Thar's GOLD in That Thar Sleaze!
The Collector's Market in Tawdry Paperbacks

(Click on any thumbnail graphic for a larger (70-100K) .gif of the book cover)

Do you by any chance have a box of these books sitting in the basement, taking up space? Have you thought to yourself, well, Jeez, I can't very well give 'em to the Salvation Army; maybe I should just throw 'em out?" Well, thanks to other people that have had the same thought and followed through, some of these books have become quite scarce. Old paperbacks in general are often pretty scarce, because people just didn't used to take them seriously and would throw them out or give them away after reading them. Books such as are displayed here are even more scarce, either because their readers were embarrassed to own them and destroyed them after reading them, or because their parents or spouses found them and tore them up. What most people don't know is that some people are avid collectors of these things, and are willing to pay good money for them.

Now, how much would you pay for a copy of Sororities of Sin, by Dave Vance (Sabre Books #150, First Edition, (c)1969)? Well, according to Paperbacks at Auction - 1995 (Gorgon Books, (c) 1995, a copy in Fine (brand new) condition sold for $66.00 in September, 1993.

How about Panda Bear Passion, by the immor(t)al Orrie Hitt (PEC #G-1145, (c)1968)? (Mr. Hitt may have been the most prolific author in the history of sleaze, having cranked out hundreds of them; in his prime, he was sending a new book to his publishers every two weeks. )  This book is not quite so expensive; Paperbacks at Auction shows that it sold for $18.00 back in 1991; but it may have appreciated since then. Mr. Hitt's books from the 1950's, on the other hand, sell for much more.

Now here's an interesting item -- Convention Girl (Nightstand Books #1547, (c)1961). Actually more of a crime novel, it is one of more than 30 books cranked out by renowned Science Fiction writer Robert Silverberg under the pseudonym "Don Elliot" in the late '50's and early '60's, when the sci-fi was apparently not paying the rent. A copy in very good condition would probably sell for $10-25 today.

Setting aside the books that I am fortunate enough to own a copy of, let's look at some of the real champs:

Title:                           Author:                     Publisher and #:              Condition:  Auction Price:

Reform School Girl     Felice Swados          Diversey #1                    Abt. Fine    $1,100

Sex Gang                    "Paul Merchant"*     Reed Nightstand #3003  Abt. Fine        478

Junkie                         "William Lee"**       Ace #D-15                     Abt. Fine       400

Mondo Sadisto           C. Allison                 Leisure #1160                Abt. Fine       302.50

Orgy of the Dead        Ed Wood, Jr.***     Greenleaf #205               VG-Fine        293

The Sinners of Hwang  John Dexter            Leisure #1106                VG-Fine         267

*Harlan Ellison, well-respected author, apparently short of laundry money

**William S. Burroughs, publishing first novel under pseudonym to avoid embarrassing his family

***Yes, that Ed Wood - the one they made the Academy Award-winning movie about.  He wrote tawdry books between movies - this is a novelization of a movie he scripted

Many other works, not so obviously exploitative but still viewed as sleazy by most in their day, such as those by Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford and David Goodis, also sell for prices in the hundreds of dollars.


Dealers and collectors of paperbacks tend to grade them severely, with less than perfect books often going for a fraction of the price of a copy in prime condition. Grading typically goes as follows:

These ratings are often made more exact by adding "+" or "-".

Thus, for example, this book,   Sex Life of the Gods, by Michael Knerr (Uptown Books #703, (c)1962) would sell from $10-$25 in fine condition. As you can see, however, if you click on the thumbnail .gif, this copy is scuffed across the top, and would probably be graded as Good+ or Very Good- at best, and would sell for only a few dollars. Me, I' m perfectly happy with this copy, just so I can prove to people that there actually is a book called Sex Life of the Gods.

This book, Second Fiddle by Jon Parker (Unique Books #111, (c) 1967) is one of my favorite books for the cover alone. The wild stereotyping, together with the priceless expression on the face of the cuckolded husband (Click here for a closeup) easily make it a proud addition to any collection. The "punch line" is that this scene, and for that matter, the characters on the cover, appear nowhere in the book.  As in the case before, this copy is sufficiently beat-up to significantly impair the sales price, but, sez I, good enough.

Other consideration than a book's condition may affect the selling price; if a publisher issued more than one printing of a book, the first edition usually sells for much more than subsequent editions, even if the subsequent editions are identical in appearance to the first.  In a few cases, though, subsequent editions have carried different cover art than the original, and the subsequent editions have become collector's items in their own right.  Foreign editions also usually sell for less than domestic originals, and may be bargain-priced.

The best way to stretch your dollars is, of course, to go out and try to find them at yourself at flea markets, yard sales, and other places used stuff ends up. If you are sufficiently weird to actually like these things, you probably will not mind the effort.

And yes, sometimes one can find them at Salvation Army.

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