The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara are quite difficult to find in 1st printing hardcover. The rarity of these three volumes is due to their initial print runs.
Originally, The Sword of Shannara was published in 1977 in a large, softcover, trade paperback edition. It wasn’t released as a hardcover at first, but as it climbed and stayed on the New York Times bestselling paperback list, it caught the attention of many book organizations and book clubs. One of them decided it wanted to honor Terry and The Sword of Shannara, but to do so the book had to be in a hardcover format.
Ballantine Books thought it a good idea. They printed 3500 first edition/first printing hardcover copies. One can tell it is one of these rare copies if they open the book and look at the publishing information page where the number line 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 (old-style Ballantine first edition number line) and a stated First Edition exist at the bottom of the page. A pink, indented TB is pressed into the front board of the book. It has a dust jacket price of $12.95. It has a center, full-color foldout scene of the Culhaven company painted by the Hildebrandt Brothers (the Book Club Edition has a full-color plate in the middle but it does not foldout).
There are also a few hardcovers that were printed for the United Kingdom and those have Raven Books written on the dust jacket spine.
The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara also have very small print runs in hardcover. Del Rey Books released the large, trade paperback editions for both books, but this time printed 5000 copies of each in first edition/first printing hardcover. These of course are nearly as hard to find in the collecting market as The Sword of Shannara hardcover. First editions are noted on the publication pages of the two books as having a First Edition: July 1982 / May 1985 respectively, as well as the number lines 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. The Elfstones of Shannara has a dust jacket list price of $15.95 and The Wishsong of Shannara has a dust jacket list price of $18.95. The two books also have the Del Rey Books imprint on the bottom of the spine.
Click the pictures below for a better view at these first edition / first printing copies. One has to realize that over the years many of those 3500/5000 copies have been destroyed, lost, or forgotten, so they do not enter into the collecting market often. When they do, expect to pay a great deal for them depending on their condition.
Finding the original Shannara trilogy in hardcover is difficult, but they occasionally become available on Ebay Auctions, as well as other places like ABE Books and Powell’s. Check them often if you are hunting for any of Terry’s books—the rare ones or the new ones.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to ask Shawn!