I was a more daring cook in those days than I am now, probably because I didn't know how much I didn't know. Dishes from the Gourmet Cookbook (the blue one?) no problem.
                                                                        My husband (I got married very very young, we were both undergrads at UofT) is/was a wine fancier so not much Mateus was consumed in that apartment - but it was very popular in high school.
                                                                        Remember the Harbord Bakery? Those chocolate chip coolies? Want one right now.

                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                          Harbord Bakery was big with DH and me...also undergrads who met at U of T.

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            Funny that. I made things in those days that I'd NEVER bother to do now. Possibly because a lot of things simply weren't available back then - mid 70's. You couldn't find something as simple as fresh pasta anywhere, never mind good sausages or empanadas or any kind of decent bread. Toronto was a very different place then. As for the Harbord Bakery - it's still around, of course. Do they still make the same cookies? Haven't been there in a long time.

                                                                            1. re: Nyleve

                                                                              Don't know, haven't been in T.O. for at least 8 years. Must go back.

                                                              2. I have Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Cookbook, which is a gorgeous book!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Michelle

                                                                  Do you have the orginal one or the "light" version? I'm just curious, because I just received Fat Duck, but the less expensive version. I haven't been able to spend any quality time with it yet, but just leafing through it, I can't wait to have a chance to do so. I'm just wondering what I'd be missing in the "full fat" version.

                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                    I've got the "light" version as well. I also really enjoyed Heston's Fantastical Feasts, another beautiful book!

                                                                2. cocolat by alice medrich was going for over $100 on ebay a few years ago. my mom found a pristine copy at a thrift store for $7 and i demanded that she give it to me.

                                                                  1. Hi, I realise this is an old post, but I am trying to find out more information about a first edition I just found, and wondered if you could help.
                                                                    I would love to know it's value, but also some information about the print run etc. The book is Le Ricette Regionali Italiane, by Anna Gosetti della Salda. It has 'prima edizione 1967' and is published seemingly by the magazine, La Cucina Italiana.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bumble14

                                                                      The only books that are really worth much have to be in PRISTINE condition, does it look used at all?

                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                        HI, It has some sun fading on the spine, but for a recipe book printed in 1967 it's in good condition.

                                                                        1. re: bumble14

                                                                          Check on eBay and see if there are any similar. I've sold a few books there, but only ones that were kept in glass cases, and not used in the kitchen or sat out in sunlight. Leather binding and gilt edging/print is a bonus.

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            I've done that, there doesn't seem to be any records of a first edition selling anywhere!

                                                                        2. re: coll

                                                                          I have more pictures if you like?