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The Margin: A true Bond market: Why 007 collectibles are hotter than ever

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When dealers and collectors gather this weekend for the 62nd annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, they are expected to buy and sell all sorts of one-of-a-kind items. Among the offerings: a first-edition copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” a rare book of poetry by E.E. Cummings and a document signed by the Indian leader Gandhi, replete with his fingerprints.

But the item that may draw the most attention is a collection of film scripts and other material tied to everyone’s favorite fictional secret agent: James Bond.

Peter Harrington Rare Books, a British dealer, is offering the collection of all things Bond for 500,000 British pounds — or roughly $650,000. It includes scripts for all 20-plus Bond movies. In some cases, only 20-25 copies of such scripts are likely to exist, said Adam Douglas, a senior specialist with Peter Harrington.

Even more intriguing: The collection also features two versions of the script for “Warhead,” a James Bond film, set partly in New York, that was never made. (Of special note: The screenplay was co-authored by Sean Connery, arguably the most celebrated of the cinematic Bonds.) Another “Warhead” item in the collection: a watercolor painting depicting a set for the would-be film.

Douglas said the collection was acquired from a Bond enthusiast who put years into assembling the material. Taken as a whole, it represents “a complete picture of how the Bond films were made,” said Douglas, noting that the collection includes items all the way through the recently concluded Daniel Craig era of 007 pictures. (Craig’s last Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” premiered in 2021.)

The collection of James Bond rarities being sold for $650,000 at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair includes scripts and artwork connected to “Warhead,” a 007 picture that was never made.

Courtesy Peter Harrington Rare Books

Though the collection may be significant to Bond fans, it represents just one slice of the 007 collectibles market — a true Bond market, if you will. And it’s a market that has remained consistently active in recent years, according to dealers.

There’s demand not only for the film items, but also for first-edition copies of the Ian Fleming novels that inspired the movies. The books routinely sell for tens of thousands of dollars each, said Joe Maddalena, an executive vice president with Heritage Auctions, the Texas-based company that specializes in a range of collectibles.

Maddalena says Heritage will be auctioning off a particularly rare Bond item in June — the pocket notebook that Ian Fleming used as he was developing the Bond novel, “You Only Live Twice.” He expects the item could sell for $100,000.

A couple of pages from Ian Fleming’s notebook for “You Only Live Twice.” The Bond item will be sold at auction in June.

Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Some Bond items can even command seven-figure prices. A case in point: a restored Aston Martin car, used in the film “Goldfinger,” went for $6.4 million.

Maddalena says the enduring popularity of the Bond canon is what drives the high prices. As much as filmgoers flock today to the latest Marvel movie, the 007 series dates back more than a half century and has fans across the globe.

“I can’t imagine anywhere in the world people haven’t heard of 007,” he said.

Indeed, when Amazon
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recently announced that it had acquired MGM, the film studio behind the Bond pictures and countless other films, it was widely speculated that the 007 canon helped drive the deal.

As Peter Newman, a film professor and program head at New York University, told the trade publication Variety: “The reason for the acquisition seemed like they were after the big titles, the intellectual property, which of course, first and foremost, meant the James Bond franchise.”

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