For the book worms among us, there is nothing more satisfying than finding an amusing typo in a best selling book. Publishing company misprints can be embarrassing and costly to the bottom line and companies can lose their credibility and pay the big bucks when they fail to reclaim all the offending materials. Most publishing mistakes are corrected quickly and sometimes fixed during printing so very few misprints get onto the market. This makes them a goldmine for collectors of rare books. Book collectors love first editions, and the presence of a misprint or typo is evidence of a very early copy. Not all misprints in books are worth money, so before checking your bookshelves, it’s worth knowing your goodies are only worth money as long as people are willing to pay for them. Books with misprints are only valuable in books that are already rare to start. So don’t get too excited the next time you find a typo in a bestseller, however gratifying it may be.
Costly misprints and typos aren’t limited to just the book world. Hyphens aren’t usually critical pieces of punctuation but a missing dash in the coding led to a failed mission in 1962. The simple typo cost NASA $80 million when Mariner 1 sped off on the wrong trajectory and exploded only minutes after it launched. Typos can have a costly affect for marketing as well. A missing ‘P’ in the name of a rare beer being auctioned on e-bay cost one unlucky seller over a half a million dollars. Allsopp’s Article Ale, minus one P went unnoticed by buyers except for one eagle eyed opportunists who purchased the beer for $304 and promptly sold it for $503,300.
Spelling is important for more than just publishers and writers, and can have devastating consequences if the wrong thing slips past the proofreading phase at a major publishing house. Here are the most damaging and costly misprints and typos.
10. Macy’s Mailer: $450
In 2013, a Texas Macy’s Mailer sure made customers happy. A necklace originally worth $1,500 was meant to be offered for $497 on sale, but the 9 was left out of the price. The necklaces flew off the shelves priced at only $47 each. Smart shoppers picked up the the savings. The necklace was listed as sterling silver and 14-carat gold. Some customers weren’t quite as lucky with the deal as others. Orders paid for and slotted for delivery were cancelled and refunds were made. Macy’s hasn’t released the number of necklaces that were sold for the cheaper price, but some savvy customers were purchasing large numbers of the product.
9. British Harry Potter Misprint: $10,000
In the first edition of J.K Rowling Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban printed in Britain was credited to Joanne Rowling instead of her pen name on the copyright page. The error was corrected in the second printing of the book. Sydney Charles Books in England has offered to pay $1o,ooo for a copy of the novel in new condition complete with the dust cover intact. When the Harry Potter series was at the peak of popularity the books were printed off in high numbers that led to numerous misprints including upside down pages, and transposed signatures in the binding. The books were sought after by collectors but recently they have lost value once the series wrapped up.
8. In a Narrow Grave: $17,500
In 1968 a Texas author Larry McMurtry turned in a manuscript for In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas with so many editing and typo errors that got overlooked. The version made it to print and became known as the ‘Skyscraper’ version, the first true edition of this non-fiction work. Rare book collectors can expect to pay up to $17,500 for a copy and reportedly only 15 copies survived. Larry McMurtry is a well-known author with many novel, essays and screenplays. He is best known for his 1975 novel Terms of Endearment.
7. Huckleberry Finn Misprint: $18,600
The first edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has a slight misprint. The word ‘was’ was changed to ‘saw’ and was corrected during printing. The earlier books with the mistake can be worth $18,600 as collectable, because they are evidence of being a true first edition. The first edition of Huckleberry Finn is already quite rare without the misprint. Some books may have different errors in them, but for rare book collectors the more errors a book has the more valuable the copy.
6. The Pasta Bible: $20,000
A disturbing mistake in The Pasta Bible cookbook printed by Penguin Australia in 2010 offended more than a vegetarian’s senses. A recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto called for seasoning the dish with “salt and freshly ground black people.” It was supposed to say black pepper. The copies already in circulation were never recalled but the printer quickly destroyed the 7000 books from their inventory. A recall on all the copies already sold would have been next to impossible. The mistake went down in the books as possibly the worst misprint of all time.
5. The Sun Also Rises: $60,000
Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises has a misprint on page 181, line 26. The word stopped is written with three p’s to read ‘stoppped.’ The first edition of the novel is already rare and valuable without the misprint but a copy in good condition with the extra letter can be worth as much as $60,000, whereas another copy might only sell for $40,000. Rare books, like many collectible things are only worth as much as someone will pay at the time and prices are likely to change.
4. Wicked Bible: $100,000
In 1631 over 1,000 copies of the King James bible were produced with a very important word missing in Exodus 20:14. The seventh commandment read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The misprint promoting promiscuity became known as The Wicked Bible, and remaining copies are valued at $100,000. King Charles ordered the bible to be destroyed in a bonfire and only 11 copies of the Wicked Bible survived. Historians believe the typesetter may have been trying to get back at the printer for something, and his license was revoked.
3. Lottery misprint: $250,000
In 2007 a car dealership in Roswell, New Mexico sent out 50,000 scratch-off adds offering a grand prize of $1,000. A printer misprint resulted in every card being a winner, which led to an uproar of residents calling and claiming to be the winner. Realizing the error was not realistic or intended the dealership offered everyone $5 Walmart gift cards, which set them back $250,000. The actual cost to fix the mistake would have cost $50 million. The Atlanta based Forced Events Direct Marketing Company held a $5,000 draw for anyone with a ticket to help satisfy the people. They also gave away 20 other $1,000 prizes.
2. NYC Department of Education Typo: $1.4 Million
In 2006 an extra letter added to a document caused NYC’s department of Education accounting software to misinterpret the information. The typo then resulted in the doubling of the budget from $1.4 million to $2.8 million. The mistake was revealed by city comptroller William Thompson after an audit, and the city had to shell out the difference. Typos on important documents can have a devastating financial effect for companies. Later in the year, Canada lost out on a million dollar contract with Rogers when a comma was misplaced, allowing the parties to cancel the contract at anytime with a years written notice instead of what the contract had intended to mean.
1. Banner Travel Services: $10 Million
Banner Travel Services, a California based travel agency now closed for business placed an ad in the Yellow Pages of the phone book. On printing the advertisement which was meant to highlight a specialization in exotic destinations was written as a forte in erotic destinations. The ad generated interest but it wasn’t the type of customers Banner hoped to target. The printer offered to waive the $230 monthly listing fee but the travel agency sued for $10 million anyway.