Make money from your cookbook shelf
June 20th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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We know, this sounds suspiciously like an internet ad that tells you how to make money by selling prescription drugs online. No, this might be even easier. Some cookbooks that you just might have sitting on your shelves are going for quite a bit of money on Amazon.

We’re not talking about super-specialized books like Modernist Cuisine, the recently released, $625, 46-pound compendium by Nathan Myhrvold, nor a first-edition copy of Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food, which went for $1583. (Although if you have either of those books on hand, you’re lucky, and potentially rich.) We’re talking specifically about The Last Course, by pastry goddess Claudia Fleming.

Published in 2001, the book ranks just above the 783,000 mark on Amazon’s best-seller list and originally cost $40.  Now, a first edition of The Last Course is on sale for $800 on Amazon, with used copies going for $142.

Why is the book, as good as it is, so expensive? Because it was only reprinted in limited quantities. (Maybe also because Gilt Taste marked the book at $400 when Dave Chang recently named it on his curated cookbook list for the website.)

“People always want what they can’t get,” says The Last Course’s co-author, Melissa Clark. “Once a cookbook goes from utilitarian—as in, something to cook from—to cult—as in, something to own—that’s when you get crazy prices. The funny thing is, I recently bought a copy at a thrift shop for $20. Then the price skyrocketed. So now I have two copies, and I’m wishing I’d saved more from my original case of books.”

Alright everyone, go check your shelves for The Last Course. Of course we recommend that you cook from it. But whatever you do, don’t put it on the giveaway pile.

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© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Best in Life • Books • Content Partner • Cookbooks • Food and Wine • Think • Vintage Cookbooks

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Make easy money on internet

    Nice post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I'm inspired! Very useful information specially the last phase :) I take care of such information much. I was looking for this particular information for a long time. Thanks and best of luck.

    January 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  2. Ucy Lizhabeth Sihombing

    This blog contains nice information.

    June 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  3. Greens

    June 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  4. jessicaber

    I think that it is strange and sad that some of you are responding negatively to a book store being able to fill any order request for their customers and and it just a fact that The US government is actually that organized for us. It gives me a sense of comfort and faith that their were people who had foresight.

    June 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  5. Phill

    Make money at home. Hey you wont have to sell old cookbooks that you'd rather keep for your kids!
    An honest review.

    CLICK HERE, Check out this review!

    June 22, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Phill

      Or... go to this link:

      June 22, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  6. GG

    ... have it – first edition! perfect condition and paid $1!

    June 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  7. cookbooksrock

    I have over 500 cookbooks collected over 33 years; yes, I need to get rid of them but they will be passed down to my children. I am amazed that Paula Deen cookbooks (the original spiral bound ones) go for well over 500.00!!

    June 21, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Freckles2stars

      Glad to hear that her cookbook is going for $500 or so. Never use them and could use a mini vacation.

      June 23, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  8. Jeepers

    Most of mine are gifts but I did buy one at a family reunion that was a compilation of family recipes. $10. I doubt I'd have paid more. I'm cheap that way. I get most of my recipes from the internet.

    June 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  9. Kaiti

    I did pretty well eBaying my old Weight Watcher cookbooks – the ones they sell at meetings are only printed in limited runs, so once they're gone, that's it. One I bought new for $15-20 sold on eBay for more than $70!

    June 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  10. DebbieH

    One of my favorite things to do is comb estate sales, garage sales and used book stores for old cookbooks. Being raised a true southern cook where my mom would keep a can of bacon grease to add to EVERYTHING. It truly amazes me to see how much dishes have changed over the decades. If you want a blast from the past, pick up an old "church" cookbook. You remember them, the ones where all the ladies of the congregation would contribute their favorite recipes and sit back and have a chuckle.. then try one one. Nothing quite like letting your tastebuds relive the yesteryears.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  11. RJ

    Unfortunately cookbooks that have a big resale value are few and far between when compared to many other book genres.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  12. jessicaber

    I worked for Borders Books in Phoenix, Arizona on Tatum & Shea Blvds. for the summer of 1999. It was a brand new store. We stocked the store and a (nice) production was made of training us in everything. We were told that The Library Of Congress has every book ever published (I meant to say published) and we were taught how to access The Library Of Congress from the customer service computers in the store. You can call them and I am sure that they will tell you that if you ask. It is a service that they offer to their customers.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Kevin

      You were poorly trained and grossly misinformed. The LOC only has possession of submitted copies of books that applied for ISBN numbers and they have absolutely no right to reproduce those books.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Peter

      Jessica, you are mistaken. You may be able to look up a book by it's ISBN or other information, but you are not accessing the Library of Congress nor can you request that the LOC send you a copy of a book.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Evil Grin

      I wish it were this way. But at the LOC, there are a lot of books that you don't even have access to view in the building, much less are able to just order from a book store.

      I worked at a used bookstore when I was a teenager. I was also able to look up books on a program and order them, but it was a compilation of books currently in print from most available book printers. It would give you the ISBN #, and you would order from the source – say TOR books. TOR would then ship the book to your address.

      The LOC is, from my experience, an excellent place to go and do research and get information, but definitely not the place to go for printed copies. They can't even hold all the books they own in that building, after all. They have alternate locations for storing much of their stock. They don't have room for a printery.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • JB

      I've been a cookbook consultant/printer for self- publishers for several years. There is a lot of confusion regarding ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) and a LCCNs (Library of Congress Control Number).

      An ISBN is used only in commercial situations (bookstore catalogs, online ordering, etc.). You must apply for an LCCN number to have your book included in the Library of Congress collection. These are two seperate numbers. In no way are the two linked or related. Some authors/publishers don't apply for either.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  13. jessicaber

    #1 there is no such thing as a limited edition of a book, because The US Libray of Congress has every single book ever printed and Border Books can order a book after looking it up there.
    #2 My little sister gave me a crock pot cook book once and I did not think much of it at the time, but after having two children I am amazed by how much I used that book until they were out of kindergarten and 1st grade and I am still using it some I am sure.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Evil Grin

      Um. What?

      The Library of Congress does have massive amount of books, and probably accurately has a copy of most books recently published in the U.S., but I'd hardly say they have a copy of every book ever printed. Unless of course they have an army of librarians with time machines puttering through history, snatching fresh-writ tomes and scrolls from the hands of startled scribes.

      And on that, just because the Library of Congress has a copy, does not mean that a book store can just call them up and order it up. They aren't a printer. They don't keep electronic templates, nor do they keep plates of the pages. They can't just load up the press and print off a copy of the book, cut it and bind it and ship it off to Borders. Borders can special order a book directly from the printer only if it is currently in print – in other words, the printer is still actively producing that book for sale. Once a book has gone out of print, unless the demand is so high that it goes into a reprint, you can no longer order a new copy. And you certainly cannot order a copy from the Library of Congress. Even if they did have a 1789 edition of the Book of Thel.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Kevin

      Ever hear of something called a"copyright"?
      As an author (who has retained all his rights), I can assure you that no one can publish new copies of my works without my permission without getting sued.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  14. Ten-again

    I only throw out cookbooks if their recipes are consistently wrong (and there have been a few). I love the ones where the recipes are woven into a story. The most popular one of these was Like Water for Chocolate, but my personal favorites are Katish Our Russian Cook and Rattlesnake Under Glass. And then there's the used, 1940's edition of JoC that my mom bought me because it was her first cookbook and I learned from her completely battered one.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  15. Boooo

    I have cookbooks that my mother have given me. But why pay for a cookbook when you look up recipes online?

    June 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • jaer

      your kidding right?

      you have a kindle dont you?

      June 20, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  16. Reds

    I got a 1st edition copy of Vincent and Mary Price's Treasury of Great Recipes if anyone wants to make an offer.... LOL

    June 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Art of Cooking

    Les Diners de Gala by Salvador Dali is worth the big price tag. It's a simply beautiful book, and the recipes are actually quite good if you can find all the ingredients.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  18. jessicaber

    I usually end up getting them as gifts. I can not remember ever buying one.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  19. G

    Oh boy how much can I get for Joy of Cooking???

    June 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  20. Death Metal Chef

    Several Years ago I paid almost $90 For the book which is the C.I.A.'s intro textbook... "The Professional Chef". Best money I ever spent on a book and the only cookbook I've ever needed. Covers the basics of just about every cooking related topic and technique, as well as having tons and tons of recipes for a very wide range of cuisines. A little something of everything.

    June 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  21. Evil Grin

    This is not about cookbooks – it's the value of the book itself and its rarity. This happens to lots of books as it's realized that they were underprinted. I'm not sure how much I'd pay for a cookbook in particular, but I've paid quite a bit for some rare older texts.

    Then again, I'm much more likely to spend a mint on something historical. Maybe if I could find a historical cookbook, I'd spend the money on it.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  22. Ryan in Michigan

    My family has had to modify many of the cookbooks to fit our personal needs. Notes such as "use 300 degrees to keep from burning" instead of 350 degrees, or "only thaw for 20 minutes, not 25, because it becomes runny", due to variations in ovens, microwaves, and available ingredients.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  23. Mildred

    I'm not sure I could sell any of my cookbooks....

    June 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Ms. Grammar

      I know...they're like my "children"

      June 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
      • Baranga the Great

        There was no period at the end of your sentence "Ms. Grammar", but I'll let you off with a warning.

        June 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
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