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Antique Books. Worth the Reading

Aug 17, 2007
An antique book is more than a collection of pages by your favorite author. It is a piece of history, a glimpse into the past. One in which the binding was done by hand the paper often likewise and if far back enough in time, the pen was a quill.

There are many factors which influence the value of an antique book, as in all antiques. First there is the condition of the book. The binding, the pages, whether dog-eared or torn, or God forbid, missing. The pages may have notes written on them. (Which can often be valuable in themselves if penned by a famous person or under unusual circumstances) or they may be damaged or stained or any number of factors which will affect their desirability. In the same way if a book is signed by it's author this usually increases it's price, although in the modern world not necessarily as "book signings" are all too common as a marketing tool and have helped to downplay the importance of a signed edition. All of these factors contribute to the overall value of your antique book.

The overall availability is a factor in price but is not necessarily the main factor as a book may be hard to find but not desirable. In other words it may be rare but nobody wants it! Confusing? Yes it can be. It is prudent to consult a dealer to appraise your antique book whether for insurance purposes or because you are attempting to sell it. In the final analysis, antiques are always only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

Appraisals Dealers usually need to see the book itself in order to identify and appraise it. You may submit photographs if you cannot see the dealer in person due to distance or time. They will require usually a photograph of the title page, the back side of the title page (also called the copyright page), the first and last pages of text, and the outer covers and spine in order to evaluate an individual copy. It is best to have very close up, quality photographs if you must go this route. If you are not proficient with a digital camera, ask one of your friends to do it for you. The popularity of digital cameras today makes quality photos easy to accomplish. Do not try and photocopy the book! This produces very poor results and may in fact damage the book due to the pressure exerted upon the spine in this process.

You often hear the phrase "first edition" in reference to books and this can influence the price of the book if there were, in fact more than one edition! Many times there were not. Be careful when someone touts the first edition status of an antique book and attempt to determine for yourself if there were indeed subsequent editions. Again remember to use all of the resources online and elsewhere to obtain valuable and often free information on your antique book. There are several national societies of book dealers, "antiquarians" and of course appraisers that you may take advantage of in the search for information. There are also book collecting societies that you may investigate. Take your time and learn all you can before you buy or sell your antique book.
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