Vintage cookbooks may be worth thousands of dollars: Here's 6 reasons why
Old cookbooks could be worth a small fortune.
Listings on eBay — a popular multinational auction website — show that some vintage cookbooks have been priced at hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The cookbook that’s currently commanding the highest price on eBay is a 142-page spiral cookbook that’s entitled, "Arizona Cook Book: Indian, Mexican, Western, Arizona Products, Backpacking-Camping, Patio Barbecue," which has been listed for sale at $6,850.20 (original listing price: $9,786).
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The book was written by Al Fischer and was published in 1983 by Golden West Publishers.
Other sellers on eBay and similar e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and Etsy, have listed the book for under $20.
The seller who’s hoping to sell the 40-year-old cookbook on southwestern cuisine has noted that the book is in "very good" condition and doesn’t have any "known wear or writing."
Three other cookbooks that have a four-figure price tag on eBay at the time of publication include "The Australian Women’s Weekly: Great Ways with Steaks & Chops" from 1974 ($1,010.85), "Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book" from 1950 ($1,000) and a first-edition "La Methode Jacques Pepin: An Illustrated Guide to The Fundamental Techniques of Cooking" from 1976 ($1,000).
Betty Crocker old cookbooks. (Photo By Stormi Greener/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
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Is cookbook collecting a real hobby?
Nicole Sawyer, the co-founder of Chattic.com, an online community and marketplace for collectibles, told FOX Business that "cookbooks are an enormous collectible category with immense value potential."
"Cookbooks can have auction potential, especially if they are rare, valuable, or have historical significance," said Sawyer, who’s based in New York City. "Some vintage cookbooks can fetch high prices at auction, particularly those that are in excellent condition and have a strong provenance."
As of March 1, 2023, the three highest priced "vintage cookbooks" on eBay ranged between $1,000 and $6,850.20. (eBay / Fox News)
Sawyer said there are six reasons why cookbooks have become a collectible category among food lovers.
1. Historical value: Old cookbooks provide insight into the cooking and eating habits from the times they were written and published. These books give readers "a glimpse into the past" and help people "understand how food and cooking practices have changed over time," according to Sawyer.
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2. Nostalgia: Old cookbooks can revive memories of one’s childhood, a family gathering or a holiday celebration. Sawyer noted that some cookbook collectors save cookbooks that were used by their parents or grandparents while others make it a point to get popular cookbooks from a particular era.
3. Unique recipes: Old cookbooks can contain recipes that aren’t common by modern standards. Sawyer said some foodies may build up a cookbook collection because they’re interested in trying unique recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques of yesteryear.
4. Artistic value: Old cookbooks typically have an "aesthetic value" that can attract a collector, according to Sawyer. In her own words, "Vintage cookbooks often feature beautiful illustrations, typography and design elements that are no longer used in modern cookbooks."
5. Investment value: Old cookbooks are sometimes collected as a "financial investment," Sawyer said. The value of a cookbook can go up over time, especially if it’s considered rare, has historical significance and is in good condition.
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6. Celebrity status: Old cookbooks that are connected to celebrity chefs or have a "cultural significance" can fetch higher prices, according to Sawyer. "For example, a first-edition of Julia Child's ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ sold for $7,500 at auction in 2019, and a first edition of ‘The Joy of Cooking’ from 1931 sold for over $46,000 in 2017," she said.
"Mastering the Art of French Cooking" photographed in Washington, DC. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
Collectible cookbook facts: Notable auctions and world record collection
The world’s most expensive cookbook is currently unknown, but auctioneers have sold quite a few for large sums.
Bonhams, an international auction house with headquarters in the U.K., sold eight titles on cooking and food from The Library of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for $15,300 in January 2022.
British auction house Christie’s sold "Cookbook of the Pope’s Secret Chef" (circa 1570), a cookbook written by Italian Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi, for $18,750 in October 2019, according to auction records.
Sotheby’s, a British-found multinational fine art auction house sold a collection of about 200 books on cooking and entertaining for $17,500 in November 2014.
The current world record for the largest collection of cookbooks belongs to Lisa Ekus of Hatfield, Massachusetts, according to Guinness World Records.
She was recognized by Guinness on July 25, 2019, for her collection of 4,239 cookbooks, which she collected for over 40 years.