|By Larry LeMasters
James Bond, the secret agent licensed to kill, celebrates 50 years in show business this year. The first Bond movie, Dr. No, was released on Oct. 5, 1962. With a budget of only $1 million, this made-for-drive-in movie grossed nearly $60 million, setting off a movie franchise that is still going strong.
Prior to 2012, there had been 24 James Bond movies, including Never Say Never Again and the first Casino Royale, spanning 50 years, so it has been roughly one Bond movie released every two years. And in October, the 25th Bond movie, Skyfall, was released. Running second only to the Harry Potter franchise, James Bond movies are the most lucrative franchise in Hollywood history.
Even though Dr. No was released 50 years ago, James Bond is actually 59 years old. The first Bond book, Casino Royale, was published in 1953. Loosely based on the World War II exploits of its author, Ian Fleming, James Bond has become a literary icon, and he personally set off a craze of secret agent movies in the 1960s.
The proof of Bond’s appeal can be seen in the prices that collectors pay for Bond memorabilia. Toby Walne (Investing in James Bond memorabilia, www.thisismoney.co.uk) suggested that prices for Bond collectibles have risen tenfold in the past decade.
The highest prices are reserved for items that were featured in an actual Bond movie. To date, the Holy Grail of Bond items was the gadget-packed Aston Martin DB5 that Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger (1964). One of these cars sold at auction a few years ago for $2 million. Oddjob’s deadly bowler hat, also from Goldfinger, sold for 62,000 British pounds.
While the Aston Martin has become associated with Bond by its use in just two movies, the signature feature of all Bond movies are his women, which might explain why the white bikini worn by Ursula Andress (Bond’s first female lead in Dr. No) sold for 44,000 British pounds in 2001.
The average collector can only dream of owning Bond collectibles as valuable as the three listed here, but few collectors care since there are so many other Bond items to collect. First and second among them are movie posters and books.
Tony Nourmand, author of James Bond Movie Posters; The Official 007 Collection, believes that Bond movie posters are both good investments and “fantastic artwork.” While artwork quality is in the eye of the beholder, money is not, and Bond movie posters have proven a gold mind for collectors.
Posters from Dr. No sold for around $300 just 10 years ago; and today, the same posters sell for $4,500 to $12,000, depending on condition. That’s a return of 15 to 40 times the investment, which is phenomenal for any collectible.
Even a poster from George Lazenby’s (the second actor to portray Bond) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is valued at $1,400.
Be aware that there are two types of movie posters – the teaser poster and the cinema poster. A teaser poster was sent to movie theaters weeks or months before the movie’s release date to “tease” movie-goers, building a desire to see the movie. A cinema poster was issued along with release of the film.
As excellent an investment as James Bond movie posters make, his first edition books bring even higher prices. Walne points out that a first edition Casino Royale is the most valuable of the Bond books.
“A hardback with an intact dust jacket could have been picked up for £1,000 – or $1,500 in America – a couple of decades ago.” The same book today is valued at $36,000.
When searching for any first edition book, make certain that it is a first edition, first printing. If there have been multiple printings, collectors will want a book from the first printing.
And, if money allows, always purchase the best book affordable, making sure that it has a dust jacket since books without dust jackets may loose up to 60 percent of their value. Better quality books retain their value and increase rather quickly as investments.
Laura Massey, author of Collecting James Bond First Editions, offers collectors a couple of sound tips when collecting Bond books. First, the book should always say “Jonathan Cape” on the title page, and second, the back of the title page should always read “First Published …” and then have the proper first edition year, such as 1953 for Casino Royale.
She also notes that Fleming wrote a total of 14 James Bond novels, so the perfect first edition collection would have 14 books in it.
There are many more Bond collectibles, including The Moneypenney Diaries, the Young Bond series of books, graphic books and comics, video games, and the ones little boys first purchased and played with – toy gadgets, vehicles, and guns.
Most people know that James Bond carried a Walther PPK semi-automatic for his service gun, but the Walther was a gun that Bond grew into. For the first five novels, Fleming armed Bond with a Beretta 418, which a noted gun expert pointed out to Fleming was a “lady’s gun – and not a very nice lady at that.”
For those who can’t afford the genuine Aston-Martin, add the Corgi model to a collection, instead. A 1965 Corgi replica model of Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with ejector seat sells for $500.
While Bond used a slew of gadgets through the years, the one that seems to sum up everything James Bond represents is his attaché case, complete with hidden knife. This attaché case first appeared in From Russia With Love (1963).
The case was flawlessly duplicated and sold by MPC in 1965 to kids all over the world, allowing junior spies with hidden, toy knives to carry out secret agent assignments in style. Complete with pistol, scope, and rifle stock, these cases are offered on eBay for $800 to $10,000, depending on condition and original packaging.
Along with his double 00 license to kill (007), 50 years in Hollywood has given Bond a license to thrill. In Skyfall, Bond thrills once again as he calmly shoots a villain, drinks a martini (shaken, not stirred) and seduces a young woman and says, “The name’s Bond; James Bond.”