Signatures add a personal and financial value to any book. The most desired book is a signed first edition first printing as opposed to a later printing. Or if there was one printed, a signed limited first edition is even better. As a collector there are several ways you can encounter a signed book: simply signed on the page, inscribed to someone, signed limited edition, or signed bookplate laid loosely or attached to the book. It is ultimately up to collectors to choose what is right for their tastes.
Opinions vary greatly by personal preference as to which is the most desired signed method. Many will tell you that the signature simply signed on the page is the best form. Others would argue that the inscription is the preferred method because the author has written more. Most would agree that the bookplate (or other foreign signed article) is the least valuable and least preferred method, but they can come in handy and do have their place in the hierarchy of signature methods.
There are many collectors who don’t care for signed bookplates. I would argue that they are the most convenient of any signature since the bookplate can be added to any book by the author. Perhaps you have a signed personal correspondence from a modern author and place that correspondence with the author’s first book or most famous book. You now have a book that has a much greater appeal, if not a greater value.
The signed limited first edition is the best of the best because the signature is guaranteed to be authentic from the publisher themselves. These limited editions are often numbered and are limited to under a few thousand. Knowing the number of printings is very helpful information for a limited edition when you consider that it can be somewhat of a mystery to many trade editions without the help of a bibliography, if there is a reliable one for the particular author.
With all the forms of signatures it is the personal preference of the individual collector whether he/she only wants to collect inscribed books, simply signed, bookplates, or signed limited editions. I personally prefer inscribed books because the author has devoted more time to the book and has chosen to leave a personal message to the fan. Of course, the Easton Press and Franklin Library signed limited first editions are every bit as charming and collectible as their inscribed trade edition cousins.
Ryan "Nick" Belcher President
1st Editions and Antiquarian Books