These terms are often used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Many publishers, when they reprint a book, consider it to be the same edition as long as there are no major changes. All of the Tor Wheel of Time books have been continuously in print since their first publication. Consequently, a book dealer may offer a copy of The Eye of the World as a first edition even though it is the thirteenth printing. While this is technically okay, the savvy collector should always be wary. The value of copies of The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn drops rapidly after the first printing.
Jordan's The Wheel of Time books are distributed by many book clubs as well as their primary distributor, St. Martin's Press. While they are perfectly fine books for reading, book club editions are far too common to have any value as collectibles. Book club editions are easy to identify.
Dust jackets are the most fragile and susceptible to damage part of most books. It is all too common to find a book in near mint condition with a dust jacket that has bad chips or tears. As there is no way to reliably match a book and its original dust jacket, some dealers and collectors will mix and match dust jackets and books to get the best overall and thus most valuable copies. Collectors disagree as to whether or not this is acceptable practice.
For Tor books, there is no designation on a dust jacket that clearly identifies it as a first printing. However, there are distinguishing characteristics such as a printed price or bestseller logo that can be used to identify dust jackets from early printings. These characteristics are noted for each hardcover book on the Collectibles page. If you consider purchasing a rare, first printing hardcover, be sure to ask questions about the dust jacket as well as the book itself.
When giving a book as a gift, people will often snip the printed price from the dust jacket. This ultimately detracts from the value of the book. It can also mask the state of the dust jacket. However, Tor also prints the list price on the barcode on the back of the book. See the pictures on the Collectibles page.
Clear plastic dust jacket protectors are the cheapest insurance you can buy to protect the value of a book. They are a must for the serious collector.
Any book collector worth his/her salt goes for signed copies. Relative to his popularity, Robert Jordan signed quite a lot of books so signed copies are common and are generally worth only a modest premium over unsigned copies. The good news here is that Robert Jordan does not appear to have caught the forgers' eyes. Book dealers complain that forgers are destroying the market in signed books. For example, many claim that three fourths of the Stephen King signatures are forgeries. A quick scan of the many blatantly bad copies on eBay will verify that this is likely true.
Many signings were restricted to hardcovers. Thus signed copies of first printing trade paperbacks and ARCs or proofs are worth considerably more than unsigned copies.
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