Rare book values vary widely from book to book, country to country, and even day to day. While the value of old books varies widely, there are some ways you can determine value.
Defining Rare Books
What exactly makes a book rare? Being old is not necessarily enough. There are thousands of Bibles from the 1700s and 1800s that can be bought for under $20.00. Some books, like JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book, are not rare but are quite valuable if it is a first edition.
The condition of your book plays a big role in its value. The most valuable books are those closest to their original condition. If you can find a rare book in mint condition, crisp, unopened or uncut, those books tend to be a lot more valuable than those in poor condition, such as books that have broken spines or have writing on the pages. One of the main exceptions to this rule is if the book was owned by someone famous who wrote in the margins of the book.
Some things that might make a book rare include:
- A first edition of a famous book
- Signed by the author
- Previously owned by someone famous
- Interesting artwork, typography or design
- Handwritten by the author
- Very few printed
- Book became extremely popular
Finding Rare Book Values Online
The best way to find the rare book values for books you already own is to do some searching online to see what the going rate is for the book you have. Generally it's a good idea to toss out the highest and lowest numbers you find and take an average of the rest to get an idea of how much you can expect to ask for your rare book.
Condition is a very relative thing, so the prices you find online will probably vary widely. If you're not sure how to rate the condition of your book, there are industry standards to help you figure out if your book is in good condition or fair condition.
The absolute best way to find out the value of your particular book is to find a rare book appraiser who can look at your book in person and determine its value. Rare book values are very subjective, and can vary widely depending on what the local market will bear where you are trying to sell your book. It pays to try to get a couple of different appraisals before you decide to sell your book just to make sure you know all you can about the book and its potential value beforehand.
Appraisals and Grading Services
In addition to using various websites to find the going rate of rare books, there are also websites that will provide you with an estimated value of books.
Value My Stuff
Value My Stuff provides valuations for rare and/or collectible books. To receive an expert valuation report you:
- Purchase valuation credits
- Upload images of the book including images of any signatures, marks, details or condition issues
- Fill out a short form telling the book expert about the item
- Fill in the book's measurements and any additional pertinent information
The book expert will send back your valuation report within 48 hours.
Bid 4 a Book
Bid 4 a Book offers free valuations for rare and/or antique books. To use their service provide your name and address, upload an image of the book and fill in the book valuation form with:
- Date of Publication
- Any special attributes
- Detailed description
Nugent Appraisal Services
Personal property appraisal specialists, Nugent Appraisal Services provides book appraisals based on many factors including:
- Publishing information
- Market demand
Nugent Appraisal Services provides several sample book appraisal reports to give you an idea of the various types of information used in determining the value of different types of books.
Top Ten Rare Books
In every category of rare books there are titles that are highly sought after by collectors. The following is a sampling of these books:
- Gutenberg Bible: Johannes Gutenberg, printed 1456, 180 copies known to exist
- The Three Musketeers: Alexandre Dumas, published 1846, London, leather bound, first English translation
- Institutes of the Christian Religion: John Calvin, 1536, first edition, Latin
- Birds of America: John James Audubon, The Double-Elephant Folio
- Mahzor Worms: Malachi Beit-Arie published in 1985 in a limited edition of 300 copies
- Shakespeare's First Folio: compiled by John Heminge and Henry Condell, 1622-1623
- Codex Leicester: Leonardo da Vinci, handwritten by da Vinci, one copy
- Geographical Works of Ptolemy: Ptolemy, published in Rome , 1507
- La Bibbia Tradotta in Lingva Tofcana: printed by Lucantonio Giunti in Venice in 1545
- Antiquities of the Russian State: Fyodor Solntsev, seven volume set, 1844, 600 sets published
Checklist of the Top 50 Rare and Valuable Books
You may also be interested in this printable checklist of the top 50 rare and valuable books. Each of these books has fetched thousands of dollars at auction and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. Keep in mind that whether or not a book is valuable or rare is largely a matter of opinion and the list can change frequently. First edition books in mint condition will almost always have more value than subsequent editions.
If you need help downloading the printable checklist, check out these helpful tips.
While you probably won't find many of the books on the list in your local bookstore there are thousands of books that are on their way to being rare and valuable. Buying rare books can be a great investment and a lot of fun. Finding out rare book values does not have to be difficult, and you may have a truly rare gem on your hands.