Book condition it is everything

One thing you will hear when talking with an antiquarian book dealer quite often is the importance of the condition of the book.

When trying to determine the price of a book, condition is everything. Small stains, rips or missing parts can quickly bring the value of a book down pretty quickly.

Someone who is not familiar with antiquarian books may feel that their book, though full of flaws may be excluded because it is old in their opinion. Or because it was handed down in their family or other sentimental feelings.

Ones personal feeling towards a book does not change the rules or guidelines.

Generally for a book to have some flaws and not lose any or very little value, and I do stress the word “some”, a book would have to be printed before 1890. This is not set in stone but just a general guideline.

With more recent printings, price clipped dust jackets, remainder marks and more will hurt the value of a book.

Children’s books are given more lenience in condition more than any other genre but condition still is key. So if your first edition of Charlotte’s web has some wear etc on it, you’re doing ok. If you decided as a child to write on crayon on every page your out of luck.

As always if you have any questions about books feel free to write or email us.


Identifying a first edition

Though there a numerous ways to identify a first edition and each publisher may have their own rules the following is a brief outline to help you get started.

Usually on the title page it will say “First Edition” or “First Published”

There may also be a number line like as follows. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1

With the last number 1 showing the first edition.

Now if your number line reads something like

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2 this denotes a 1st edition 2nd printing.

A book club first edition is not a true first edition. There are a few exceptions but none that will be noted here.

When identifying a book club edition there are a few things that will show you immediately that the book is a book club.

There is no price on the dust jacket.

There are the words Book Club Edition on the dust jacket usually located on the lower inside flap.

Generally book club editions are smaller and weigh less than other books.

I would like to emphasize again that there are exceptions to the above rules and that they are only a general guideline.

Trying to determine first editions can be an exhaustive process. A reference set and bibliographies are used quite often.


The five thousand dollar used book

One of the common things I hear when I am out buying books is “My friend told me this book is worth X amount of money on the internet.”

As a used and antiquarian book dealer this can be frustrating on many levels on certain books. Some books on the internet are priced correctly, but more times that not they are not priced correctly. An experienced book dealer can quickly tell the difference.

Let me give an example of the above. I recently received a call from someone who wanted me to look at their “collectible” readers digest book from 1987. My mind quickly scrambled as I was trying to think of any collectible readers digest book, especially from the 1980s.

After I was told the title the person said “It’s listed online for 5 thousand dollars”.

This is the problem. Many books are listed with a guessing price. I have seen many inexperienced dealers say “Well there were no other copies online and therefore it must be rare and collectible, so I figured it must be worth that much”

That reasoning simply put is insane.

First thing to consider is an internet listing is an “asking price”. It is not a realized value.

Second. Just because a book is rare does not always equate to valuable.

The internet is flooded with inexperienced book dealers who list at extreme prices hoping someone is naïve enough to buy at their prices.

An experienced book dealer will let you know why or why not your book has any monetary value.

The internet can be great for pricing a general, non collectible used book. When you move in to more collectible or antiquarian book it is best to consult a local book dealer.

One last thing. The Readers Digest book mentioned above was the 1987 how to maintain your garden.


Where do used bookstores get their books from?

So you’re in your favorite used bookstore in Denver and you see some really nice books in a glass case. Where did they come from is a common question that will be asked. Though there are a number of ways these books are collected by used book dealers, I thought I would share one of the ways they used to be bought.

A trade publication called AB Bookman’s weekly was a magazine that a used and rare book dealer could list in. Generally they would have two listings. One for books they were looking to buy and the other for books they wanted to sell.

There was an editor’s corner where an article on the book trade or a short interview or comments from a famous author was shared.

Another feature was a list of upcoming antiquarian book fairs and such.

Starting in 1949 this was the premier magazine for book people.

Sadly their last publication was in 1999 as the internet quickly replaced the print version.

A bid to try a digital version was tried for a short while but quickly disappeared.


Tips on building a book collection

The following article is a brief summary to help when you first start a book collection. There are numerous details and more in depth knowledge involved in building a book collection, but the following will help you get started in the right direction.

So you love to read and want to start a collection. The first question is what do you want to collect? Let’s assume you love Military books.

Great, then let’s narrow it down to a particular branch of the military for example the United States Army.

Now before you buy every book that even mentions the word Army lets narrow down a time frame. We will use 1930-1950.

Now that we have a time frame lets concentrate on Native Americans. There were approximately 44,000 Native Americans in WW2.

So from the above information, we can build a book collection on Native Americans in the U.S. Army from 1930-1950.

You will want first editions if you can locate and afford them.

Condition is everything. Event though the majority of the books you purchase will be used books, keeps trying to find the better copy.

Try to collect hardbacks with dust jackets (if they originally came with one).

Buy from reputable used bookstores or reach out and meet and talk to an experienced rare or used book dealer. They may have the knowledge of a fellow collector who is looking to sell their book.


Used book terms you may not know.

A friend at a Longmont bookstore suggested I should write this.

Bibliophobia – A fear of books

Dampstained – A light stain on the cover or on the leaves of a book caused by moisture such as a piece of food or perspiration.

Errata – Mistakes or errors. Generally encountered in the term “errata slip,” a small sheet of paper laid into a book by a publisher who has discovered errors prior to publication.

Gilt Edges – The page edges have been trimmed smooth and gilt, or gold, has been applied. The abbreviation ge means gilt edges; aeg means all edges gilt; gt means gilt top; teg means top edge gilt.

Incunabula – Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed before 1501.

Octavo (8vo) – A book of about five inches wide and eight inches tall to about six by nine inches. Octavo is the most common size for current hardcover books. To make octavo books, each sheet of paper is folded to make eight leaves (16 pages).

Top Edge Gilt – Usually abbreviated teg, it means that the top edges of the pages have been covered with gold leaf or gilt material.