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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.

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10 Ways to Preserve Your First Edition Rare Books

How to Care for Valuable Books

When it comes to rare and antiquarian books, they should receive the utmost care. Making sure that rare books remain in the best condition is critical for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is because some rare books are a piece of history. Such a piece of history should remain in the best condition possible. Secondly, if you’re in the bookselling, buying, or trading business, they retain more value the better the condition. Not all the time, but generally speaking the better the condition, the more money the book is going to be worth, but, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. So, what are some the best practices in caring and handling your books? Check out our list below.

Tips for Care and Handling Rare Books

  1. Carefully examine every book before handling it. Make a note of its weaknesses and take care when handling the book around its spine or dust jacket.
  2. Do not open book more than 90 degrees. This will save wear and stress on the hinges and joints of the book. There are some exceptions to this rule, large folios and some securely bound quartos, but as a rule, carefully examine first.
  3. Only touch individual leaves by their edges. If the leaves of the book don’t separate, don’t force them apart.
  4. Do not pull directly on the book’s spine when removing from a shelf. Instead, pull back on the text block or push the surrounding book in, to push the book you would like out.
  5. Ensure that books are well supported on a shelf. To avoid a cocked book, do not allow them to lie at an angle. Books lying like this adds stress to hinges and joints.
  6. Certain books like folios and thick quartos are best kept laid flat. However, do not stack them too high. This will cause the binding on the books on the bottom to become cocked.
  7. Keep books out of indirect and direct sunlight.
  8. Never use a sticky note in a book. The adhesive on a sticky note will cause damage to the binding and paper of the book.
  9. If you are photocopying, use the utmost caution. Opening the book too much can cause the binding to split or crack.
  10. Be careful of what you lay on top of a book. A simple piece of paper is acceptable, but a large weighted stack can cause stress on the book damaging its spine.

In some respects, a book just isn’t a book; it’s a piece of history – a piece of art. Treating rare books with respect and handling them properly is essential for their longevity.