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Ballantine and Del Rey Paperbacks
First Authorized U.S. PB Edition,   1965
Cover illustrations by Barbara Remington (BRem)
The first box state was produced only once, coinciding with the release of The Return of the King in December of 1965, and it is reported to have been an afterthought.  In the mad rush to get an authorized PB editon into print after Ace published an unauthorized edition, someone did eventually realize that a box might attract holiday shoppers - but there was little time to give thought to its design.  The plain green slipcase isn't fancy or sturdy - but it is quite rare.  The BRem cover version of The Hobbit was not included.  When you set the three books side by side, the covers form one continuous landscape.  Ms. Remington was not given opportunity to read the books before the art would be needed, so her "Wilderland" painting is only vaguely related to the text.  This is often called the "Dolphin Edition", because the covers display the Houghton Mifflin logo on the front.  Single copy RRP .95, boxed $2.85
PBN:  U7040, U7041, U7042    Hobbit:  U7039
First Authorized U.S. PB Edition,   1966
Cover illustrations by Barbara Remington (BRem)
The second state black and white mirror-image BRem art slipcase was produced exclusively in 1966, and is somewhat less rare than the first state.  The earliest printings found in this box are 4th/3rd/3rd, and only single digit printings are original to them.  Single copy RRP .95, boxed $2.85
PBN:  U7040, U7041, U7042
First Authorized U.S. PB Edition,   1967-1973
Cover illustrations by Barbara Remington (BRem)
The full color "Wilderland" slipcase is much less rare than its predecessors, but still very HTF in Fine condition.  About 40 printings of each title bear Barbara Remington's art on the cover.  PBNs appeared on later boxes, and do not produce search results.  RRP $.95 each, boxed $2.85
1967 PBN:  U7040, U7041, U7042     1970:  01533, 01534, 01535
1971 Box:  0345592247    1973 Box:  0345274938
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Ballantine Special Edition Trade PB,  1970-1975
Cover illustrations by Pauline Baynes
These are labeled "Special Edition" on the copyright page.  Four impressions produced. This is, to my knowledge, the only set to sport the famous Pauline Baynes map of Middle-Earth, also published in poster format in 1970.  It is the first U.S. trade paper set, and the only TPB produced by Ballantine.  It has larger print than most TPBs;  1970-71 printings are nearly hardcover size.  Later printings are lighter and slimmer.  The books were not sold separately, and one ISBN is shared by all volumes in a set;  no matching edition of The Hobbit was produced.  These sets were issued in shrink wrap. 
First printings (1970) are scarce in any condition.  Some second printings have the PBN on the rear box panel,  firsts do not.  A 3rd printing (1974) variant has a light green background to the slipcase rather than white.  Later printings are only hard to find in collectible condition;  the 4th (final, 1975) printings are by far the easiest to locate.  RRP $7.50
1970 and 1971 ISBN:  0345020200
1974 ISBN:  034524222X
1975 ISBN:  0345247868
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Ballantine :  The J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set,  1973-1974
Cover illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien, new introduction by Peter S. Beagle
This was the first box set to include The Hobbit, which was never omitted by Ballantine again;  all titles also sold separately, as they continue to be to this day.  This edition includes a new introduction by Peter S. Beagle.  The red box, adorned with Tolkien's "Heraldic Devices of the First Age", was produced only in 1973-4, so it's fairly scarce.  A PBN appears on the 1973 case;  left over 1973 cases used in 1974 had labels with a new number pasted over the old number.  Most of those labels are long gone... not that it matters much, as neither number produces search results.  RRP $1.25 - $1.50 each,  $5.00 - $6.00 boxed

1973 ISBN:  0345235096, 034523510X, 0345235118;
Hobbit:  0345235126   Box:  0345235231
1974 ISBN:  0345235096, 0345240332, 0345240340;
Hobbit:  0345240316    Box:  0345240308
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Ballantine Reprint Edition,  1975-1980
Cover illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien, introduction by Peter S. Beagle
The gold foil box was introduced in 1976.  Copies of 1975 printings have been found in them.  Though relatively common, this set is very popular.  All book numbers below apply to printings of this edition, though there is some overlap on the dates.  The art on the box and the introduction are ©1973, so this set is often listed by that date.  The books still state copyright 1965.  This is apparently the earliest MMPB set to be factory shrink wrapped.  The price and PBN were printed on a round label which was affixed to the wrap;  neither was printed on the box.  About 30 total printings in the Tolkien covers with white backgrounds.  Single copy RRP $1.75 - $2.50 each.
1975:  0345248279; 0345248287, 0345248295;
Hobbit:  0345248260
1976:  0345253434; 0345253442, 0345253450;
Hobbit:  0345253426
1977-on:  0345272587; 0345272595, 0345272609;
Hobbit:  0345272579

1976 Box:  0345253485    1977 Box:  0345274393
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Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition,  1981-1983
Cover illustrations by Darrell K. Sweet
The "Silver Jubilee" set commemorating the 25th anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings was first boxed in the gold "Heraldry" slipcase.  A newly revised edition of The Hobbit was released (Jan 82) in this cover, and the print numbers were started over with one(1);  though, ironically, they did not change the ISBN until 1984.  Ballantine has stopped labeling each print year with its own book number, and this box ISBN is the first searchable number found for mass market PB sets thus far.  Most databases have image, edition, or date errors regarding this number.  Single copy RRP $2.95, box $11.35
ISBN:  0345296052, 0345296060, 0345296087    Hobbit:  0345296044
1981 Box:  0345296079    1983 Box:  0345195299
Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition,  1983-1985
Cover illustrations by Darrell K. Sweet
The second state slipcase is golden brown / bronze with art and design that matches the book covers; a brilliant improvement, IMHO.  This is harder to find in collectible condition than the first state.  A newly revised edition of Fellowship was released in March of 1984, and the printing numbers for that volume started over with one (1).  Later sets may include books without the "Special Silver Jubilee Edition" statement on the back covers;  by 1985 the statement was removed.  1985 copies have white titles.  There were fewer than 15 total printings of each LotR title in the Sweet covers.  Single copy RRP $3.95
1984 Hobbit:  0345318587   Box:  0345183444
1985 ISBN:  0345332083, 0345332105, 0345332091
Hobbit:  0345332075
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Ballantine Reprint Edition, 1986 and 1987
Various color background covers, illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien
An uncommon set, due to its brief production period and fewer print runs in the 80's.  As far as has been determined, The Hobbit (1982 edition) was supposedly printed four times in this cover.  I've still not found four, and suspect that Ballantine failed to edit the publishing page after the 17th and caught the mistake with the 20th printing.  Each LotR volume was printed in this cover exactly three times.  All later Ballantine printings bear the copyright date of 1986, but oddly enough, none of these do.  After 1965-6 sets, this is the rarest of the Ballantine MMPB sets.
Single copy RRP $3.95  box $15.80
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
Hobbit:  0345339681    Box:  0345340426
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Ballantine Re-Issue,  1987-1998
Covers with illustrations by Michael Herring

The first issue of The Hobbit 50th Anniversary set was September 1988.  The LotR copies were printings 9th/83rd/79th;  that's July, February, and April of 1987.  However, the second Tolkien cover set (see above) contains the exact same LotR printings - and later printings.  By taking a huge leap and assuming the printing information in the books is correct, we might assume these cover styles were produced simultaneously.  On the other hand, the earlier box set contains earlier printings of The Hobbit, which suggests that perhaps the printing information is incorrect.

Beginning in late 1990, Herring art covers were issued without the anniversary statements and in a purple box with color backgrounds;  a third state saw a return to all black.  All three states were offered through book clubs, with the statement "Special Book Club Edition" on the back of the book covers.
From this point on, Ballantine uses one ISBN per text edition, regardless of changes made to the covers.  Industry standards dictate that ISBNs must apply to text, format, and publisher;  artists are apparently of no account.  So, as of 1986, distinguishing one cover style from another by ISBN alone is not possible.  In addition, though printing numbers are still indicated by a number line, month and year is not stated.  Single copy original RRP $4.95 - $5.99  box $19.80 - $23.90
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
50th Anniversary Box 0345195299
Hobbit:  0345339681  Box:  0345340426
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Ballantine/Del Rey  1999-2000
New cover art - after 11 years - and by Ted Nasmith!
The art is incorrectly attributed on the copyright page, though correctly attributed on the rear cover, in early impressions.  Some late printings advertize upcoming films.  Single copy RRP $6.99, box $27.96
    . . . Peter Jackson is doing what . . ?
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
Hobbit:  0345339681  Box:  0345340426
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Del Rey   2001, Film art covers
Well, there goes the neighborhood... the film art cover sets were still boxed with The Hobbit, the cover of which was redesigned slightly and retained the art by Ted Nasmith.  Colors and photos for books and slipcases changed over time.  These were still in production in 2004 (it would never do to be short come academy awards time), and have gone through dozens of printings each - I neither know nor care what the exact count was, but my best estimate is about 40 apiece.
Box States:  Green, Purple, and Blue;  apparently produced in that order, but not necessarily in equal numbers.  The book cover styles found in them also varied.  It would seem that whatever was next in line at the warehouse at the moment was packed in them - a particular color of box would not dictate which covers were inside.  Same ISBN for each variant of these covers and boxes, of course;  stock photos will usually show the last state.  Finding one cover or set in particular out of this batch could be a pretty cute trick.  Single copy RRP $7.99, box $29.96
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
Hobbit:  0345339681     Box:  0345340426
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Del Rey  2006
Cover illustrations by John Howe
John Howe art is featured on The Lord of the Rings and the slipcase;  the Nasmith cover art version of The Hobbit is still included.  Sets have been seen with a film art cover of The Return of the King, so if you want all three Howe covers, buy in person.  It appears that no stock photo is available for the box set yet - perhaps there will be one when all the film photo covers are gone.  (Update Jan09: I am not slacking off [this time], this is all still true.)  Single copy RRP $7.99, box $31.96
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
Hobbit:  0345339681     Box:  0345340426
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Del Rey  2012
Film Tie-in Edition
These covers are currently available from Del Rey.  Each book features imagery from its corresponding Peter Jackson film.  The ISBN for this boxed set has changed for the first time since 1986 (?). Single copy RRP $8.99, box $35.96
ISBN:  0345339703, 0345339711, 0345339738
Hobbit:  0345339681     Box:  0345538374
All Other Paperbacks
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Ace unauthorized   1965
Ace released cheap, badly typeset copies before Tolkien's copyright was clearly established in the U.S.  In the face of public indignation, they agreed not to print more and to pay royalties.  This is the reason for the personal "Authorized Edition" statement from Tolkien printed on the back cover of the first Ballantine set.  This is the only PB set ever printed with first edition text.  Interesting, yes;  cool ...not so much.  No box issued.  Pirate art by Jack Gaughan.  RRP .75 each.
SBN:  -
Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  1978 - 1987
Cover doodles by J.R.R. Tolkien
Box States :  Green and including The Hobbit, and Red featuring only LOTR.  Eye of Sauron device on LOTR covers, The Lonely Mountain on The Hobbit.  Author's name in his own hand/large print on books and box, like the hardcover edition of this year which is often called "the signature set".  Red sets will often have one or more first thus printings.  A green set with all four books and box in collectible condition is quite hard to find.  Despite its being the only TPB in print for a decade, there aren't many on the market - I've only found single digit printings.  Red box RRP $13.95
ISBN:  0395272238, 039527222X, 0395272211
Red Box:  0395272203   Green Box:  0395282632
Hobbit:  0395282659
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  1988 - 1998
Cover illustrations by Alan Lee
Sold individually with laminated dust jackets -or- in a slipcase with The Hobbit but without jackets.  The jackets have the same art as the 1988 hardcover version.  The art wraps around the slipcases, which are accented with brown or green.  The books themselves have nice frames perfect for art on the front, but no art whatsoever in them.  The 1992 slipcase has a Tolkien Centenary Logo on it.  You may find the individual books (sometimes in jackets) at your neighborhood bookstore for $7, but this edition is otherwise hard to track down:  this ISBN returns results, but none or few turn out to be the set that belongs to it (?).  Very strange edition.  Single copy RRP $7.95 - $11.95, box $29.95 - $45.95
ISBN:  0395272238, 039527222X, 0395272211
Hobbit:  0395282659   Box:  0395489075
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Quality Paperback Book Club  1995
QPB does really put together a solid binding (best in the industry, if you ask me), and this is the only softcover edition to include tipped-in maps.  However, perhaps due to the *brilliant* cover art, these were apparently available only for a short time.  Because they have no ISBN, print date or clear indication of text edition inside, these are more easily found in used bookstores than online.  Out of print,  Amen.  RRP unknown.
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  1999
Cover illustrations by Alan Lee
Boxed with The Hobbit, and still available new.  The paper quality, at least in earlier printings, leaves something to be desired.  Single copy RRP $12.00, box $45.00
ISBN:  0618002227, 0618002235, 0618002243
Hobbit:  0618002219   Box:   0618002251
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Quality Paperback Book Club  2001
J.R.R. Tolkien's original cover reproductions
The QPB Companion to the Lord of the Rings is shown with this set because it was offered at the same time and has a U.S. exclusive Tolkien cover design (also see A Tolkien Miscellany).  The original cover art Tolkien created for The Lord of the Rings was not used until 1991 in the UK, and this is the first U.S. edition to sport them.  No slipcase, no matching edition of The Hobbit.  Single copy RRP $8.99 + $1.99 shipping ($3.75 handling fee per shipment also applied, membership required).  When the math's done, these were more expensive than trade editions, but by far the better value.
  Unavailable through QPB as of 2007.
ISBN:  0965307751, 0965307816, 0965307794
Companion:  0965307883
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  2001
Film art covers with Frodo, Saruman, Aragorn on the covers.  Title and author stamped in silver foil, black riders on the slipcase.  Out of print.  Single copy RRP $12.00, box $35.00
ISBN:  0618129030, 0618129081, 0618129111    Box:  0618153969
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  2002
Film art covers with Gandalf,  Frodo and Sam in Emyn Muil,  Minas Tirith on the covers.  Title and author in gold foil, Rivendel bridge and landscape on the slipcase.  For a film edition, this is a very pretty set... Out of print, single copy RRP $12.00, box $35.00
ISBN:  0618260269, 0618260277, 0618260285    Box:  0618260293
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  2003
Film art covers with Frodo, Legolas, Aragorn on the covers, eagle against Mount Doom on the slipcase.  The Orlando Bloom fans must have snapped up the first printings of TTT before the box set was packed, because early boxes contain printings 1,2,1 - which is highly irregular.  Out of print,  single copy RRP $12.00, box $35.00
ISBN:  0618346252, 0618346260, 0618346279    Box:  0618346244
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Houghton Mifflin Trade PB  2005
Cover Illustrations by John Jude Palencar
Sold individually or as a boxed set.  No matching edition of The Hobbit, still available new.  Single copy RRP $10.95, box $30.00
ISBN:  0618574948, 0618574956, 0618574972
Box:  0618574999
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Mariner Books Trade PB  2012
Cover illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien
Sold individually or boxed with The HobbitThe Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The Hobbit were released in similar black covers with stylized versions of Tolkien's original cover art on them (see the QPB 2001 entry above).  The paper quality is the worst yet - personally, I would buy anything else.  Single copy RRP $13.95
ISBN:  0547928211, 0547928203, 054792819X
Box:  9780547928180
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  2014
Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set
Sold boxed with The Hobbit, and as far as I know are not sold individually.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, I just haven't seen it.  HMHCo calls these paperbacks, so I'm just going to run with it, because this category lacks a novelty section.  The covers are a flexible imitation leather.  RRP $49.95
ISBN:  0547928211, 0547928203, 054792819X
Box:  9780547928180