James Lee was the perfect person to help Bruce publish his book in 1963. The original purchase price was just $5.00. While it's not known how many copies of the book were sold when it was first published, the first chance many collectors had to obtain the book was in 1993 when Heather Holmberg and Superior Galleries held the first Bruce Lee Auctions.
At the time of the auctions it was stated only 500 copies of the book were ever printed. Since then copies of the book have appeared on auction sites like eBay on a fairly regular basis. Legitimate copies can go for a $1,000 or more depending on condition and a signed copy can fetch $2,500 or more.
It is interesting to note James and Bruce published three different items related to "Chinese Gung Fu" - the book, a poster and an essay. Please refer to the other tabs for more details on the poster and essay.
The pictures above show the catalog covers for the 1993 Superior Galleries and Heather Holmberg auctions. I also have the July 2021 Heritage Auction where the Bruce Lee "Drug Letters" were first sold. Feel free to download PDF copies of these auction catalogs including the list of prices realized.
Superior Galleries Auction - 8/07/1993
Heather Holmberg Bruce and Brandon Lee Auction #1 - 5/10/1995
Heather Holmberg Bruce and Brandon Lee Auction #2 - 8/31/1995
Heather Holmberg Bruce and Brandon Lee Auction #3 - 12/04/1995
Heather Holmberg Auction #4 - 6/02/1996
Heather Holmberg Auction #5 - 11/17/1996
Bruce Lee 2021 Heritage "Drug Letters" Auction July 16 - 18, 2021
Since the original was published in 1963 updated versions have been published. While these are not considered “fakes” they should not be confused with the original book published in 1963.
Published 1963, 102 pages, original price $5.00, published by Oriental Book Sales. This is the original book published while Bruce was alive. There were at least two "printings" of this book but both are considered authentic first editions. This book has no ISBN number.
Published 1987, 102 pages, original price $6.50, published by Ohara Publications, Inc. This book was intentionally made to look like the original book and is labeled as a reproduction inside the cover.
Published 1988, 102 pages, original price $8.50, published by Ohara Publications, Inc. This book was intentionally made to look like the original book and is labeled as a reproduction inside the cover.
Published 2008, 128 pages, original price $12.95, published by Black Belt Books. This version is revised and updated with additional photos as well as commentary from Linda Lee and Shannon Lee. It has a black and white cover and looks completely different from the 1st, 2nd or 3rd editions.
There is also evidence that James Lee produced flyers or "dust covers" to promote Bruce's book. The first three photos are of an early version produced prior to the publication of Bruce's book. The last photo is of a flyer produced to promote Bruce's book around the time the Green Hornet was on. Thanks to Josh Gomez and Jeff Chinn for the photos.
credit: Josh Gomez
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