Time and Again: A Fraudulent Book Purchase on Ebay


Jack Finney’s novel, Time and Again, subtitled An Illustrated Novel, is one of his fantasy-like visions of time travel. The book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1970 and was quite successful. It went into many printings and was also widely distributed as a Book of the Month Club (BOMC) selection. The true first printing was apparently produced in a small print run, and it is relatively rare in collectible condition. The production was not of high quality, and the dust jacket is prone to sun fade and tanning. The book was often passed around among different readers. Most copies offered for sale have a variety of problems and are most often described as “Very Good” at best.

As I write this article, there are three copies offered on IOBAbooks, all BOMC printings, and there are about 25 copies offered on Biblio, with two or three of these possibly being true first printings. On ABE there appear to be about 80 copies offered, with perhaps 30 or so of these being true first printings. Listing prices for the first printings range from $100 to $750. I also noted an identified BOMC copy offered on eBay for $150!


The infamous blind stamp, highlighted in white

The reason I am not certain how many true firsts are offered is that the BOMC copies are extremely similar to the trade first printing, and are often misrepresented as collectible first editions. The BOMCs state “First Printing” on the copyright page with a price of $7.95 at the bottom of the front dust jacket flap. However, the BOMC books were blind stamped on the bottom of the rear board near the spine. Thus, the BOMC book is identical to the first printing, except for the small, square blind stamp.


Front dust jacket flaps for the trade first printing (left) and for the BOMC version (right)

The true first printing dust jacket states at the bottom of the front flap, “…Fifth Avenue from 34th to 14th—is enchanted….” This error was corrected in later trade editions to read, “…Broadway from 23rd to 8th—is enchanted by…." All BOMC copies that I have seen carry the corrected text. The jacket of the BOMC version identifies it as a BOMC copy with “BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH-CLUB* SELECTION” in red text at the top of the front flap and a trademark statement at the bottom of the front flap. The BOMC jacket also carries the statement “BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH” at the top of the back flap. BOMC jackets are numbered 1521 at the bottom right of the back panel, while trade printing jackets are numbered 20497.


The back flaps for the trade first printing (left) and for the BOMC version (right)

Because of these similarities, many internet BOMC copies are listed in error, or sometimes purposefully, as “First Printing stated” or “Price of $7.95 present on the jacket.” Any listing that does not state directly that the copy is a BOMC version, or note that the ubiquitous blind stamp is, or is not, present, should be considered suspect. In this new age of internet caveat emptor, an interested buyer should ask questions before purchasing an expensive copy of this title.

A purchase on eBay:

Sadly, I sometimes don’t follow my own advice. I wanted to obtain a true first of this title for my own library and was browsing eBay auctions in February 2004 when I noticed:

“Jack Finney TRUE FIRST Time and Again

“Condition: Very Good Book with Very Good Dust jacket. Light staining and tanning to page edges due to age.

“Attributes: TRUE First of Jack Finney’s classic tale of time travel….”

As part of the listing, there was a single photograph of the front of the book in jacket.


The boards and spine of the fraudulent copy
There was little time left in the auction, and I decided to take a chance, putting in a bid that eventually won the book. But when the $110 “true first” arrived, I could not believe what had been sent. It was a fake; a fabrication that married parts from several different copies of the book.

The boards and spine were dirty, the cloth was worn through to the boards on the bottom edges, and there were old tape marks indicating that a dust jacket had been taped to the book at some time in the past, as if from a library copy. The boards were from a trade printing, since there was no blind stamp present. The text block was clean and white and apparently from a much more recent club version. So it appears that the boards and spine from an ex-library copy had been married to the text block from a different BOMC copy of the book. The paste downs and end papers were white, rather than mustard yellow, but with the original yellow paste downs visible around the bottom edges of the replacements. The top page edges were not stained yellow, as they should have been with either a true first or early BOMC copy.


Top page edges of a trade version (bottom), a BOMC version (middle) and the fraudulent copy (top). Note that the top page edges of the first two were stained mustard yellow to match the paste downs and end papers. The fake copy does not have stained page edges, but it does have a red and yellow cloth backing glued to the text block


The front paste down and a portion of the first front end paper for the fraudulent copy (left) and for the trade printing (right). The boards on the faked copy did indeed have the yellow paste downs originally, since they are visible along the bottom of the new paste down

The jacket was correct for the true first printing but had obviously been married to the faked book. There were no indications that the jacket on the book had at one time been taped to the boards. Thus, I concluded that the strange book that arrived was constructed purposefully as a fake. I e-mailed the seller about the problems and my concerns. His reply and only explanation:

“I never took the dust jacket off of this one, so I don’t know about any of the tape marks or staining. I bought the book from (name deleted) a few months ago, and was just listing it to trim my collection a bit.”

The seller did not address the issue of the text block from another book being married to old boards that were free of the damning BOMC blind stamp. He did, however, offer a full refund, if I wanted to return the book. I decided to keep it, since it is the most bizarre book that has ever shown up in my mailbox. I also thought that I should share this strange tale of the faked “true first” of Time and Again with fellow booksellers.

Final thoughts and a question:

Many books listed on eBay and many other internet venues are poorly described and/or misrepresented, either due to the seller’s ignorance or as a deliberate attempt to scam potential buyers. I often check listings and auctions for Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. These two titles continue to produce a large percentage of internet listings that misrepresent the books actually up for sale as first printings. Most of us are also aware that signatures are sometimes (frequently?) forged on highly collectible books, as their value is much inflated by a rare signature.

However, the obvious question related to the fake described here is why would someone go to such lengths to fabricate a fraudulent book that at most would have a selling price of a couple hundred dollars? It is certainly a bibliomystery to me.

Bob Maddox operates Squid Ink Books out of Tucson, AZ and can be contacted at http://www.squidinkbooks.com.

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