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Determining the Value of a Rare Book

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Determining the value of a rare book is dependent upon multiple factors. Below we’ve compiled a list of just a few of the factors that help determine the value in a rare book.

Contributing Factors


Booksellers determine the condition of rare books by using a condition scale.

  • As New or Mint Condition

  • Fine

  • Near Fine

  • Very Good

  • Good

  • Fair

  • Poor

The condition of a book and its dust jacket are paramount to determining value. There are many factors that contribute to the condition of a book and its value. One is the condition of the book’s binding. More complex than just holding the book together, the binding is one of the first things a buyer or collector will look at. The condition of the binding is a telling sign of the books overall condition. Some book’s bindings may appear to be in excellent condition, but it could be because its either been repaired or restored. Rare books with repaired or restored bindings can be priced significantly less, compared to its original state. Other considerations for the condition of a book include defects such as blemishes, tears, foxing, mold, insect damage, smell, exposure to light and water staining.

First Editions

To understand why a books edition is essential, it’s first more important to understand what classifies something as first, second, third, etc. edition. An edition includes all the copies of a book that are printed from the same plates or setting of type. For some publishers, they make it easy by printing “First Edition” or “First Printing” right in the book. Other publishers are a little more cryptic. In some cases, determining the edition may come down to the misspelling of a word on page 124, the placement of words on a dust jacket or the color of the ink on a copyright page. It’s also important to keep in mind that in some rare cases, third or fourth editions can be just as valuable as first editions.

Determining a first edition can be difficult and if you need help, fell free to reach out to our professionals.


Rare book collecting hinges heavily on supply and demand. It’s simple, the rarer the book, the more demand there should be for that book. The higher demand for the book should in return increase the value of that book and vice versa.

Dust Jacket

The dust jacket on a book is intended to help protect a book from wear and tear, but as many people know, dust jackets were often thrown away. In the early 20th Century, there was little or no consideration given to dust jackets, which makes fining a dust jacket on a book from the 1920s a rarity. In fact, the quality of a dust jacket can affect the overall price of a book by 80 and 90 percent. Defects like chips, cracks, fading and shelf wear will also negatively impact the price of the overall book.

Determine the Price of Your Rare Book

If you own a signed book, first edition, or a rare edition book and are curious about its value contact the antiquarian professionals at The First Edition Rare Books, LLC. Books are more than just our hobby – it’s our passion. The First Edition’s catalog is filled with books by Presidents, Prime Ministers, military Generals, First Ladies, and important first editions from across the world. Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or consign we would like to hear from you.