Would You Spend $44 on a Collection of 30 Vintage DAW Paperbacks?

Would You Spend $44 on a Collection of 30 Vintage DAW Paperbacks?

Would you spend $44 on these 30 vintage DAW paperbacks?

I buy a lot of paperbacks on eBay.  I mean, a lot. But believe it or not, I don’t spend a lot of money. I’ve gotten in the habit of buying small collections; because shipping costs work out better and I spend much less per item. I haven’t done the math recently, but I budget anywhere from $0.25 to $0.50 per book when I go hunting, and usually stick to it.

Of course, there are plenty of expensive paperbacks on eBay. Crazy-priced paperbacks, if you want to go looking for them. But eBay is also a clearing house for hundreds of individuals dumping collections en masse, often with very little description, and if you’re willing to dig a bit and take a chance, you can find bargains every day of the week. (And every hour of the day). In fact, eBay has become my go-to site for bargain-basement vintage paperback collections. Someday collectors will stop dying off, and their put-upon spouses will stop dumping their collections on auction sites at rock-bottom prices as they clean out the attic, but today is not that day.

I can’t remember the last time I spent more than $25 for a lot of paperbacks. But last month I scrambled all over myself to hit the buy button on the lot above: 30 vintage DAW paperbacks priced at $44.

Sure, I love DAW. And I’m happy to welcome all these books into my collection, But if you look carefully, you’ll see exactly why I wrecked my monthly collecting budget to acquire these books — and would’ve been happy to spend a lot more. I didn’t buy this lot because it’s a fine assortment of books (though it is). I spent the money because of one author, and one author only. Do you know which one?

[Click the images for DAW-sized versions.]

First things first. I believe most of our readers are acquainted with online auction sites like eBay. But I’m going to make the relatively safe assumption that most of you aren’t as familiar with the ins and outs of the paperback market as, say, those of us who obsessively hunt for Vintage Treasures to write about every single week.

So let’s start with a simple primer. What would you expect to pay on an online auction site like eBay for:

  • 16 Robert A Heinlein paperbacks from the 70s/80s in near-perfect condition?
  • 18 random vintage tiles, including two fine Ace Doubles?
  • 40 wildly different books from the 60-80s, rated poor to very fine?
  • 10 nice 80s titles, including two copies of The Best of Robert Silverberg?
  • Five Poul Anderson classics in excellent condition

Ready? I bought all five of the sets below on eBay in the last six weeks. The prices I paid are below the photos. See how close you were.

16 Robert Heinlein paperbacks for $4.24? Heinlein ain’t what he used to be.

18 vintage paperbacks — including two nice Ace Doubles — for a measly $5.50!

Forty wildly different paperbacks for $9.99? Swordsmen in the Sky alone is worth that.

10 nice paperbacks — including two copies of The Best of Robert Silverberg
— for just five bucks. Something is wrong with the world.

Five Poul Anderson classics for under a buck? I shake my head and click the BUY button.

Okay, that was fun! And hopefully it gave you a sense of the kinds of lots out there for the determined bargain hunter, and what you can get for $10 or less. And no, that second copy of The Best of Robert Silverberg isn’t for sale, I’m keeping them both.

Let’s move on to a tougher challenge. Take another look at that set of 30 DAW paperbacks at the top of the page. What makes it worth nearly twice all those other sets put together?

Well, yes. You’re right — they’re in gorgeous shape, virtually all unread, without even a single spine crease, though that’s not really the reason they’re valuable. Here’s a photo the seller kindly included in the auction to prove it.

Damn. That’s a lot of yellow.

It’s not just the spines that are unmarred. Here’s a photo I snapped as I was unpacking them. That Lloyd Biggle paperback is 48 years old, and it looks like it just came off the printing press.

Well cared-for books

I didn’t buy this lot just because they’re in fine condition. DAW books are collectible, but very few of them are rare, or even hard to find. I’ve been collecting DAW for over four decades, and there was at least one book in this set I wanted very badly.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the authors included.

Three 70s novels by Michael G. Coney

Michael G. Coney was a British science fiction writer who produced nearly two dozen novels during a lengthy career. When I first started buying paperbacks in the mid-70s, his books were all over bookstore shelves in Canada, especially Friends Come in Boxes (1973), The Jaws That Bite, the Claws That Catch (1974), and Rax (1975).

I remember Coney fondly, and he was an early favorite in my early collecting days. But his books aren’t hard to find, or expensive. He wasn’t the reason I bought this set.

Philip Jose Farmer’s Opar novels

I wasn’t familiar with Philip Jose Farmer’s Opar novels until very recently. The lost city of Opar is the setting for several of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels; in the mid-70s Farmer wrote a series of novels that explored the prehistory of the lost city, following an adventurer named Hadon in the ancient Africa of 12,000 years ago, beginning with Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974), and continuing in Flight to Opar (1976) and The Song of Kwasin (2012), written with Christopher Paul Carey. Carey wrote a series of fascinating articles for Black Gate about these books just a few years ago.

Finding these books in good shape can be tricky these days. But they’re not rare, and they’re not the reason I bought this lot.

William Chester’s strange Kioga Saga

I don’t know much about William L. Chester. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but John Clute at the indispensable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction informs us that the DAW editions of his Kioga saga in the mid-70s were reprints of stories that originally appeared in the pulps in the 30s.

US author known for his series about Kioga, a Tarzan-like white child raised on a vast Island Lost World within the Arctic Circle, somewhere in northern Siberia but heated by thermal springs and unknown currents, from which he escapes into the company of bears and Mika, a snow-lion: Hawk of the Wilderness (April-October 1935 Blue Book; 1936), filmed as Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)… Kioga of the Wilderness (April-October 1936 Blue Book; 1976); One Against a Wilderness (March-August 1937 Blue Book; coll of linked stories 1977) and Kioga of the Unknown Land (March-August 1938 Blue Book; 1978).

Are you as curious as I am about a pulp story that features a guy riding a mammoth, and getting rowed around by a green amphibian in a canoe? Sure you are.

But you probably wouldn’t spend $44 on his paperbacks. Neither would I. (But if you would — get in touch, we should talk.)

I love James H. Schmitz

I love James H. Schmitz, and I’m not the only one. Mark Tiedemann, Isabel Pelech, Steven H Silver, Rich Horton, and others have written about his classic novels and stories here at Black Gate, including The Witches of Karres, The Demon Breed, and of course his most excellent omnibus collections from Baen.

I’d pay a great deal to have his early DAW novel The Lion Game and collection The Telzey Toy… unless I already had them. Which I do.

Does anyone out there remember Gerald Klein?

Does anyone out there remember French writer Gerald Klein? I sure don’t.

These may well be the rarest DAW books in the lot. I don’t remember seeing The Overlords of War before, anyway. I note it’s translated by John Brunner, which certainly makes it a little more interesting in my book.

Rare (at least in this case) doesn’t translate to valuable, however. I wasn’t aware these books existed, and I certainly didn’t value them enough to buy this lot to get them.

Philip K. Dick, James Blish, Gregory Kern, and Marion Zimmer Bradley

If you scanned the lot at the top of the page, spotted the sole novel by Philip K. Dick, and shouted “Aha!”, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d discovered the reason I shelled out $44 for these books.

Frankly, when eBay bidders get into a bidding war over science fiction paperbacks, the smart money is usually on Philip K. Dick as the reason. His original paperback releases had tiny print runs, and he experienced an explosion in popularity when Hollywood discovered his novels in the 80s, starting with Blade Runner and the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall. Back when I compared the relative collectibility of SF writers on eBay a few years ago, Dick came out ahead of virtually everyone else.

So that copy of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said was a good guess. But it’s not particularly rare, it’s not in good shape, and it’s not the reason I bid aggressively on this auction. Neither are the pair of anthologies by Bradley, nor the James Blish or Gregory Kern novels.

The first two Imaro novels by Charles Saunders: Imaro (1981) and The Quest for Cush (1984)

If you spotted Charles R. Saunders’ Imaro novels at the bottom of that photo and knew immediately (or even eventually) that they were the reason I was so excited to win that auction — congratulations. You are exactly correct.

Saunders lived in my hometown for many years, and he was the first science fiction writer I ever met, when he spoke at a gathering of the Ottawa Science Fiction Society in the early 80s. But it wasn’t until many years later that I learned just how esteemed his tales of the African warrior Imaro are among sword-and-sorcery fans. Today he is revered for taking a nearly-stagnant genre in the mid-80s and breathing fresh life into it, with his stories of a young Ilyassai warrior and his battles against deadly foes both human and inhuman as he wanders the vast continent of Nyumbani.

Saunders died last year in Nova Scotia, “alone and unrecognized” (as noted in his delayed obit in The New York Times). But even before then, his early DAW novels were rapidly increasing in value. The first, Imaro (1981) sold poorly when it was first published, partly as a consequence of a one-month delay in release (the entire first run had to be pulped after the Burroughs estate complained about the original cover tagline, The Epic Novel of a Black Tarzan.) And it’s been years since I’ve seen a copy of the sequel, The Quest for Cush (1984).

Today Charles is considered one of the leading lights of modern adventure fantasy, and his hard-to-find novels command extremely high prices among collectors — starting prices on eBay are $60-80 per book, and up. Finding two of them hidden in a nondescript jumble of 70s and 80s DAW paperbacks with a $15 opening bid was a delightful surprise.

The original Imaro trilogy from DAW

I’m still on the hunt for a copy of the third and final DAW Imaro novel, The Trail of Bohu (1985). I’ll find a copy eventually.

Last week I wrote about Donald A. Wollheim’s tenure as the publisher at DAW, and his success at finding new talent. I think the enduring success of Charles’ Imaro novels is a credit to Wollheim. Not just his ability to find talented new writers, but the fact that he stuck with him, publishing three novels despite the fact that (by all reports) the first one was a failure. We have these books today — and Charles Saunders had a career at DAW — because Wollheim believed in him. I don’t think there are many publishers who might do the same today.

If this had made you at all curious about Charles Saunders and his work, his Imaro novels are still in print today from Night Shade Press, and we’ve written extensively about them here at Black Gate, including a handy Imaro Series Tour Guide by Seth Lindberg.

See all our recent coverage of Vintage Treasures here.

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Believe it or not, I have all the books in the DAW editions you purchased. Back in the 70s through the mid 80s, I collected every DAW book I could find (I think the numbering on them was the draw). Loved those yellow spines (and the black-spined Cap Kennedy books), and DAW was a great way to get classic authors as well as upcoming new talent.

Thomas Parker

Ha! I guessed right!

And John…you need help. Now. Seriously.

Tony Den

You certainly worked up the suspense there John. I had to stop myself skipping to the end. Great collection in such good condition, congratulations. Puts a bit of a damper on my own gleeful second hand bookshop scrounging of recent days.


Ok John, be honest, how many copies of The Broken Sword are you up to now?

As long as there weren’t any Gor books in that DAW lot i would consider it

George Kelley

Wonderful books at a wonderful price! Love those old DAWs!


I read some Gerard Klein a few years ago. From my memories I think they were enjoyable but maybe not a must read. I think Starmaster’s Gambit was my favorite.

Don Erikson

Last December I bought an unread copy of Imaro III for $80, the most I ever paid for a single book Now my pre-1990 DAWS are nearly complete except for some 1st printing Sharon Greens that I had, that were ruined by a leaky pipe.

Thomas Parker

>Not all collectors are social animals<

I would bet that most of us are. It's an extra (no cost!) pleasure to share what you've bagged. In addition to books, I collect signed photos of movie and tv people. My friends may not be all that thrilled to see that I've picked up a Frank Gorshin or a Fay Wray, but they at least know enough to pretend to be thrilled.


John–I filed them by Author.

I remember first seeing the first four DAW books on a paperback rack at an Alexander’s store in my area. Bought the Best of VanVogt right then and there. The 95 cent price was good for my budget as well, being in high school at the time.

A few years later, a bookstore in downtown Bridgeport CT was closing, and they had a TON of DAWs for sale at half price. I snatched up all the ones I could in the time between when I found out the store was closing and when it did. I can even say that I wrote my first ever checks for DAW books–just got a checking account at the time (in preparation for college).

Good times!

Keith West

Yeah, I figured it was the Saunders.

“My dilemma eventually became the same as every DAW collector, of course…. do you file them by author, or in sequential order by DAW number?? ”

Both of course. You file one set alphabetically and one set numerically. 🙂

Nice haul, BTW.

R.K. Robinson

absolutely LOVE this post! I have casually peeked in at eBay a few times for “old SFF pbs”, and picked up a few anthologies and other things, but I have never seen anything like the ones you show here, and I wish I had!

As went through the covers, one thought kept recurring: lots of nice Kelly Freas covers! He sure did a lot of great work and so much is distinctive.

I’d like to find a decent copy of Brown’s ROGUE IN SPACE, guess I’ll have a look.

Eugene R.

While my suspicion was on Mr. Saunders (due to the deserved love we Blackgaters have been expressing for him), my personal pick was the Ansen Dibell, Pursuit of the Screamer. I bought a used copy at my local used book center for no other reason than this volume and its 2 sequels (Circle, Crescent, Star and Summerfair) were all on the shelf together, and I figured that I would never see them all together again so best buy them now!

seth lindberg

OMG, I need to get on eBay. Great hauls.

Aonghus Fallon

So now you have TWO copies of Fata Morgana? Both Bantam? I guess you can never have too much of a good thing….

Eugene R.


Yes, I have read the Kantmorie books, all 5 in fact as I received the 2 non-US books in manuscript form in English from a friend who was in touch with the author (Nancy Dibble). Very decent science fantasy, and I recall the first 3 being an unusual trilogy in that the second book was the strongest (which is the reverse of the usual trilogy structure, where #2 just “carries the load” between the big opening and the boffo finish).

Thomas Parker

>I have heard complaints that it’s hard to spot forgeries<

Not an issue for me, John – I know the signatures are all good because I write them myself. Yuk yuk.

A little research and common sense will protect you from the worst. Plus it's generally not a problem with the kind of people I buy. There aren't a hell of a lot of people cranking out forgeries of Frank Coughlin Jr. (Billy Batson in the Adventures of Captain Marvel) or Barbara Feldon (99 on Get Smart.)


According to Wikipedia, as of 10 August 2018, Nan Dibble passed away in 2006, and two final novels — “Tidestorm Limit” and “The Sun of Return” — were published in French and Dutch only. No English translations listed.


1972, actually. I was 13 and just about to turn 14 at the time. Started my magazine fix with Galaxy and If (running Asimov’s The Gods Themselves), Amazing and Fantastic run by Ted White, (F&SF came a few months later, due to the cigar store where I got my magazines and comics never getting enough copies before I got there). Started my heavy buying of paperbacks and digests at that time, as I started having disposable income from working after school in the town library. I even made a few trips down from Fairfield CT into NYC by train without my parent’s knowledge, shopping bookstores as well as the Science Fiction Shop in the Village (I even have one of their original t-shirts with their logo buried somewhere still, worn and probably dissolving into threads as I write this).

I remember the first four books at Alexanders: Spell of the Witch World, The Mind Behind the Eye, The Book of Van Vogt, and The Probability Man. Never saw SF with covers like that before, and numbered books also! I didn’t pick up all four of them at the time, just the Van Vogt and Joseph Green books.

The early and mid 1970s was a great time for SF–there were just enough titles coming out that most all the bookstores carried everything, and many of the classic authors were having titles reissued as well as having new books by them coming out. Plus Perry Rhodan (another story entirely…). I did a lot of bicycling all over the place to bookstores, knowing what day new titles were put out and what week each publisher released books.

Still have everything I bought from back then, all in storage unfortunately, as I would never have enough bookcases to display everything in (beginning to think about what I will do with all them once my time comes).


“According to Wikipedia, as of 10 August 2018, Nan Dibble passed away in 2006, and two final novels — “Tidestorm Limit” and “The Sun of Return” — were published in French and Dutch only. No English translations listed.”

With things like this, it brings up a bigger question that I feel should be discussed here or elsewhere: with all the great (and not so, sometimes) foreign SF out there, and fans all over the world, why isn’t there an SF equivalent of anime / manga’s fansub groups, taking stories and novels and translating them (with permission, of course) into English or other languages for local enjoyment and consumption? Every time I go overseas (especially Germany) I see what looks to be great books, but they never make it over here (and Google Translate just doesn’t cut it).

Maybe this could be addressed as an article or discussion somewhere…


Great idea, Lou! There used to be a lot more non-English SF out there. MacMillan Books had a great series of hardcover Russian SF in the late ’70s, and Stanislaw Lem’s Polish SF has been in English translations for years. John’s already covered the Perry Rhodan series here, and DAW, as indicated, has brought out a number of translated novels and stories. But I’m not sure about more recent material. I do have several books by Elisabeth Vonarburg translated from the French, written since about 1980, and I think John listed an anthology here edited by Damon Knight of stories translated from the French. Of course, there have been pirated editions of English SF published in other languages; Robert Silverberg has written about visiting other countries and seeing foreign versions of his work that he never authorized. I agree with you that a piece about translations of SF — into English — would make for interesting reading. John?

Paul Bacon

I hunted down those DAW Imaro titles in Halifax used bookstores in the late ’80s and early ’90s, then was fortunate enough to have them signed by the author. Charles was a colleague of mine. 🙂

It might be worth mentioning Charles heavily revised those three books when they were republished — the first two from Night Shade, then all three (plus two more in the Imaro series) from Sword & Soul Media.

Robert Adam Gilmour

John says “his Imaro novels are still in print today from Night Shade Press”

Unfortunately the Night Shade editions sold poorly, went out of print quickly and I paid more than I was comfortable with for the second book after waiting a very long time to find more affordable copies. I guessed Imaro was your DAW prize because the Night Shade ones are expensive enough.

I’m also fascinated about this translation issue with Ansen Dibell. DAW author EC Tubb was also dropped by them but continued in foreign languages and his last Dumarest books only appeared in english much later.

As you know Black Coat Press puts out an immense amount of translated french books (much of it translated by Brian Stableford who is doing more for Snuggly Books these days), including an omnibus of Gerard Klein.

There is a colossal amount of Chinese fantasy webnovels translated by fans. I can only guess this has something to do with the immensity of the chinese diaspora, because I can’t think of a comparable translation scene.

SFinTranslation is a goldmine with regular updates on new releases. This post is extremely relevant.

Viz folded Haikasoru recently but Kurodahan is still going.

Paul Bacon

Hi John:

Charles and I worked together at The Daily News. I had been there a year or so before I jokingly asked copy editor/columnist Charles Saunders if he was any relation to the “Charles R. Saunders” who wrote the Imaro books, fully expecting him to say no. I’m sure the look on my face when he said “Yes” was priceless.

When Night Shade was set to republish the novels, Charles no longer had his own copies of the DAW books, so he borrowed mine to work from, and very kindly autographed them. Always a gentleman.


I read the Kioga series a few years back and enjoyed them very much…but…don’t get your hopes up about the cover of One Against the Wilderness. It depicts a scene from the book but is deceptive nonetheless–I was looking forward to green amphibian guy too.

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