Book Appraisal

Book appraisal techniques can help you know if you've got a rare find worth thousands or just a dud for the bargain bin.

It's the dream of every book collector, to walk into a thrift store or a garage sale and find a single volume of a rare book in mint form. Waiting in line you purchase it for pennies and then restore the book and place it in either a place of honor on your bookshelf or sell it to other collectors. But how do you know if that dusty tome in your hands is valuable at all? Even if you're not a professional book appraiser you can judge if a book is worth your time and effort or a waste of money.

The first thing to look at when you judge a book is literally the cover or dust jacket. This is a thin sheet of paper that covers the front and the back of the book, the ends folding over the sides to keep the jacket on. Usually illustrated with pictures and of course the title and author, this dust jacket's primary duty is to protect the hardcover book from daily wear and tear.

Depending on the age of the book the dust jacket may be torn or ripped in spots. The value of your book will increase with the quality of the dust jacket, even if your book is an obscure title. Usually these thin paper covers were the first to be discarded or destroyed, so one that survives any period of time only adds to the value of the book.

Flipping the book open you should be able to find quickly within the first few pages if your book is a first edition or not. This means that the volume is one of the first printed and not a product of a second or third or fourth run. Many famous books have over thirty editions out there! As you can guess, the older your book the more value it has for the collector.

Check the pages for waterstains or any evidence of rough handling. If the pages are torn or missing the value of the book will diminish. Too often pages can be lost to minute worms burrowing into the paper and eating away the words or plant spores taking root and feeding on the pages. One thing you should be aware of is that there have been situations where mold inside ancient books has proven to be dangerous for collectors, infecting them with various diseases! If you do find an ancient book with a great degree of spores or mold on the pages you may want to secure it in a sealed bag before having it assessed by a health care professional.

Finally, don't be deterred by finding a rare book with a title you're unfamiliar with. While finding a first edition of a popular title is a dream of every book collector, there are thousands of obscure titles in every language and area that are just as valuable, if not more. That old carpenter's guide may bring you more than a fiction book of the same era. This sort of knowledge can be found both in reference books and by experience; digging through book collections and learning what is valuable and what is not.

Rare books can be found almost anywhere, from estate sales to garage sales to thrift shops. Hidden inbetween more recent popular books they look like ugly younger brothers to their flashier big brothers, but one of these books can be worth more than a thousand of their friends. You can start your rare book collection by learning these few simple rules on how to appraise your finds and how to evaluate a book right on the spot. Be it a small thin volume of poetry or a thick tome of mathematic terms, you could be holding thousands of dollars in your hands - and now you'll know it!

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