Have you experienced The Joy of Cooking? I don't actually mean, you know, cooking, though some people do.
I mean the feeling you get when you discover, for some ridiculously low price, a first edition copy of Irma Rombauer's cookbook at an estate sale. Or when you stumble across a $1 box of 1950's recipe booklets at a rummage or yard sale.
Those old recipe booklets published to advertise various foodstuffs like Pillsbury flour and Karo syrup can sell for $5 to $10+ each. Booklets have become quite popular with collectors because they take up little space; are easy to store and display in plastic sleeves in boxes and binders; and, because of the advertising, are often cross-collectible.
A 1931 first-edition copy of The Joy of Cooking, of which just 3000 were printed, can easily fetch over $4000!
Even newer cookbooks and booklets can be worth more than you'd think, since many have had limited runs. Some collectors specialize in regional materials, favorite authors, or types of recipes. Some seek out the booklets published as fundraisers by organizations such as churches. And many commercial enterprises still produce materials as advertising aids.
Of course, in addition to age and rarity, a lot depends on condition. Was the book/booklet used in the kitchen where it accumulated sauce spots, butter stains, and dried bits of dough? Or was it shelved in clean surroundings where recipes were written out and then transferred to the work area? Is it complete, or are pages torn or missing? Does it possess its original dust jacket?
These can all affect value to a large degree, and often mean the difference between a $50 book and a $500 copy of the same edition.
Signatures, even on newer books, also carry a premium. A book-signing event represents a golden opportunity to add to the future value of a book, and one of the largest book-signings occurs annually at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards (see Resource section below) where dozens of authors may be present.
Would you like to learn more about collectible cookbooks? Check out the resources listed below, and
"Antique Trader Collectible Cookbooks Price Guide," by Patricia Edwards and Peter Peckham
Link to book
"Collector's Guide to Cookbooks: Identification & Values," by Frank Daniels
Link to book
"Cookbooks Worth Collecting," by Mary Barile
Link to book
"Vintage Cookbooks and Advertising Leaflets," by Sandra J. Norman and Karrie K. Andes
Link to book
College of Cook Book Knowledge
Nice section at Janet Jarvit's Cook Books website. Check out the page describing the various editions of The Joy of Cooking.
Cookbook Collector Network
Relatively new site has some nice pics/info.
Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project (Link to website)
Digitized collection "of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century. "
International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards (Link to website)
Check out this site for details concerning their upcoming awards/book-signing event.
An Interview With American Cookbook Expert and Rare Book Curator Peter Berg (Link to website)
Informative article by Maribeth Keane for The Collectors Weekly.
Longone Center for American Culinary Research
The Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the William L. Clements Library (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)
The Most Expensive Cookbooks Ever Sold on AbeBooks
From AbeBooks.com's Rare Book Room comes this list of rarities. While there, check out "A Recipe for Collecting Cookbooks."
Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks (1878 - 1929) (Link to website)
Duke University Libraries digitized cookbook collection.
Check out the Links page!
Vintage Cookbooks: A History (Link to PDF file)
From Cheryl Miller's Cropping Cooks site