Ten Book Collecting Tips I’ve Learned Over the Years

I’ve always enjoyed visiting un curso de milagros 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 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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