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This is a question that all book sellers dread trying to answer, while also being one of the more common questions we are asked. As a used and secondhand bookdealer I have the upmost pleasure of having to explain this over and over again to people who are trying to sell a collection. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when looking for a price for your “old, rare, out of print, unusual” book that has been in granny’s attic since the before sliced bread. In this article I will explain how to determine this before coming to the bookshop.
But first I will start with a joke.
“One afternoon a man wanders into an antiquarian bookshop and notices the large collection of rare, old family bibles.
‘Wow. Do you really sell those things for that much?’ he asks the shopkeeper.
‘Yes. It is a niche market, but some of these can be worth quite a bit of money.’
‘I just threw out one that was in our attic forever. It was falling to bits. Printed by some company called Guttenberg.”
‘You had a Guttenberg Bible in your attic and just threw it away! There are only 21 complete copies in the world! It is worth a small fortune!”
‘Naw, you wouldn’t of wanted it. Some idiot named Martin Luther scribbled notes all over it.’ “
And that shows you the issue with determining value of books. To the one guy it was worthless because you can get bibles anywhere, so why keep one that was old and was filled with notes and underlining? To the other it was beyond value due to being extremely rare and having the notes of a famous person all over it. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
So here we go. You have a collection of any size or just an older book.
Is it Antiquarianor just old?
According to Regency Antique Books ” In the world of collectible antique books, “old” means OLD…. In the antique book world, the book’s age is very rarely the first priority when choosing a piece for one’s library…. [but] Many serious and experienced antiquarian book collectors are focused on tracking down works from the 16th century and earlier.” www.regencyantiquebooks.com
Another term used is Vintage. These books are older than 50, but less than 100 and have some cultural and social connections. Dune, I, Robot, The Nancy Drew Books and Lord of the Rings all fall into this category.
Now what is the condition?
As in what was the condition it was in when it was first printed and how close is it to that point? This is a very important thing to determine. Condition means everything in a book’s value. Booksellers want to sell books. Nicer copies sell better. This doesn’t mean that your book is worthless if it is damaged, other factors come into play at that point.
Was it published with a dust jacket?
If no then: is the pictorial boards (cover art) damaged in any way or unclear? The level of damage to the artwork
If yes then: does it still have it? If your answer is no, the value of the book goes down–unless there are pictorial boards. Then the condition of the cover art comes into play.
If the answer is yes: is the dust jacket missing parts? Or can you see the artwork clearly? This will also change the value of the book. Depending on the edition, the real draw for the book could be the artist who did the cover art. Popular books have been reissued over time and as the copyrights for the artwork may have been expired or the publisher just wants to be more relevant to the times the art work will change. But due to the large number of copies still available (even if it is different editions) than the value of the book might not be as high. The value then lies in the art work. Typically the worse the condition of the dust jacket, the lower the value of the book.
Is it Signed? By the author or another famous person? Then it has some value, no matter the condition.
Is it a clean copy? Did some one scribble in it or leave notes in the margin? Most of the time this will lower the value of it. Unless….1: someone important made the notes & signed their name. (And this has to be proved) 2: the notes are translations (this becomes an interest to those who are studying languages) 3: the notes are relevant to the work. (this was a text book for someone ) Once again this is a situation where the value can go either way.
Does it SMELL? Please. Please. Please. Learn what things smell like. If it is a tobacco or smoky smell that is fine. This can be fixed to some extent, but if you open the book and your first though is outdoorsy this is a mold issue.
Technically the rule is: the further it is from the original printing condition (within reason for age) the less value it can hold.
What Color is the book? Sounds silly, but if you find a Victorian age book that is a vibrant emerald green DO NOT TOUCH IT. WASH YOUR HANDS. TAKE A PHOTO. USE A TOWEL TO PLACE IT IN A PLASTIC SEALABLE BAG. WASH YOUR HANDS. Did I mention WASHING YOUR HANDS????? Paris Green is the official name of the pigment popularly used in this period for practically everything. It is made with ARSNIC. Are all green books from this time period Paris Green? No, but it is better to be safe than sorry. The following link is a good article on the subject. And of course there have been many books written on this topic as well. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/arsenic-laced-books-discovered-university-library-180969527/
If you do have a book with Paris Green then it might be better to donate it to a museum who can deal with it properly as most bookdealers won’t try and sell it. But you can always ask an antiquarian seller about it.
Who published it? People tend to think that only mass publishing was in the 20th century dealing mainly with paperbacks. To some extent that is correct. But earlier popular books were reprinted by reprint houses like: Walter J. Black, Sun Dial, Triangle, Collier, A.L. Burt, and Grosset & Dunlop. The interior of the book will have the original publishers information, but he spine will have another publisher’s information or nothing at all. The quality of the paper will be thinner or just look a bit off, and sometimes the page count or the printing might be aligned poorly. In this case the rarity of the title on the market will determine the value.
Is it a BOOKCLUB? It has the correct publisher and the book looks legit, but this still could be a different book type. Bookclubs, on average, are the hardcover version of reprint editions. There are some clues:
There is no price on the dust jacket.
The hardcovers are smaller than the normal editions, while the paperbacks are larger than normal & both feel lighter due to the thinner paper used.
The cover may be bound with thick paper instead of cloth and the dust jacket is uncoated and looks cheaply made.
There may be a blindstamp impressed into the back cover of a hardcover BCE, right next to the spine. Look for a circle, dot, square, triangle, or even a small white dot.
The dust jacket flaps might have it written on them or it will be on the copywrite page.
There might be a strange string of numbers on the last page of the book near the margin, running vertically, just before the endpaper.
Sellers do not want book clubs. There are some exceptions to the rule (as always). Easton Press, The First Edition Society of the Franklin Library , the Limited Editions Club, and the Book Club of California do come out with some very well illustrated and designed editions. Science Fiction/Fantasy/and Horror titles are sometimes valuable due to the fact that some authors were published in paperback first and these book clubs became the first hardcover editions and sometimes they will contain two or more works. But it also depends on the writers.
What is the subject matter?
This matters quite a bit and is quite fluid as well. Some books are very niche, others have glutted the market and some are just not relevant any more. If there is no audience for the book you will not get much money for it unless it falls into the Antiquarian category. Or has another additional feature that will draw in a collector.
For example: At one point I was given a collection to sell that was nearly complete as of the time of the collector’s death. She had all of the Harlequin romance novels printed from the the first book to the last one she was mailed. As this is a series that is still ongoing printing 4-6 books a month in each sub-category and she had all of the sub-categories as well. This meant that she had over 6,240 romance paperbacks in very good condition. The publisher price of these was on average $4.99 per book. She spent over 31 thousand dollars on this. Unfortunately since these were mass produced only the oldest 500 had any real value, while the rest could only be re-sold at 6 for a dollar. Which means that as a seller I could only hope to make $1,000 on over 5,000 books over the next few years which would take up over 20 feet of book cases. So I could only offer the owner $250 for most of the collection and another $400 for the older books. Even if they were signed by the author the value would not be much higher.
Why so little? Well booksellers need to pay the rent for the store & also need to eat. So the owner of the book is normally offered 1/4th to 1/2 of the value of the book in the current market.
So in conclusion this is just a starting point to determine if you a have a valuable book or not. If in doubt, go on bookgilt.com or bookfinder.com and search for the book (discount Amazon’s prices please) and see what it is being offered for. Next compare what you have to what is listed using the information above. Lastly contact a bookdealer and see what they say.
93 years old and still one of the best indie bookstores in NYC. I’ve gone on holiday to the city and spent days lost in the stacks. I loved how they would mail the books home so I wouldn’t have to carry them. Three floors, packed floor to ceiling, sales tables lining the block on which it stands. An amazing place with one of the hardest interview processes for employees. This is the place I dream my store would become. It has been a few years since I have walked the stacks, but when I am looking for a rare item for my clients, I check there first. Today on my twitter field I saw a message:
“Strand Book Store @strandbookstore
We need your help. This is the post we hoped to never write, but today marks a huge turning point in The Strand’s history. Our revenue has dropped nearly 70% compared to last year, and the loans and cash reserves that have kept us afloat these past months are depleted…. ”
In the last few months people have been pushing for Indie bookshops to survive and the public has listened. But people keep thinking that Indie means NEW bookstore, when instead the term means not connected to a chain or publisher and makes no distinction between new and used. Used bookstores are important. Most people do not understand this.
Used books keep people reading. If your budget only allows you a certain amount for books, would you chose one new hardcover or a stack of used paperbacks? Teachers need 40 copies of a book for a classroom? Used bookstores will have a good selection at reasonable prices.
If you end up having to move and need to unload some books, used bookstores are great for that. And when many people do this, you have the chance to find some interesting reads. For example in a used bookshop I once found a paperback version of The Song of Roland which was printed in France in three languages: Old French, Medieval English and Modern English.
Do you have a favorite author that has been writing for decades? Do you know that most publishers will not put any title that author wrote that was published by another publisher on the Other Works page? And when that first publisher is now out of business or merged with another one, how will you find the book? Now the titles are listed online, but only used bookstores carry them.
What about when the author mentions their favorite childhood author and you want to read what they loved? Best place to find them is in a used bookstore.
Want something new to read that is similar to what you like to read? New bookshops tend to have the classics and whatever is “in or popular” at the moment. So finding something that is different can be a challenge. And yet at used bookshops you can see shelves of things that are similar or completely different than what you even though of reading. Catchy titles or just weird covers in styles of bygone years can start a journey into a new reading experience.
Used bookstores are a view into the social past. What to understand why your grandparents, or great grand parents thought and acted the way they did? Check out what they read and you can see how society was being shaped.
Amazon is making it easier to find and buy books on it’s site, but independent bookstores that sell through them barely make a profit off of the sales. (Check out their terms on the seller page, then compare it to the seller pages on biblio.com and others). Online sales are the future and used bookshops are heading that way in droves. But people tend to discard the old. A shiny new book is a great present, but a worn book is considered a bad one. Unless it is rare and antiquarian and that is a whole other topic.
The modernized world is beginning to recognize that the “single use” mentality is a bad idea, and used bookstores are the key to this. Badly worn reader copy books can be used for art projects and home décor. And while they are paper, the processing sometimes makes it difficult to decompose easily- especially the covers/boards. I have seen people who have used them as planters and as small animal beds.
But keeping used books in circulation will help the environment and the economy by letting people spend in small amounts and also prevent over publication of new books. This is a win win situation.
But people need to support used bookshops. I implore you to check out places like Alibris.com, Biblio.com, thrift books.com, hpb.com and strandbooks.com to start and to search for used bookstores near you to find local ones.
The only way for the industry to survive is with the help of society and it is important to society that the industry does survive.
Welcome back to our September First Chapter, First Paragraph Reviews.
September is Children’s Books month so today we will be showcasing an older book for younger kids.
Milo and the Magical Stones
North-South Books 1997
“In the middle of the sea there was an island, and on this island lived Milo and the other cliff mice. They loved their island. It provided them with food and shelter and protection from the rough storms that pounded waves against the cliffs. ”
With art work resembling watercolors, this tall book tells the tale of a cliff mouse who finds a glowing stone, one that all the mice want for their own. This thought provoking story has two endings, making the reader become involved in the decision making process and showing them that there are consequences inherent in all decisions. Translated from Swiss German, it retains a simple other worldliness to the prose.
Unlike a lot of children’s picture books, Milo and The Magical Stones has videos and lesson plans for teachers online. What makes this story different and yet also beloved for over 20 years? What about it resonate so well with parents and children alike?
Would you be willing to read this book? Why or why not? Drop us a line and let us know.
Once again we are back for our weekly “reviews”. In this series we will offer the first paragraph of the first chapter of a book, some new, some old and out of print and a synopsis of the plot to see if this will be of interest. In honor of the start of the school year, September will be children’s books month. We will “review” books for younger readers from Kindergarten to Jr. Highschool, offer the Lexile level (if available)and note if it something in our inventory or not. The intent behind this simple. Children tend to stick with what they like to read, and the books used for most language classes tend to be not typically something to catch a child’s attention. By offering a selection of lesser know, out of print or small press titles this gives the child a chance to read something different, develop a wider world view and, hopefully, create a love of reading.
The other aspect of this series is that most people tend to decide what they want to read by the cover art, or by the blurb on the back. We all know not to judge a book by the cover because sometimes the artist has no idea what the book is really about. By offering a preview of the opening paragraph it will give the reader a chance to see the language, flow and possibly the hook of the story. This is not a traditional review, as we will not discuss the plot of the book at all. For a more traditional review, please go to our goodreads page. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/120840365-elizabeth-campbell where we will start posting this week.
It is our hope that you join us for this month of books and that you comment on what your opinion of the books selected are. First up is:
Lola the Buhund and the Empty Sky
No lexlie reading level.
“The night was damp, yet there was no rain. For almost thirteen years, there had been no light in the sky. Likewise, there had been no clouds, no rain, and no snow—the sky was completely bare. The disappearance of the sun, the moon, and the stars had left the country of Prithvi in a state of limbo. Long ago the tide had stopped and the wind had ceased to blow; the ground grew cold and the forests withered anddied.”
Born into a world of darkness, Lola has never seen the sun, but a chance encounter with some strangers sets her off on a quest to discover the fate of her world and what really happened to the light.
Does this sound like a book you’d like to read? Why or why not?
Once again it is time for our First Chapter, First Paragraph book review as designed by socratesbookreviews blogspot.com with our own twist, of course, being used books only.
In honor of school starting this month I will be reviewing children’s and young adult titles. Today we have the following:
The Folk Keeper
Aladdin Fantasy, 1999
“February 2- Candlemas.
It is a day of yellow fog, and the Folk are hungry. They ate the lamb I brought them, picking the bones clean and leaving them outside the Folk Door. The lamb was meant for Matron’s Sunday supper. She’ll know I took it, but she will not dare say anything. She can keep her tapestries and silks and Sunday dinners. Here in the Cellar, I control the Folk. Here, I am queen of the world.”
Corinna is a Folk Keeper, tasked to keep the mysterious Folk who live underground at bay. But when a wealthy family takes her from the orphanage, Corinna must discover the secret of her talents and plan on what she will become.
The winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book award for fiction in 1999, this book is an unusual combination of fantasy, coming of age and horror, written for readers over the age of 9. Great for readers who enjoy a bit of gothic, ancient lore and strong self-reliant heroine.
“The wind was chill and the cold froze the ends of her toes. One of these days she was going to break down and buy boots-if only she didn’t need to eat.”
Anna is a waitress, living on a shoestring, and estranged from her family for their own protection. Attacked on a date, she is now the lowest, and most abused, member of the larger of the two Chicago wolf packs. But seeing the news report of the death of a young teen, whom she last saw drugged in a silver cage, Anna dares to break rank & call the Marrok, the Alpha of all the Alphas to bring justice to the dead. Thus taking the first step into becoming what her dual nature demands her to be.
This is book one of the “Alpha and Omega” series, which exists in the same world as Patricia Briggs “Mercedes Thompson” series. A world almost just like ours, but where things that go bump in the night really exist.
Based on the above, would you want to read this? Why or why not? Drop me a line and let me know.
This week we have another young adult book. Turnabout
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster, 2000
“April 21, 2085
My sixteenth birthday. Sad, sad day. What I mind most-what I’ve dreaded most-is losing my license. I could still pass for being older for at least another year or two, but the agency won’t let me. Against the rules , they say. We know best, they say. How can they be so sure when this is all new territory?”
What if you were given the chance to be younger and live another life? What if you didn’t remember agreeing to do this? What happens when you keep getting younger?
In this novel we get to experience the hidden issues in de-aging and how things constantly change. Haddix has created a world where two friends will be friends until the end, which may be another beginning to them and the strange way they exist in the world.
“The day Alys was accused of being a witch started out like any other. She woke to the gray light of dawn and to the sound of her father coughing. Did he sound any better than he had the morning before? Yes, she told herself–just a little bit, but definitely better. And though she thought that every morning since late winter when he’d been so sick she’d been afraid he’d die, and though here it was with the wheat already harvested and the leaves beginning to turn, and he still too frail to run the tin shop by himself- that did nothing to lessen her conviction, He definitely sounded better. “
This young adult books is a nice spin on the whole “witch fed to a dragon” motif. Our hero is not perfect by any means. She is angry at how the village turned on her, and even those who passive-aggressively tried to help her (by not tightening the ropes too much) did not stand up for her, so when given the chance to cower & die, or run & die, she taunts the dragon instead.
This is an amazing story that is both simply entertaining and well written, along with being thought provoking and complicated.
It’s Tuesday! It’s time to share your excerpts and teasers from books we are currently reading, have read or are planning to read. So, feel free to join us by sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.
Don’t Bet on the Prince
Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England
Routledge, NY 1987
“A long time ago in a kingdom by the sea there lived a Princess tall and bright as a sunflower. Whatever the royal tutors taught her, she mastered with ease. She could tally the royal treasure on her gold and silver abacus, and charm even the Wizard with her enchantments. In short, she had every gift but love, for in all the kingdom there was no suitable match for her. So she played the zither and designed great tapestries and trained her finches to eat from her hand, for she had a way with animals.”
” I really didn’t notice that he had a funny nose.
And he certainly looked better all dressed up in fancy clothes.
He’s not nearly as attractive as he seemed the other night.
So I think I’ll just pretend tat this glass slipper feels too tight.”
“For centuries now theologians, educators, literary critics, psychologist, and librarians have debated the pros and cons of reading fairy tales to children.” But why? Why shouldn’t children see the violence, cruelty and superstition of made up worlds? Why shield the children from morality tales, that entertain while you think? Why should a child not understand that Cinderella might get a happy ending, but also that the stepmother gets her punishment? This is the point of fairy tales: to see the world and it’s actions in a way that makes one think. In this book Jack Zipes brings together 16 fairy tales rewritten by modern authors, like Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, to fit the true heroine story. A restructuring of the traditional framework of the subordination of women into a voice for silent oppressed groups. Here we see the princess who is just too tall and outspoken falling for a prince with issues,who discovers the real meaning of love after sacrificing everything she has. Or how the story of Snow White was really about feeling contentment and friendship.
This is an amazing read full of enjoyable stories, perfect for those who feel like they have outgrown the fairy tales they loved as a child.
You can find a copy of this book on our biblio store page https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/e-campbell-tallahassee