Did you know that just because a book is old does not mean it is valuable? The most basic requirement is its scarcity. A book becomes rare when demand exceeds supply, and that makes it more valuable. That means the value of old books goes down when there are thousands of copies in various bookstores, especially if nobody wants to buy them.
Besides scarcity, numerous other factors determine the value of old books. For example, the book’s physical condition, relevance as a literary work, and its story (thus, if it was a famous person’s property). Generally, first editions hold the most value.
First editions refer to any book’s copy that was first to be printed commercially. That is, from the first setting of type. Are your old books worth money? We will show you how to determine the value of old books.
Let’s get into it.
Determining The Value Of Old Books
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the old books have small to no value to collectors. Even though some specific books used to be scarce in a region, purchasing books online, both internationally and nationally, has made books’ value go down.
There are three fundamental elements to determine the value of old books:
Usually, books that have the most value have all three elements. If an old book loses any element, it can make the book decrease in value. Let’s go through the above-listed points.
First of all, the book’s age is not always an essential element for determining a book’s value. You have probably heard many people saying the book is “old.” Now, as you may be aware, for a car to become a classic, it has to be 20 years, at least. An item can take 100 years to become an antique.
But when it comes to a rare book, it is quite different. One hundred years is early for it to be called rare. Usually, for a book to be called old, it must have been published before 1830. After 1830, printing methods changed, and books began to be published on a larger scale. And that is why books released after 1830 are more likely to be common than those before.
Similar to the explanation above, the value of books is still not entirely dependent on their scarcity. Some books are rare because there was limited printing. But the reason why there was small printing could be its lack of relevance. If there are no demands for the book, its rarity does not create value.
There are numerous books, mostly modern fiction, published after 1900 that are common. However, the fine condition/in near fine are highly rare. One of the ideal examples is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Since the book was published in 1925, there have been more than 25 million copies sold. That makes it highly an ordinary book.
A used copy published in 1925 is common, and you can get $300,000 for it. A first edition, excluding a dust jacket, has a considerable value due to the great demand. The retail asking price can be about $3,000. But it is still common because there are numerous others available for sale.
However, a fine copy with an excellent just jacket can be over $100,000. And that is because of the rarity of the book copies with quality dust jackets. So rarity, combined with the condition, and demand can exponentially increase the book’s value.
Inscriptions, Signatures, and Provenance
Other factors can increase a book’s rarity. For example, if the book’s author, a famous person, and a notable person sign the book, it will make the book rarer. Aside from that, it becomes more valuable than an unsigned copy of the book. This is true of old books published before 1900 when authors did not frequently sign books.
Furthermore, if the book has an exciting provenance or a famous person owns the book, it will be rarer than the same copy you have. In the late 19th and early 20th century, publishers like Doves Press and Kelmscott Press release limited editions of relevant and highly appraised books. All the printed editions become collectibles and of immense value.
Finally, books in exquisite leather bindings and hand-colored plates and illustrations are likely to become rarer than regular copies. All these can increase the value of books.
Books released in the post-1900s may have different printings, editions, and states of a specific book. As a general rule, a book’s value increases as it gets closer to the first edition, especially first edition, first printing.
Some publishers such as Grosset & Dunlap and A.L. Burt specialized in reprinting books in the mid 20th century. And they published thousands of reprints, and even though some of these books become valuable, most of them do not.
If you want to know if a book is the first edition, check out our article and tell if it is the first edition. The guide explains everything you need to know about first editions.
If we look at The Great Gatsby example discussed earlier again, a tear in the dust jacket can significantly decrease the book’s value. Collectors pay extra attention to the condition of a book. So it is one of the critical things you need to look at.
Most hardcover books that were published around 1910 had dust jackets. Most people disregarded just jackets because they were delicate. Books with dust jackets missing or in rough condition can decrease a book’s value to a whopping 90%.
You should not look at only the condition. Other factors are also necessary, such as rarity and demand. Together, the book can maintain a high prestige, thus earning more money.
The last element to consider is the value of old books is demand. If a book is not in demand, it cannot be sold, regardless of its rarity or condition. Most times, only rare book specialists have the resources to determine the demand for a specific book.
A book’s demand can be due to its relevance. For example, most high school students learn about Charles Darwin and get to know his “On the Origin of Species.” You can get the book in a paperback for a few dollars and even get the e-book free on some websites.
The book will be in demand in the future because people would want to understand the science of evolution. However, the first edition in a fine condition from 1859 is rarer than the modern paperback copies or copies printed in the 1880s. Even though it is rarer, the printed copies from 1880 can fetch around six figures.
It can take time to have experience and knowledge of the value of old books. Fortunately, this guide will help you start on the right track. This guide will help you answer the question, are your old books worth money? Old books can give you thousands of dollars, and if you follow this guide closely, you can make a lot of money. If you want to sell your books online, we recommend BookDeal.com. We ensure you get the highest offers and get paid. Get in touch now, and we will gladly assist you.