What Is My Old Book Worth?
How to Value Books & Online Appraisal Resources
Think you might have a valuable book?
You’ve come to the right place if you are trying to figure out if your book collection is woth anything.
This feature covers how to figure out if your books are valuable, plus information on how to research prices and book appraisal resources.
My Rare and Valuable Book page has been a popular page for many years on this site. And like the rare coin pages, I receive many questions asking for help finding out if a particular book is valuable.
Finally, I have found an expert guest author to help answer many of the common questions visitors ask.
Last update: Mar. 9th, 2012
Options to Find a Book’s Value and Determining Factors:
Many people have wondered what an old book they own may be worth.
After all, we all watch the Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars and sit back amazed as undiscovered treasures come to light. Just last year a rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” achieved $150,000 at auction after languishing on the shelf of a humid bathroom for decades!
Evaluating old and rare books takes experience and is as much of an art as a science.
Appraising Using Free Online References:
There are several retail sites online that list tens of millions of book. Abebooks.com is a popular one, however the one I recommend is Addall (http://used.addall.com/), which combs and aggregates many sites and often gives a reasonably comprehensive view of books that are available online.
You can enter your book information using the keyword section (title, date, publisher etc.) and see what matches comes up. You can also re-order the matches in descending price order to see the range of value.
Pay careful attention to the edition, binding, and other special attributes and compare them to your own copy. Also, keep in mind that these are unfiltered retail prices and if you are looking to sell a book, you can only reasonably expect a percentage of retail.
*More useful book research links can be found at the bottom of this page.
Many members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America will be happy to evaluate or buy books within their specialties. Their organization home page is here: http://www.abaa.org/.
There may be a charge for formal written appraisals, but most dealers will share their knowledge and opinion for free. Dealers often rely on years of experience to assess the market as well as prices that comparable books have realized at auction (using such subscriber databases as American Book Prices Current).
Factors that Determine Book Value:
While it is impossible to summarize in a few short sentences what makes a book rare or valuable, it is possible to ask some basic questions that often pass through the mind of dealers and collectors.
A) Desirability: Will someone want to buy the book?
The cornerstone of value is desirability. How important is the book? Is it a famous author or a famous work? Is it a book that was a pioneering work in its field? Naturally, these are only the type of questions that can be asked.
Some collectors are interested in first editions of important works of literature. Others may want important books in medicine, science, or philosophy or books that, for instance, have appeared in Printing and the Mind of Man- a well known exhibition of works that advanced human thought and culture.
B) Rarity: How many copies of the book exist?
It is often difficult to know how many copies of a book exist in private collections, but one can gain some insight (though not an exhaustive count) into Institutional and Library holdings. There are several online databases for that, but perhaps the simplest and most accessible is Worldcat.org
C) Condition: Condition is extremely important.
Is the book complete? Does it have all the plates? Is the binding original? Are the pages stained, browned, or spotted (foxing)? Are the front and back boards of the binding firmly attached? Again, it is important to consult a professional in assessing condition.
What might look to a novice as a book in poor condition, make in fact, be a rare copy in the original paper boards. Also, what may look like acceptable condition for a 300 year book, may in fact be rather poor condition
Many times I have heard, “well for 300 years old I would say it is excellent”, or “it looks better than I will look in 300 years!”
D) Provenance: Who owned my book before?
Other factors that may affect book value include the provenance of the book. Are there any ex-libris bookplates pasted inside? Are there any signatures to to the title page or other marks of identification. Perhaps, the previous owner was famous or important. This could add considerably to its value.
Again, these are only some of the factors involved in properly evaluating old or rare books.
Looking for a Book Buyer?
Blifaloo recommends contacting the guest author through his website: RareBookBuyer.com if you need help evaluating your old and rare books.
More Rare & Valuable Book Resources & Links for Bibliophiles
Suggested Books to help you value or sell books:
Links to Websites to help you value, sell or find rare books:
RareBookBuyer.com – Buys old and rare books. Appraisals available. Guest author of this article.
WorldCat.org – Global catalog of library collections.
ABAA.org – Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America
Amazon.com – Has every book imaginable, including many collectors / rare editions.
AbeBooks – Specializes in rare books, great place to research book values.
Valorebooks.com – Mostly specializes in used textbooks (if you are a student check them out).
You can also use the above links to check book values — remember condition is a huge factor for price. You might also be interested in our Coin Values and Money articles here on Blifaloo, as well.