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The books that might sit on YOUR 1st Ed. shelf: Collecting 1st Eds on Wyatt Earp and Tombstone

The books that might sit on YOUR 1st Ed. shelf: Collecting 1st Eds on Wyatt Earp and Tombstone

As I have written, I am much more a book aggregator than book collector. I have gone looking for very few first editions; and I’ve never gone looking for signed copies. Consequently, there are very few books that I have paid hundreds for, none that I’ve approached $1,000.  The most expensive was a privately bound, limited edition 10-volume set of scripts for the 77 (I think is the number) Tombstone episodes of THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP. These were for the final 2 seasons of the 6 for the series, 1955-1961.  From internal evidence, the bound scripts seem to have been the property of the series chief writer, Frederick Hazlitt Brown, who wrote 189 of all 229 episodes. (A complete set of scripts for all 6 seasons, contained in 31 volumes (picture shown), bound and embossed in the same manner as mine, from the estate of the show’s producer, Louis F. Edelman, recently sold at auction for $1500+.)

The only time I tried to be a “completist,” putting my hands on everything published on a topic, or at least everything worthwhile, was in the arena of Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. But I gave that up when certain authors began publishing overpriced books the size of coffee tables with fonts usually found on highway billboards, or overpriced, oversized books with all glossy pages. The appearance of these books happened at the same time that my budget was becoming devoted to writing about other topics, and to constant expensive traveling to research sites. My budget could not keep up with the oversized books, and I had to give up being a “completist.”

So, I’m neither a completist, nor a 1st edition or author signature chaser, but at the recent Wild West History Association meeting in Golden CO (the “Denver Roundup”), I was attracted by the books. I broke down and bought a first edition Stuart Lake; the real first edition, the one with the misspellings on pages 25 and 54.  I bid on first edition no-DJ hardbacks of Ed Bartholomew’s two volume bio of Wyatt, but backed out and was happy to see Nancy Samuelson get these. I didn’t even consider what looked like Fine Condition Ed Bartholomew dust jacketed hardback pair for $395. Will stick with my paperbacks. But the experience is prompting me to discuss the current state of collecting first edition books about Wyatt Earp and Tombstone. I will keep it to those works published from the 1920s up until the scholars began to take over, so up to and including Paula Mitchell Marks’s 1989 scholarly popular history, And Die in the West.

If you are thinking about getting into the collecting game, these are today’s high prices on  These are not prices the books are selling for, merely offered for. You might find a much different slate of books on or at  Just using abebooks as a point of comparison. Quality is rated as Fine (F), Very Good (VG), and Good (G). I’ve not listed anything that was merely Fair (F), and you don’t want below that.  I’ve also noted where author signatures are included. The Earp/Tombstone world signatures do hike the price, but you won’t pay the $20,000 premium for a Winston Churchill signature.  Of course, if Churchill signed a copy of I Married Wyatt Earp, I might get a 2nd mortgage for that one!


  1. Walter Noble Burns, Tombstone: An Illiad of the Southwest (Doubleday, Page, & Co. 1927). $350 for VG copy in G dust jacket. I found 11 1st editions on abebooks, only 3 with dust jackets. Did not sell as many copies as Burns’ Billy the Kid so harder to find. Seller also offers a G copy with G jacket for $69.
  2. Stuart Lake, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal (Houghton Mifflin, 1931): You have to be careful with this one. Abebooks has quite a few “first edition” listings for 1955 editions (released in advance of TV show), and special editions. A true first printing of the first edition has misspellings on pages 25 and 54. Often the p. 25 error is in the book but the p. 54 error (“elby” instead of “belly”) has been corrected. That means the book is beyond the first printing. To give you an idea of the top price listings for WE:FM, here is what abebooks is offering today:
    1. @ $220: VG copy in VG Dust Jacket. No mention regarding error on page 54.
    2. @ $200: VG copy in VG DJ. Again, no mention regarding whether page 54 error was corrected.
    3. @ $185: VG copy in VG- DJ. “Early printing, probably before 1940” – p. 54 “belly” error fixed
    4. @ $180: VG copy in VG DJ: 1940 printing
    5. There are also some interesting 1955 edition copies available today:
    6. @ $225: VG copy. No mention of dust jacket, but what makes this of interest is the presence of a Stuart Lake inscription and signature. A bookseller at WWHA was selling an inscribed 1931 edition no-DJ copy for $250. (The book I would class as VG- or G+).
    7. @ $145: Fine copy with near-F DJ. What makes this of interest is that it was only in 1955 that cover artist Nicholas Eggenhoffer revisited his cover painting and added Doc Holliday standing along side the three Earps at the OK Corral. From 1931 on, the cover only had the Earps, no Doc. So if you are a cover completist, you will want both the Doc and Doc-less cover paintings!
  3. William M Breakenridge, Helldorado: Bringing Law to the Mesquite (Houghton Mifflin, 1929): $550 for a near Fine copy, near Fine DJ on abebooks today. Pricey! If too steep, a VG+ copy with VG- DJ is only $350. And a Fine copy with no DJ can be had for $150.

The books above were all published by New York publishing houses, so the prints ran into tens of thousands of copies, if not more, in first editions. Some of those below were published by small publishers, and so print runs were smaller, and first editions are harder to find.

  1.  Ed Bartholomew, Wyatt Earp 1848-1880 The Untold Story (Frontier Book Co., 1963): $200 for VG copy in VG DJ and signed by author. You can also get an unsigned Fine copy with Fine DJ for $85!
  2. Ed Bartholomew, Wyatt Earp 1879-1882 The Man & The Myth (Frontier Book Co., 1964): $175 for Fine copy with VG DJ. You can also get a Good copy with G DJ and signature for $125.
  3. Frank Waters, Earp Brothers of Tombstone: The Story of Mrs. Virgil Earp (Clarkson Potter, 1960): $106 for Fine copy, VG DJ. But!!! Also listed is a NF copy with NF DJ for just $40. (Why am I posting these, I should be buying them.)
  4. John Myers Myers, Doc Holliday (Little, Brown & Co., 1955), $155 for VG copy in G+ DJ. But wait! Another listing for VG copy and VG DJ for just $125. Remember, I am only listing hard cover books.
  5. John Myers Myers, The Last Chance: Tombstone’s Early Years (E. P. Dutton, 1950): $50 for NF copy in NF DJ. The cheapest of the books I’ve listed, but this is the best of the early histories of Tombstone. I’d read Burns and Lake in my early teens, but drifted away until I bought a copy of The Last Chance at Gilchrease’s Wyatt Earp Museum in Tombstone in 1971. Reading and rereading this one kept me tethered while I spent some decades immersed in the French Revolution & Napoleon.
  6. Glenn Boyer, I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp (Univ of AZ Press, 1976): $225 for Fine copy with Fine DJ of this fine hoax.
  7. Al Turner, The O.K. Corral Inquest (Early West, 1981): $150 for “As New” copy in “As New” DJ. Other listings include F copy in F DJ for $111, and NF copy in NF DJ for just $45.
  8. Paula Mitchell Marks, And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight (Morrow, 1989): $150 for “as new” copy in “as new” DJ. Listed as first printing of first edition. Other listings include $125 for signed first edition, Fine copy in DJ (quality of DJ not mentioned); and $117 for first printing of Fine- copy in Fine DJ.