That old book in the attic may not be worth much to you, but it may be worth a lot to a prospective buyer. For example, a rare first edition of "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin was auctioned for $ 150,000 in 2011. Even if you don't have this kind of treasure on your hands, once you identify the editing and publishing details of the copy, you can assess its market value. Begin by browsing through the book and referring to online resources. For additional information, request the help of an appraiser. Remember that the monetary value of the book depends on the market and what the buyer is willing to pay.
Method 1 of 3: Identify the book
Step 1. Check the book's title page and copyright page for key information
Take note of the full title of the post and the name of the author. Then find the details of the print, that is, the name of the publisher and the city and date of publication, as well as the date of copyright registration.
- Carefully open the book to the first page. Turn over the blank pages and the half-title page, if there is one, containing only the name of the book. Next, you will find the title page. Go to the back or next page for the copyright page.
- Don't rely on the dust jacket or binding to find the information you need, as these items may not reflect what the pages contain. Even if so, the information they provide may be incomplete.
Step 2. Determine the editing details of your copy
Many book collectors value first editions and other rare editions. Check the title page and copyright page to see if the book is a first edition, a revised edition, or a limited edition. These details, which can affect the value of the copy, are usually printed along with the other key identifying information.
- Some early editions show the words "First Edition" on the title page, but many do not. You can have a first-edition book if you only see a single publication date.
- You can identify a reprint by seeing multiple publication dates listed. Reprints often include the word "Printing" (as in "Second Printing") or "Edition" (with an ordinal number other than "First").
- In some cases, a book may be reprinted by a publisher other than the publisher that originally published it. It may be described as "First Edition (Publisher's Name)" to indicate that the printer is not the original publisher of the work.
Step 3. Match the book details to a record in an online catalog
Now that you have the list of key identifying information, compare what you know about your copy with the official publication history of the book. Visit an online catalog such as World Cat, the National Union Catalog (NUC), or a printed or digital bibliography of the author or subject that has been published on the author or subject of the book. Search by author, title, and print details until you find a record that exactly matches the copy.
- These catalogs include a different entry for each known and suspected edition of a book's title.
- You'll be able to see where your edit fits in the title's overall post history. It will help you understand how old it really is.
Step 4. Use this information from the catalog to determine how rare the copy is
While determining the number of private owners is difficult at best, you can check how many copies are in public, corporate, and university libraries. Look up your copy on World Cat, NUC, or another online reference and you will be able to see how many copies of that edition are accessible and where they are located.
- As with most collectibles, the fewer copies there are, the more valuable each individual remaining copy will be.
- Ask a librarian to help you look up the book in an online catalog if you have trouble.
Method 2 of 3: Assess the quality of your copy
Step 1. Confirm the integrity and condition of the book's pages and illustrations
Look at the catalog record that matches the book to see how many pages and illustrations (often called plates) it should contain. Examine your own book carefully to see if it contains all the pages and plates that it originally contained. Look carefully at the book to see if the pages are stained, discolored, wrinkled, or torn and how any edge treatment such as gold plating has been maintained.
- Consult antiquarian terminology to precisely define damage. For example, brown spots are known as "mottling."
- Condition and completeness affect the monetary value of an ancient book.
Step 2. Be aware of any damage to the book's binding
Determine how secure the binding is and whether the front and back cover boards are firmly attached to the spine. Look carefully at the condition of the bonding points and the glue.
- A book without its original binding is also incomplete.
- If the book is not very rare, a copy in worse condition will always be less valuable than a similar copy in better condition.
Step 3. Examine the physical condition of the cover and dust jacket, if applicable
Check to see if the outer covering and spine are discolored, torn, or deformed in any way. If you have a 20th century book, check to see if it still has the original dust jacket. Assess the condition of the dust jacket and look for any tears, creases, or discoloration.
The absence of a dust jacket from a book that originally came with one can greatly diminish its value
Step 4. Summarize the general physical condition of the book in terms of antiquarian rating
Consult antiquarian guides to confidently define the condition of the copy. Commonly used terms include "fine" or "like new", which means that the book is in mint condition, with no visible defects. Terms including "very good", "good", "fair" and "poor" indicate increasing levels of defects. Note the details about the physical condition of the book in relation to the grade you gave it.
- Regardless of condition, refer to your book as an "ex-library copy" if it contains or originated from the library.
- Use "bound copy" to refer to a book whose pages are in decent condition but require new binding.
- Keep in mind that very old or rare books can be very valuable even with considerable damage.
Step 5. Gather evidence of the book's provenance to increase its value
The provenance of the book, or the history of who owned it in the past, can have an impact on its value, especially if it belonged to a notable owner. Look for a plaque with the owner's name, a handwritten signature, or an autograph of the author that mentions the owner's name.
If the book came with a compelling story, try to trace the documentation that shows that this lineage is true. Search family records or consult people who knew the previous owner for confirmation
Method 3 of 3: Determine the Market Value of the Book
Step 1. Have the book professionally evaluated by a qualified expert
If you want tax incentives or insurance coverage for the book, you will need to get a formal appraisal. Evaluations can be performed by a certified book appraiser or informally by a second-hand or rare book dealer: the Antique Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the International League of Booksellers of America. Antique Dealers (ILAB), or the International Society of Appraisers (ISA). Locate an appraiser in your area so you can examine the physical book.
- Assessments usually require a fee, often to cover services and insurance, so be prepared for this investment.
- If you can't find an appraiser in your area, send detailed photographs of the book. Take photos of the front and back of the title page, the first and last page of text, the outer covers and the spine, as well as anything else the appraiser requests.
- Librarians generally do not provide evaluation services.
- If the book contains a signature, an appraiser can authenticate it for you. Depending on the book and the signature, the presence of a signature can significantly increase the value of the book.
Step 2. Consult a recently printed reference guide for the book's estimated value
There are several references in print to collectible books. Find one related to the subject or author of the book at a library or in the collectibles section of a bookstore. Depending on how the reference guide is organized, the book may appear alphabetically by author or title, or chronologically by publication date. Consult the table of contents and index of the guide to locate the list you need.
- Be sure to refer to the latest version when possible, as book values fluctuate.
- See "Allen and Patricia Ahern Collected Books: The Values Guide" for details on early editions.
- Look at the US "Current Book Price Reference Guides" and "Book Auction Records" for the prices of old books at auction. The semi-annual "Bookman Price Index" summarizes the information from the booksellers' catalogs to produce the price list.
Step 3. Look online for book resellers to see how much you can sell yours for
Look up book details on book seller websites like Abe Books, BookFinder and AdALL, and on auction sites like eBay to see what others are currently charging or paying for copies like yours.
- If you don't see many results for your exact copy, it may be due to its limited popularity or scarcity. Consider consulting an antique dealer if you can't find much online.
- Set up an account and try to sell or auction the book through one of these sites if you wish.
Step 4. Remember that the monetary value of the book is equal to what a buyer is willing to pay
Despite what a catalog, online reference, or appraiser may tell you, the actual amount you'll get for selling an antique book depends on what the buyer is willing to pay for it. Treat these estimates as educated guesses, not determinations. Keep in mind that many factors will affect the amount of money you can get for the copy.
- Buyer demand may fluctuate based on trends in the market or fluctuations in personal interests.
- A famous title, the work of a well-known author, or a book on a popular topic may be more valuable due to popularity or less valuable due to market oversaturation.
Step 5. Keep the book if you don't feel comfortable selling it
You only get one chance to cash in on the market value of the book. If you feel like it's worth more than others are willing to pay for it at any given time, just keep it. After a few years, the value may increase.
- It's also okay to keep a book that has significant personal or sentimental value to you. These kinds of books, even if they aren't worth a lot of money, are priceless.
- You can also donate the book to a library or archive. Contact the procurement department to discuss whether or not you can make a donation.
- Store the book safely in a cool, dry environment, away from dust and natural light. Consult an archivist or antiquarian for storage advice if you are unsure how to protect your book.
- If you put the book up for sale online, be sure to clearly describe or photograph all signs of damage. Be honest in your evaluation and don't overdo the quality of the copy.
- Handle the book with clean, dry hands to avoid transferring dirt and body oils to the pages or covers.
- Avoid spreading open, flat pages. This will damage the binding of the book. Instead, support the covers with a soft pillow or V-shaped book stand.