Ever see a crummy pulp SciFi paperback for sale over $100? Have a look at these weird ones.
Some people call these books ugly ducklings. You might call them hidden gems. You might also just call them truly odd ducks.
These are nondescript, not notable, and not even particularly rare books, that for whatever reason draw a price of $50 or more.
Hardcovers are understandable. First editions are understandable. Notable authors sometimes are understandable. But these are paperback books with multiple editions, multiple formats, and just don't fit the mold of what you would think of as a collectible book.
The first book is "Quiet Earth" in 1981 a paperback by Craig Harrison, ISBN 0340265078. This book was turned into a movie, but that doesn't explain the value of this particular copy. There are at least five other editions of this book and none of them are particularly expensive except for a strange Text Classics Amazon-only edition. But that book isn't what I would consider a real book.
The book is about a man who wakes up and finds himself to be the only living thing left on Earth. I don't know the plot twist at the end, and the reviews are not even particularly good for the story, so if you can figure out why this book is worth more than a couple bucks feel free to let me know.
The next book is even more odd because it's the 28th book in a series. It is more recent, from 1998. It's called "Lone Wolf: The Hunger of Sejanoz" and it's by Joe Deaver. The cover sort of tells the tale on this one, it looks like a man fighting some sort of spiked worm coming out of the ground with a sword. The ISBN on this one is 0099642212.
There's only one seller on this particular edition, and there is only one edition available. Nevertheless I have never heard of Joe Deaver. This is the last book of the Lone Wolf series, and it is apparently an interactive adventure possibly something like a choose-your-own-adventure.
What's interesting here is that this book has been expensive for a very long time, for at least 15 years. Many of these outrageously priced paperbacks like this are briefly expensive, but they don't hold their value very well when people find other sources or buy other editions. So this one is extremely unique in that it has held its value for more than a decade. I definitely wouldn't recommend investing in it, but I can see where someone would be curious to find out more about it.
The last of these paperbacks is called "Turnabout" by Andy Mangels and the ISBN is 0689864108. What's curious about this one is that it is based on a television series from the early 2000s or late 90s (Roswell). And again, like the Sejanoz it is the 6th of 8 in that series. There is only one version of this book, and it does have good reviews, but it's based on a I believe a UPN TV series.
This one, again like Sejanoz, is unique in that it has held its value for over a decade. This book was published in 2003, but in 2007 or thereabouts it was already published as an ugly duckling in another book, and the price has held since then. It's still over $100.
There are other books like the classic "Rage" by Richard Bachman that are regular paperbacks that are still worth hundreds of dollars. But those at least have some explanation and some rarity to account for why they are particularly expensive. In the case of "Rage" it is Stephen King's pseudonym and the fact that Stephen King is trying to get them out of circulation. It'll never be reprinted, and it's relatively old.
These are recent books with nothing particularly noteworthy about them, they are not popular series, and the authors aren't really anyone you have heard about or should have heard about.
In any case, there are dozens of kinds of books that have an outsized value for a brief time. And those kinds of books are not the kind of thing that a book collector wants to get involved in generally.
These are the exceptions that are weird but somehow have held their value. At times books like these can spike up to $500, and God only knows if any are really being purchased. But when they spike, all of the used books out there with that ISBN come up selling on Amazon and the price quickly drops back down to what it should have been to begin with.
These three are exceptions, and if you've seen any like them or other strange values please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.