Buy Buy, Baby: The $15,000 Book

"Buy Buy, Baby" is a Friday feature that explores unique luxury goods and what makes them special. Check back every week for more items to put on your wish list.

To say the life of Senator Edward Kennedy would make one hell of a book would be an understatement. To say that book would be worth $1,000, however, may require suspension of disbelief.

Yet Kennedy's publishing imprint, Twelve, has opted to print 1,000 leather-bound, electronically signed copies of True Compass and sell them for that price on the Hatchette Book Group's Web site. Twelve's parent company, Grand Central Publishing, is offering this edition even though a $35 version will be available on Oct. 6.

Celebrity Biographies Pull In Big Bucks

Like any collectible or piece of a celebrity's cult of personality, this book has a built-in market that can't open its wallet fast enough. In many cases, all it takes are a few flourishes and a digital signature to sell the life stories of sports stars and mildly famous architects for more than you would pay for five Apple ( AAPL) iPhones.

"There are a lot of people who truly love him and would spend that kind of money on a limited edition," says Carole Horne, general manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. "I would guess that lots of them are in Washington or Massachusetts, but I don't know around the country if there are other places it would sell that well."

Judging by his neighbors in the bookstore biography section, Teddy's letting his fans off light with his limited edition.

Art- and coffee table-book publisher Taschen, known for cheeky titles like The Big Book of Breasts and The Big Penis Book, seems like the obvious choice to produce Hugh Hefner's six-volume illustrated autobiography Hugh Hefner's Playboy 1926-1979.

Taschen produced 1,500 limited-edition copies, selling them for $1,300. The firm let it all hang out by throwing in signed copies of Playboy No. 1 with cover girl Marilyn Monroe, a Plexiglas case and at 5-by-5-centimeter swatch of Hef's pajamas with every book.

The publisher of Pele's eponymous 725-page illustrated autobiography, Gloria Books, doesn't sell a book for less than $2,000. In the case of Pele's 25-pound tome, the 2,500-book "Samba Edition" includes the football ambassador's signature, a silk-and-leather binding, a pair of No. 10 soccer gloves and a box in Brazilian national team colors for roughly $3,300.

That's the bargain-basement price. The 250-copy "Super Samba Edition" is nearly $4,000 and includes a 16-by-20-inch print of Pele playing in Central Park. The 150-copy sold-out "Carnival Edition" forced its buyers to fork over $8,000 for the privilege of a brown binding and a print of the 1970 Brazilian World Cup Squad signed by the surviving members.

Not every special edition is a success, as Taschen found out with its four-figure special edition tracing the life of Getty Center architect Richard Meier. If you don't think Meier's signature, a clamshell box and a print are worth $1,800, you're not alone. The 100 copies of this book still aren't sold out.

Still, Taschen knows how to make a little paper go a long way. Sure, you can spend $4,500 on one of the 9,000 special-edition copies of GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali. It's bound by the Vatican's bookmaker in pink leather that matches Ali's Cadillac, stuffed in a silk box with a print of Jeff Koons' artwork "Radial Champs" and signed by Koons and Ali. But for just $15,000, you can buy one of the 1,000 "Champs Editions" with all of the above, plus four prints of Ali's fight photos signed by Ali and photographer Howard L. Bingham.

Back in 1990, when people routinely left home without cell phones, went to libraries to do research and got their news through funny paper products that vaguely resemble today's news sites, charging $1,500 for a limited-edition copy of Ronald Reagan's memoir An American Life seemed like a novel thing to do.

Little did Simon & Schuster know, however, that those boxed, leather-bound, hand-signed editions would set a business model for literary collectibles and outlive Reagan's supply-side economics nearly 20 years down the line.

Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.

More from Personal Finance

U.S. Banks Urged to Make Small Loans In Competition With Payday Lenders

U.S. Banks Urged to Make Small Loans In Competition With Payday Lenders

How to Void a Check

How to Void a Check

Rent the Runway co-founder Chats with Cramer on Equal Pay and a Good Pair Jeans

Rent the Runway co-founder Chats with Cramer on Equal Pay and a Good Pair Jeans

Best Real Estate Markets for Homeowners in the U.S.

Best Real Estate Markets for Homeowners in the U.S.

How to Be a Winner Like Legendary Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch

How to Be a Winner Like Legendary Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch