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Dec 5, 2010 06:26 PM

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 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.