by Dr. Lori Verderame
Books are some of the most popular collectibles. They are extremely sought after and command top dollar because they reference and illustrate a particular moment in time, aspects of culture, and history.
As with all antiques and collectibles, it is best to learn as much as you can about old books, authors, and how books are published. When it comes to old books, it is a good idea to read as many as you can and learn about the types of books that you want to collect.
Literary masterpieces and classic texts are more collectible than reference or text books. Children’s books and cook books always hold their value. Examples of literature like Wuthering Heights and Gone with the Wind and cult classics like Harry Potter or Future Shock or the Da Vinci Code are of interest with collectors worldwide. Books that deal with a certain genre or topic will increase the value of an old book collection, too.
What to Look For
Decorative covers, dust jackets, and slip cases all in good shape.
Famous illustrators, high quality imagery, and famous titles of books.
Well known authors telling popular stories are always a good deal.
The paper page of antique or vintage books are often fragile because they are high in wood pulp material and acid content. Creasing, tearing, and discoloration are typical.
When collecting books, the binding needs to be in good shape, the pages should be fully attached to the binding, and the cover needs to be intact, too.
An author’s signature, markings, or other details, can positively impact value.
Most expensive books ever sold are:
Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook from the 1500s (sold for $30.8 million)
John J. Audubon’s The Birds of America from 1827 ($11.5 million)
Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales from 1478 ($7.5 million)
William Shakespeare’s first comedies and tragedies folio ($6 million)
Tips for care
Be careful when reading your antique books as your hands can deposit oil and dirt on the pages. Use cotton or linen gloves when paging through the text of aging books.
Book stands are helpful in maintaining condition. Storing or displaying old books can be tricky. It is best to store aging books on their sides instead of upright on a bookshelf. This method puts less stress on the binding of the book and transfers the weight of the pages on the book’s back cover. This helps preserve the fragile lower binding of the book’s spine.
Just because your local library rejects your old books, there are many collectors out there who do want them. Know how much your old books are worth before you sell them for a song or toss them in the trash. Those old texts could be real pricey treasures.
Get an online appraisal of your old books from Dr. Lori.