Books treasured from your childhood may not have monetary value,
but are priceless for the memories they hold.
Money isn’t everything –
but this guide will help you understand basic factors that affect a book’s monetary worth.
Demand and scarcity Books that are in demand will sell for higher prices, especially if the book is no longer available from the publisher. “Out-of-print” books won’t be found in bookstores that sell only new books. You’ll have better luck finding a nice copy at a used bookstore. Some books are scarce because they were produced in small print runs; others, because few survived the long years between publication and the present.
First Edition is the common term used to mean “first printing,” the first appearance of a book in print. Some people feel that having a first edition brings offers the excitement of the time a book was first appearing – before its significance was recognized or before it had a chance to become popular. Identifying first editions can be tricky, as each publisher marks its first editions differently. We recommend First Editions: A Guide to Identification, edited by Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler, as a good source of clarity.
A signature or inscription is valued because of the connection with the author. The author handled the book himself or herself. It has a very personal feel. A book that just bears the author’s signature is simply called a “signed,” or referred to as “flat-signed.” A book with a personal message, along with the signature is called a “inscribed.” A book inscribed by the author as a gift is referred to as a “presentation copy.” Most collectors prefer flat-signed copies, although there is a contingent that prefers inscribed copies because those books contain more writing from the author. Having further examples of an author’s handwriting increases the ability to distinguish an authentic signature from a forgery.
Condition is hard to over-emphasize. A collector’s goal is to have a copy that looks new. Check out our interactive Condition Grading Game for a look at the criteria we consider when evaluating books. Some books are scarce and hard to find in fine condition. A good tip is to purchase the best copy you can happily afford. A reading copy is always better than no copy – and you can always upgrade if the opportunity presents itself.