As a used bookstore operator I often get asked to value a book. Typically, the book involved isn't worth far more than $10 or $20 and I watch as a trend of disappointment creeps throughout the customer's face. This disappointment generally stems from the normal misconception that when a book is old it must be worth something. You can find two glaring problems with this particular assumption. The first is the customers'perception of what defines old. In book collecting terms, a book isn't old if it absolutely was printed in the 1950s, yet most customers perceive it to be old and therefore valuable. In collecting terms a book must have been with us more than 100 years to even commence to be considered old and preferably more like 200 years. The next problem with this particular perception is that folks equate age with value. This can be a complete falsehood. Whilst age can donate to the worthiness of a book, the most important indicator of a book's value is its rarity. And even this statement needs further elaboration because the stark reality is that used book selling is just like every other global marketplace. It's controlled by the forces of supply and demand. So whilst a book might be scarce and the only person of its kind on the planet, if nobody wants to read it then scarcity means nothing. The book may be worth nothing. For a book to be considered rare it must be more than scarce. It must be scarce in accordance with the demand for it.

All that considered, let's look at what different characteristics will make a book rare and thus influence its value. I have listed what I consider to be the very best ten influences on value below, in no particular order.

Book/Dust Jacket Condition

In real estate its location, location, location. In the used book trade its condition, condition, condition. The closer a book is to its original state the more value it will carry. This refers equally as much to the dust jacket because it does to the book itself. A book in excellent condition may be worth little if its'dust jacket is missing. It is also crucial that you understand that an extremely, early book may be worth little if it's falling apart. The used book industry has created its'own grading terminology to simply help describe the situation of a book. These records is generally presented in the proper execution of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The very first part identifies the situation of the book, whilst the second identifies the dust jacket condition. If a "/--" exists, it usually means that the dust jacket isn't present. The terminology used is as follows.

New - Unread, in print, perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.

As New - The book is in the exact same condition it absolutely was published.

Fine - Near to the condition of'As New ', but without being crisp and does not have any defects.

Very Good - The book shows some signs of wear, but does not have any tears or defects noted.

Good - The common used worn book that has all pages intact and defects are noted.

Fair - A worn book that has all pages intact but may lack endpapers, half-title etc. Binding or jacket may also be worn and defects are noted.

Poor - Describes a book that's sufficiently worn to the point that its only merit is as a reading copy. This copy might be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and could have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Defects should nevertheless be noted.

NB: Not surprisingly industry standard terminology there will be discrepancies between people and their perception of the situation of a book. Where possible you ought to start to see the book yourself and when buying online we suggest you ask to see photos.


Published by Peter Garlow