Because so many of these were printed (over a half million before any ever hit the stores), you could search a long time for a fine first printing or a mint early printing.  The price range for this edition is about $4 for a reading copy to give-or-take $75 for a F/F first impression.
  All first printings have a mistake in the listing of other books by Tolkien on the third front end page:  "Father" was printed instead of "Farmer" in Farmer Giles of Ham.  In at least 60 percent of these, there is a printing error on page 229;  about half of the last letter of several rows of text does not appear.  Hammond & Anderson claim (in their Descriptive Bibliography) that some covers were stamped in copper and silver rather than gold and silver, and most of those were shipped to western states.  They say also that a few were printed on ivory rather than white paper, and that a total of 325,000 were printed - and that's just the first round!  The claim has been made more than once that somebody found a copy bound upside-down.  In a sampling of over 3 dozen purchased (about a third in California or Washington) and several more examined, no copper or clearly ivory were found - and no upside-down binding, either.  In all of those copies, advertised as emphatically VG to as new, there were not more than 3-4 keepers.  The dust jacket in particular is a real stickler.  Indeed, if you find one truly like new online - you got lucky, regardless what you paid for it.
  On the bright side, this is the perfect edition to illustrate differences in condition.  The text block is top stained red, and the jacket is near white (or was, as the case now pretty much always is), and these features demonstrate degrees of wear and age very well.  And, for an edition as common as this, condition is everything - it's Fine or better in all it's parts, or it's destined to be worth something ...someday.


Degrees of age toning to dust jacket spines

Top stain brightness and tone

Copyright page with number line

A first sign of wear for a hardcover book - the spine ends.  It's hard to tell condition from a photo;  these look very much alike from any distance without the jackets.  These "VERY good" and "excellent" copies purchased online were graded by me (left to right) NF, G, F.

A point peculiar to most but not all first impressions - the offset text on page 229.
This was a losing venture in many respects.  I didn't find everything I was looking for, but hopefully this page turns out to be useful to someone, and I did learn the value of a reliable dealer fairly early on.  Assuming you're a serious collector (and not some nut compiling a Tolkien guide);  ask a dozen questions about that copy that sounds so perfect if you have to, and pay the piper -hopefully only once.