Dungeons & Dragons was the first roleplaying game. D&D was conceived, designed, and perfected by a group of college students (who included Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson) in the early 1970s and was published in 1974. Dungeons and Dragons began the hobby and still shapes many RPG conventions to this day.
Dungeons and Dragons First EditionSo when you’re collecting roleplaying games with a mind towards roleplaying game history, you’re almost required to collect some Dungeons and Dragons products. The earliest D&D rulebooks, adventures, and modules are the most valuable to the collector, so I’ll try to focus heavily on the collectors items from the 1970s and early 1980s, while pointing out a few select editions from later years.
Most Dungeons and Dragons products that were published after the mid 1980’s aren’t especially valuable, because the print runs were so high that they’re easy to find. So most of what we’ll write about on this page will focus on stuff from the 1970’s and 1980’s..
You can find indexes of Dungeons and Dragons items at the Acaeum website, which focuses almost exclusively on collecting Dungeons and Dragons items.
Dungeons & Dragons Original Set – Underworld Books
The original Dungeons & Dragon rulebook from 1974 came as a set in a wooden box with three books inside. These books included “Men & Magic”, “Monsters & Treasure”, and “The Underworld & Wilderness Set”. Together, these three booklets represent 112 pages of rules, creatures to fight, equipment to use, and treasure to win. This D&D original rulebook created the attributes, character classes, levels, and races that have influenced roleplaying game creation and dominated D&D games ever since.
At the moment, you’ll find this box set listed under the name D&D Monsters Underworld Books on eBay. This first set was published by TSR in 1974 and sells for around $145 on eBay these days.
Palace of the Silver Princess
The Palace of the Silver Princess adventure may be the chief collectors item in the Dungeons and Dragons litany. When this book was first published in 1981, one of the Blume brothers had original copies of the books recalled and sent to a landfill. Almost all versions of this first copy (the orange cover) were destroyed, so the remaining ones are major finds for an RPG collector. One copy went for $300 on auction in 1984, so you must imagine what these books sell for these days. (I’ve seen it on eBay for as much as $1500.)
The story behind the recall of The Palace of the Silver Princess is muddled. According to tradition, the book was objectionable because a picture on page 9 (“The Illusion of the Decapus”) depicted a woman tied up with her own hair, while nine knife-wielding men stood around her menacingly and tore at her clothes. You’ll find edgier art in the AD&D supplements of that time, but The Palace of the Silver Princess was for regular Dungeons & Dragons–and therefore for a younger audience.
Another version of the story is recalled by Frank Mentzer, who edited The Palace of the Silver Princess. He mentions that a piece of artwork on page 19 (by Erol Otus) depicts a 3-headed monster called ubues, and that the heads were caricatures of the three directors of TSR at the time: Gary Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. By implication, this embarrassing artwork may have been the reason for the destruction of the orange cover version of The Palace of the Silver Princess. The silver cover of the Silver Princess book is going to cost upwards of $1,500, while a green cover (the second version) sells for around $40 on eBay.
Dungeons and Dragons Set 2: Expert Set
The Dungeons and Dragons Set 2: The Expert Set was published in 1980 by TSR and contains a classic wizard on the front cover. The expert set is meant for characters who have advanced beyond third level. I have found a less-than-mint version of this game on eBay for around $45, but a mint condition copy of the D&D Set 2: Expert Set is likely to sell for around $125.
Dungeons and Dragons: Deities & Demigods
Deities and Demigods was a 1st edition sourcebook published by TSR in 1980. Every time I see a deity book for D&D, I remember the introduction to one of the editions (I can’t remember which) where the forward discussed their first publication of a book like this. The publisher mentioned it was popular from the first printing, but how one reaction stood out. A year after publication, TSR got a letter in the mail from some a fan saying he and his gaming group loved the Deities and Demigods book, but they were requesting a second book of gods, because their group had already killed all the ones in the first book.
D&D: Deities & Demigods is the first appearance of Dungeons and Dragons mainstays like Corellon Larethian, Gruumsh, and Moradin, but contained selected deity write-ups on 17 different pantheons from Earth’s mythological past. These pantheons included the Greek, Norse, American Indian, and Egyptian pantheons, but also from Babylonian, Sumerian, and even Finnish pantheons. Dungeons and Dragons: Deities & Demigods 1st Edition was published by TSR and sells online for $90 these days. Third edition Deities and Demigods books are published by Wizards of the Coast.
The earliest edition of Deities and Demigods included stats and writeups of Elric of Melnibone and a variety of creatures from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, but later editions of the book excised that content, because Chaosium had gained the license to that intellectual property.
Ravenloft Campaign Setting 2nd Edition
The first Ravenloft campaign setting for D&D appeared in 1994 with this Ravenloft Campaign Box Set for second edition. Ravenloft was published by TSR Inc. and retails for around $110 on Ebay. The campaign setting was based on an earlier adventure module titled Ravenloft.
The Ravenloft Gazetteer was a series of book resources for the D&D Ravenloft setting, with tips on how to referee Ravenloft games, information on the society of Ravenloft, and bits and pieces from published material over the years. The Ravenloft Gazeteer was published in 5 volumes in 2003 by Arthaus Games. I found a copy of Ravenloft Gazeteer Number 5 at Ebay selling for over $100.
D&D Expedition to Castle Ravenloft 3.5
The D&D Expedition to Castle Ravenloft for 3.5 D&D is a 224-page reprint of the original 1st edition of the adventure. This module contains updated maps of the adventure which spawned a whole setting. Expedition to Castle Ravenloft 3.5 was published by Wizards of the Coast in 2006 and sells for $60 online.
D&D City of Brass Adventure
The City of Brass is a 500-page adventure on an expedition to the Plane of Fire, where the adventurers battle Arabic-themed opponents. The adventure is grouped into four different books: “The City of Brass”, “1001 Efreeti Nights”, “Secrets of the Brazen Throne”, and the “City of Brass” mapbook. All four books were published together in 2007 by Necromancer Games and sell for $60 on eBay.
More Dungeons and Dragons Products to Collect
Collecting Dungeons and Dragons could keep you busy for the rest of your life. Not only have there been numerous editions of the games, but each edition has included multiple supplements, campaign settings, and adventure modules. You could also collect any of the large number of novels set in various Dungeons and Dragons universes, the comic book series, the miniatures game, and any number of products published by other companies. Serious collectors will want to add the two movies and the animated series to their collection, as well as the various computer games that have been spawned by the intellectual property.