Books are both the most widely available and one of the most highly coveted collectibles. Books carry a lot of value both in terms of the knowledge inside them and monetary value.
In particular, antique books can be worth much more than you expect. After all, the world is filled with book collectors and rare booksellers who are constantly on the lookout for new books to add to their collections or sell.
Do you have any antique books that you don’t want lying around? Maybe you’ve inherited a large collection of old books, and you don’t know what to do with them? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll take a look at the factors that determine antique book values, as well as where to buy and sell antique books.
How Do I Find the Value of Antique Books?
Before we discuss the value of antique books, you need to understand that not all books have large monetary values. In fact, thanks to online shopping, most modern books have little to no additional value over their retail price. If you have some older books in the attic, they might be valuable.
Similar to other collectibles, there are certain factors you need to consider to determine the value of antique books. These are:
This is probably the most crucial factor in the value of an antique book, as prices on antique books can vary significantly depending on their condition. This is because collectors want their books to be as pristine as possible.
In general, signs of natural aging are acceptable -sometimes even desirable- but anything that seems unnatural will significantly depreciate a book’s value. Examples of this are excessively yellowed pages or any water damage. Also, if the book comes in a leather binding, its condition needs to be excellent.
Another part of a book’s condition is its dust jacket. Generally, hardcover books from the early 20th century and after come in dust jackets to protect them. This dust jacket is usually the most attractive part of a hardcover book and having it in pristine condition is very important. Even the smallest crinkle or tear in the dust jacket can be detrimental to a book’s value.
Rarity is a factor that does not fluctuate as much throughout the years but depends on a few additional elements.
The first element is the book’s age. While books have been around for several centuries, the general consensus is that books that originate before the 1830s are considered “old” and are harder to find. This is because, during the 1830s, there were advances in printing methods that made printing more widely available.
For an old book to be considered rare, it also needs to be popular. Countless books are very scarce and hard to find in good condition but lack the popularity required to be valuable. An old book in good or mint condition will also be more valuable than the same book in poor condition.
Moreover, the book’s edition plays a big part in its value, as limited editions and first editions usually increase a book’s retail value. In fact, the world record for a book sold at auction belongs to the first edition of William Shakespeare’s “First Folio”, which sold for almost $10 million.
Also, if the book has the author’s signature, it will be much more valuable, especially those from famous authors.
Finally, some antique books have an additional story: their owner’s story. If you have an old book that belonged to a prominent individual or was passed down to you from a family member, trace its origin. This can add immense value to an otherwise ordinary book.
Like any other market, supply and demand are very important in the rare book market. A book that lacks demand will remain unsold even if it’s very rare and in pristine condition. A book’s demand can be high if it’s important to society or if its owner was an important figure.
Also, an antique book’s demand shows significant fluctuations throughout the years. Books that are irrelevant right now might become highly collectible in the future. So, always watch out because your antique book might become very valuable in a few years.
Demand for antique books can also be highly dependent on your location. If you live close to antique stores, it might not be hard for you to find a rare book you want at a reasonable price and in fine condition. But, if you live in a more secluded area, you might need to search more to find what you want.
Where to Get Antique Books Appraised?
In general, you can perform a basic appraisal of your books independently. Just follow the tips we mentioned above. You can also use search engines on sites like Abe Books, Biblio, or even eBay. These websites have large databases of books that other people list for sale.
If you can’t find much information about your rare book or want some professional certification to get insurance for it, you should look for a trained book appraiser. Generally, an antiquarian book store dealer knows how to appraise your book, but you should opt for professional appraisal services if you can’t find one.
Several websites offer these services. One of the most popular ones is Glenn Books, which is also a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). Keep in mind that it may cost you a few hundred dollars to have a professional appraiser check your book.
The Most Popular Books on the Market
Books such as textbooks, bibliographies, and encyclopedias are always popular. But, a book’s popularity can be a highly subjective topic. Also, the popularity of certain books may fluctuate significantly throughout the years. With that said, here are a few prevalent books from different genres and with other purposes:
On The Origin Of Species By Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species is a book that thoroughly describes the mechanisms behind the evolution of all species. It’s a book that has influenced society tremendously, as it proposed a logical explanation of the origin of species without resorting to supernatural elements.
So, it’s no surprise that it’s still one of the most popular books on the rare book market. Every time a first edition copy comes up for sale at auction, it usually fetches exorbitant amounts of money. In fact, one first edition copy of the book sold for over $500,0000.
Although theories on evolution had been around for centuries, Charles Darwin was the first to study the subject so thoroughly and provide such a comprehensive explanation. Some of his ideas, like the competition for survival, have heavily influenced other fields such as political science, anthropology, and sociology.
First Folio By William Shakespeare
According to the Guardian, the First Folio (or, for the full title, Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies) is one of the most influential books of all time. This is because it includes most of the author’s greatest works that could have been lost otherwise.
William Shakespeare was one of the greatest writers of all time. He could produce high-quality works in tragic, comedic, or historic fashion, as the name of his book suggests. He also utilized the English language to perfection and has been a huge influence on several contemporary authors.
As we mentioned above, a copy of the first printing of the First Folio broke the world record for the highest auction price for a book. Reprints from the 17th century are less rare but still fetch large amounts of money. But, you’re more likely to find such a copy at a public library, as they’re not readily available on the market.
Harry Potter Series By J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series is proof that a book doesn’t need to be old or belong in the classic literature category to be popular and valuable. The Harry Potter books are by far the most popular fiction novels of all time, despite being relatively young.
J.K. Rowling managed to create a magical world that has already drawn in a few generations of young children and teenagers and will attract even more in the future. This success also translates to market value. One copy of the Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, first edition hardcover by Bloomsbury, sold for a record $417,000.
So, look around your basement because you might have a first edition Harry Potter novel lying around. While it certainly won’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, you might make a considerable amount of money if it’s in good condition.
Where to Sell and Buy Antique Books?
Similarly to all antique items, you can sell and buy them in antique stores or online.
Most areas are full of antique book stores, and since nothing beats the aesthetic and scent of an old bookstore, collectors tend to go to them to find rare books. However, the sheer number of books that have been released means that you probably won’t find the exact one you’re looking for. So, your best bet is to go online shopping.
You can use more general websites like Amazon and eBay or those specifically oriented towards books like AbeBooks or Biblio. These sites are full of contemporary and antique book listings, so you should have no problem finding what you want or selling your antique books.
Book collecting is a very established hobby with fans all around the world. Collectors go crazy for rare editions of specific books, so you can use this to make money off of an old book collection.
Make sure to do your research to determine your books’ values. You can ask for professional appraisal services if you’re struggling with it. In any case, if you or someone you know has some old boxes with books in them, start looking into them. Who knows what hidden gems you might find!