Many Happy Returns: How Jules Verne started the multi-million dollar sci-fi genre

Today marks what would have been the 183rd birthday of French author and science-fiction pioneer, Jules Verne.  To celebrate it, we at Paul Fraser Collectibles thought it would be appropriate to explore the world of science-fiction collectibles inspired by his work.

Jules Gabriel Verne was born on February 8, 1828 in Nantes, France. Verne studied to be a lawyer, but quickly turned his attention to writing.  A man of boundless imagination, Verne's works were incredibly advanced for their time.  No doubt inspired by the bustling port town he had grown up in, Verne wrote about travel at sea, in the air, underground and even into space.

His books depict many fabulous adventures - on board a hot air balloon in 'Around the World in Eighty Days', on a submarine in '20,000 Leagues under the Sea', and even to the moon in a spaceship in 'From the Earth to the Moon', pre-dating the actual event by over a century.

Verne's work was utterly unique at the time and has been adapted for TV and film on many occasions.  He is the third most translated author in history.  It is little wonder that he is regularly referred to as the 'Father of Science Fiction'.


20,000 Leagues under the Sea
This 1873 copy of '20,000 Leagues under the Sea' sold for nearly $6,000

Verne's early works are very collectible too.  In 2007, Heritage Auction Galleries sold an 1873 first edition of '20,000 Leagues under the Sea' for $5,676 and an original copy of 'The Mysterious Island' for $4,182.  This coming April, they will be selling another first edition copy of '20,000 Leagues' - undoubtedly, it will sell for a sizeable amount.

The genre Verne spawned is incredibly popular in the collectible world, and presents a variety of investment opportunities.  Another seminal author in the sci-fi movement was British author HG Wells, whose iconic 'War of the Worlds' has had a meteoric impact on modern film and storytelling.  A first edition copy of Wells' brilliant novel 'The Time Machine' is currently on sale for $6,000.

Other wonderful collectible items falling within the sci-fi category have included Mr. Spock's pointy ears, sold for an affordable $3,000, Doctor Who's TARDIS telephone box, purchased for $16,642, and Deckard's Blade Runner Gun, which sold for $225,000 - blasting away the competition and replicants alike.

Of course, most notable of all is anything Star Wars related.  As we wrote in October, Darth Vader's unmistakable costume - worn by Bristol-born David Prowse in The Empire Strikes Back - came up for auction at Christie's with an estimate of up to £230,000.  In 2008, one of only four TIE fighters produced sold for an astounding $350,000.

The power of the science-fiction collectibles market should not be underestimated - and that is in large part thanks to the work of Jules Verne.


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