I’ve always enjoyed visiting book stores. I followed my brother-in-law around used bookstores for years. He started collecting books in the ’80s when he was out on the west coast.
Though I liked browsing for books I didn’t know anything about what made a book collectible. I didn’t understand back then why my brother-in-law was interested in picking up Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses for a few dollars in a used book store … but I do now!
In the late 1990s when the internet alahazratbooks arrived … my brother-in-law showed me how to look up the prices of books using Advanced Book Exchange (abebooks.com) and eBay. He gave me many other book collecting tips.
So … in 1998 I decided to begin book collecting.
Here are the book collecting tips I’ve learned since then:
1) For a book to be collectible, it must be a first edition (also called first printing)
How can you tell? Well, open the book up to about the third page – usually the page after the title page – the copyright page.
Look near the bottom the page. There will normally be a line with numbers from one to 10. (i.e., 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0)
If you see a number line with a “1” in it then it is a first edition.
Nearly 80% of modern publishers have standardized on the use of a number line to denote the printing number.
If there is no number line then look for the words “first edition” or “first Printing” or “first published”. For older books, it is best to consult one of the many books on first edition identification.
2) Book condition has a big impact on its value
Condition is critical to the value of a book. Just reading a book once can result in stains, tears, or rubbing that may reduce its value by 30-50% or more. The highest grades of a book are called Very Fine (essentially flawless) or Fine. The dust jacket condition these days is very important as the dust jacket can attribute up to 75% of a book’s value.
I always try to buy books where the book and the dust jacket look essentially new (these are described as fine/fine).
3) An author’s first book will usually be the most valuable book she or he writes
The publisher is taking a chance on a new untested author. So only a small number of books … possibly only a few thousand books may be printed. If the author gets favorable reviews and sells out the first printing… the publisher may call for a second printing with more books. And sign the author up for a second book.
The author’s next book will probably have a print run in its first printing of … two to three times that of the author’s first book. You can see due to supply and demand the first book’s value will be higher … perhaps much higher than the second book!
4) Collect hardcover books
The trade edition hardcover is usually the first book sold. It will have a much greater longevity than the paperback which will turn yellow over time and the pages will become brittle. Paperbacks may come out six months to a year later. Paperbacks are made to be read. Some may choose to collect them but I don’t. The same goes for book club editions. These books are shorter, thinner and don’t have a price on the dust jacket.
I buy paperbacks for reading … not collecting!
5) Select books from these book genres: Literature, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery
What does genre (pronounced zhahn’-ruh) mean? It is a category or style that can refer to movies (for example horror films), music or books. Books in other genres such as history or biographies can be very collectible, too. But they may not reach the heights of value that the fiction genres can.
6) Book awards
Books that have won book awards are often very collectible and valuable. In particular … be on the lookout for an author’s first book which has won an award.
7) Books that are generating a buzz may be worth collecting
A book collecting tip to consider is collecting books with good book reviews, is on best-seller lists… or the book is being made into a movie.
8) Signed books
Books that are signed by the author generally increase the value of a book by 20 to 100%. Authors sign more books early in their career … and less as they become more famous. So later signed books by well-known authors may have considerable value … even if many first editions were printed.
Watch your local newspaper for author signing events. There are fewer independent book stores these days … but many are able to stay in business and thrive due to famous authors coming to sign.
9) A book will be more collectible from the country in which it was first published
Often the same book is published both in the US and in the United Kingdom. If it was published first in the UK it will be called the “true first” and have more value. Books published in the UK and Canada are printed in lower numbers due to the small populations – this makes them more valuable.
10) Valuable first editions can be found on the bargain shelves in major book stores
Publishers discount books that have stopped selling well or that have been reprinted too many times. First editions of authors’ first or second books can sometimes be found … for six or seven dollars. Often without a remainder mark (that reduces the books value) on the bottom or top of the text block.
By following these ten book collecting tips, you can over a period of years build a nice library of valuable first editions.
Bob Morse has been collecting books for 11 years. His website [http://www.book-collecting-tips.com] contains collecting tips and a list of books he has been collecting recently. Also, each month a collectible Book of the Month book is selected for its appreciation potential.