Aviation Books – Collecting Signed Editions

Collecting First Edition books is a long established past-time however during the past fifty years one of the fastest-growing collector categories is to be found in military books carrying autographs of distinguished personalities from the Second World War.
One has only to visit any bookstore and see the large section devoted to military books to become aware how WWII subjects dominate shelves. Closer inspection reveals the predominance of books relating to aviation with its wide variety of topics ranging from biographies to technical aspects.
The growth in this highly specialised niche in the book market stems from an extraordinary interest in the Second World War – a period in aviation history when more new aircraft types took to the air than at any other time since the dawn of flight. It is not surprising this era is of such great interest to aviation enthusiasts.
From a collector’s standpoint, the sheer quantity of different books available makes it difficult, if not impossible to build a meaningful library unless some form of specialisation is adopted. Possibly the most fascinating and potentially lucrative solution lies in the collecting of books signed by highly decorated pilots and aircrews, and noteworthy air commanders of the war.
Since the end of WWII signatures have been collected primarily in two ways: many books were individually signed in person – not an easy task with the most desirable military signatories scattered all over the world – so the more popular method was the use of book plates which were easily dispatched for signature. A signed and mounted book plate carrying highly relevant signatures is just as prized by collectors as are signatures inscribed within a book.
The huge interest in collecting signed books has gathered momentum during the past twenty years. Although few of the noteworthy figures from WWII aviation are still alive, it is still possible to acquire books with some of the most sought-after signatures.
However, a word of caution: Quite a number of cases of counterfeited signatures have been recorded where inexperienced collectors have paid good money for books with forged signatures, making them worthless. Such disasters can always be avoided by taking the following action:
• Buy only from reputable sources
• Generally avoid auctions unless there is sound provenance
• Exert extreme care when buying from unknown sources on the internet.
Most experienced collectors buy and sell only through established and recognised businesses.
Books with authenticated original signatures have become a magnet to military book collectors but, according to Pat Barnard – an acknowledged authority on WWII aviation signatures – careful choice is essential:
“Those books in strongest demand are always accompanied by the original signatures of highly decorated combat aviators or high-ranking commanders of the period – ideally both” says Barnard.
A book with one or two signatures of noted WWII personalities is generally more highly valued by collectors than one with the signatures of a host of less well-known people. As Barnard commented “Astute collectors know the difference”.
Collecting books that record the exploits and endeavours of well-known WWII personalities is a fascinating hobby. Choosing authoritative books with interesting signatures adds excitement to the fun of collecting and can prove very rewarding: There are many examples of signed aviation books on the market today that have risen in value more than ten times in as many years.