1956, 56, 55 Impressions 5,4,2 A lovely first edition set. Uniform fading to jacket spine colours, but no tattering to spine ends as often found. Owners name in all three books indicate they have stayed together as a set. Books have no serious flaws, gilt bright, pages clean no marks except minor spotting to bottom edges, but this doesn't extend to pages.Wear and color to all jackets is uniform indicating they have been kept together as a set and in the case. What is unusual about this set is that while the jacket spine colours are tanned, the cover colours are clean, not quite the original grey but close. Very clean overall with no major stains. Most old sets in the UK suffer from damp and mould. These are from the US so no damp damage. Much less common, but equally probable is this 5,4,2 impressions which is the very earliest "production set" published in 56, with leftover 55 RotK you could have bought. The only way you could be sure, as in this case, the original owner signed all three books. These early collectors were trend setters of the day. It's a lovely set. We have been a professional Tolkien dealer for over 20 years.
All our photos are the actual item! As Tolkien book collecting grows in popularity, the availability of collectible/investment original condition books and jackets disappears. It is not just the printing/edition that matters to the value, but that serious collectors want only the best condition. Books with damaged jackets or even no jackets at all, are now increasing in price, driving up the price of complete and better condition copies.
That's how important condition is to value. Unlike other genre's, the market for Tolkien early editions is quite mature and well established. It is not a matter of waiting for a better copy to come along. There aren't going to be any!
There are no more hiding in the attic or charity shops. People sell off their more worn copies when they upgrade and now leave their collections to their children. We've been a specialist dealer for 20 years. Some examples that were plentiful just two years ago are now completely gone or only the dregs appear. First editions The Lord of the Rings and Hobbits remain the most in demand.