Its about that time: Tax day has arrived, and US citizens owe the Internal Revenue Service an account of all their assets and income. What better day to explore how we assess the value of our rare books? If youve recently purchased a book, you may have a pretty firm grasp of what its worth. But several factors can impact your books value.
Can you guess which of these editions is worth more?
ConditionIn general the better the condition of your book, the more its probably worth. The condition of the binding, cover dust jacket, and other physical parts of the book matter immensely. For example, two first edition/first printings of For Your Eyes Only have very different values. The first, in Fine condition, is valued at $6,600. The other is in Near Fine condition, with a few minor bumps to the spine and chips to the dust jacket. Its valued at $1,590.
However, that doesnt mean that restoring a book will always increase its value. Talk to a qualified professional about conservation, preservation, and restoration options if your books are in less-than-pristine condition. Youll also want to set up and maintain your home library appropriately, to maintain your rare books condition.
Scarcity and Desirability
A book doesnt gain value simply because few copies exist. It gains value because few copies existand many people want to own the title. After all, many books are scarce due to lack of interest at the time of printing
.and never gained popularity among collectors.
So which rare books are desirable? That all depends. Some authors and works have remained perennial favorites among collectors. Others may be trendy for a while, only to drop back into obscurity and lose value later; even legendary authors can go through cycles of popularity.
Other ConsiderationsA host of other characteristics can affect a books value to varying degrees:
- Signatures and inscriptions: A signature from the author can increase a books value, as can a personal message to someone close to the author. Not all signatures are created equal, however, so youll want to learn more about how signatures and inscriptions impact a books value.
- Previous ownership: Association copies are copies of a book owned by someone with a relationship to the author/illustrator. These books are often, but not always, inscribed.
- Completeness: Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is certainly true for rare book collections. Individual books from a series are often worth little on their own, for example. One exception: extremely rare old issues of magazines or newspapers.
If you have questions about the price or value of a rare book in your collection, youll want to talk to a trustworthy appraiser.