In this digital era, the rare book trade seems like an old-fashioned trend from a prehistoric period, known for only its dusty books and scholastic rare book dealers. But do you know that e-books have made readers realize how vital printed books are? It is not about the written text; it is a historical object. 

Thanks to the massive information on the internet, people can now learn everything they need to know about book collecting. Rare book dealers in NYC also take care of a wider variety of material, bringing a once-sleepy industry to life. 

Due to these developments, trade has transformed massively in the last 20 years compared to the previous 200 years. With that said, here are some exciting secrets (and surprises) of rare book dealers in Los Angeles and other places as well. 

7 Tips About Rare Book Dealers 

1. An Old Book Is Not Automatically A Rare Book

When it comes to collecting rare books, supply and demand is a crucial factor. A book is referred to as rare when it is difficult to find, and more people need that book. If the supply and demand are not in high demand, the book does not qualify as “rare.” 

So you can present a book from the 1800s to rare book dealers in Los Angeles and still not make a sale. And that is because the book is not in high demand. Do not assume that a book from the 1850s is desirable because it is old. 

When it comes to rare book buyers, the word “old” is highly relative. For example, in 500 years of printed history, a book from the 1850s is not that old. The books that are old enough to be considered old are published in the 1400s, especially from the earliest years of printed books in the West. 

Check out our guide on how to determine the value of old books. It gives you a detailed explanation of what counts as valuable old books. 

2. It Is Not Just Books 

reading a book

Even though “book” is in rare book dealers’ names, it does not mean it is only about books. Rare book dealers in Los Angeles and other places handle scrolls, manuscripts, etchings, and other prints. Sometimes, it does even include ventriloquist dummies.

When it comes to rare book buyers, if there is a text or an item as a correlation to books somehow, it is good for them. 

3. Dust Jackets Are Highly Important 

In terms of book collecting, completeness is a crucial standard. The idea behind completeness is that a book should retain everything from the first time it was published. When it comes to modern books, the first edition’s price can rise or fall drastically due to the original dust jacket. 

An excellent example is The Great Gatsby. The first edition can cost about $4,000 – $6,000. If the dust jacket is original, the cost can be around $100,000. You can check out our guide on how to tell if a book is the first edition. You will get incredible details on first edition books. 

4. Rare Book Buyers count Every Book page. 

Rare book dealers in NYC and other places count every book page, especially for books from the 1800s. It was called the hand-press period. And that is because the earlier you go in print history, the more likely you will find missing pages. 

Unsatisfactory passages are torn from banned books, and remarkable engravings are removed, framed, and placed on a wall. The blank pages found in the front or back of a book are usually missing. 

Historically, the paper was costly, so the book owners tear those blank pages for use. And that is why rare book dealers in NYC must go through every page to make sure everything is intact. 

The dealers even have a unique way of counting the book based on how the printer formatted it. Tip: do not interrupt a book dealer in the middle of counting. It can be a painful experience to reach the middle of a 500-page book and start all over. 

5. You Do Not Need Lots Of Money To Collect Rare Books 

The books that usually make the headlines are the first edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, $150,000, and the Shakespeare First Folio, $6 million. 

However, the exciting collections stored in some prestigious institutions are created by people who do not buy the most expensive books. For example, Duke University acquired the Lisa Baskin collection in 2015. It documents women at work for the past five centuries. 

Baskin built this world-class collection at a small expense to what you would expect. And that is because, for about 40 years, she was collecting the books, purchasing them when the books were not popularly sought. 

6. Book Dealers Do Not Use White Gloves 

Secrets Of Rare Book Dealers

This is one of the popular misconceptions about rare books. And strangers yell at book dealers because of it all them (that’s not cool). If you are not aware, it has been established that gloves weaken tactile sensitivity. 

In other words, you have a high chance of tearing a page or damaging the book while wearing the gloves. The best way is to handle the rare books with your bare hands. Of course, not until you have washed and dried your hands well. 

However, there are exceptions: when it comes to specific materials on the book, such as metal bindings, you need to wear gloves. However, rare book curators from institutions such as the Harvard library system do not allow white gloves. Even the British Library has this rule too. 

7. There Is An Association Of Antiquarian Booksellers 

If you are new in the rare book collection business, one of the vital goals is to get into the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA). But before you get in, you must show an impressive record of professional dealings for a minimum of four years. 

The association asks current members and asks whether new applicants precisely describe their material, pay their bills, and run their business ethically. You get relevant perks when you join the association. 

Apart from the seal of approval in the American rare book trade, you qualify to display your inventory at any book fairs organized by ABAA. And that includes the massive event in the country at the Armory in New York. Some dealers can make 25% – 50% of sales from the book fair alone. 


Many of the best rare book dealers have particular areas they specialize in. Due to their long research with the primary source material, you can gain a reputation of expertise in that topic. Aside from that, one or two people generally operate most book dealers.

The business is huge if it has more than ten people. Rare book collections is a lucrative business that needs much of your attention. So if you want to venture into that field, it is a good choice. Now, if you’re going to sell used books instead, we recommend

You can visit, type in your ISBN, and get high offers. From there, all you have to do is ship your books for free. And we guarantee that you will get paid! 

Categorized in: