Whenever the topic of collectible books comes up in discussion, one of the first questions asked is, “How do you determine a book’s value?” The answer is simpler than you might think: the value of a book is exactly what people are willing to buy it for. Collectible book prices are dependant on far too many things to be pinned down as firmly as, say, a barrel of oil or a company’s stock.
As with all collectibles, demand influences the price of a rare book more than anything else. Since the market is unregulated, you’re free to slap any price tag you want on your collectible books. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will be willing to pay that price, though—you won’t know that until you actually make the sale.
What do we mean by this? Take, for example, a collectible bookseller cruising his annual neighborhood garage sale. He finds a box of books at one of his neighbor’s tables and, after a quick review, decides that the books, on average, are worth $3 apiece. Since there are 25 books in the box, he offers his neighbor $75. The neighbor had no price tags on the books but would have been willing to sell them for $.50 apiece, had the buyer bothered to ask, so the neighbor is quite happy. The buyer is happier than he’d expected to be, too; upon closer review of the books, he realizes that one is a rare first edition autobiography. He’s not sure what the book’s value really is, but a quick check online reveals that a similar copy sold for about $300. He prices his accordingly and brings it to a book show.
As he’s setting up his table at the show, the dealer next to him sees the book and purchases it without hesitation at tag price. A third collectible bookseller, who knows much more about autobiographies than either of the first two, sees it five minutes later and buys it from the second dealer for $1,000; it’s the first copy of this particular book that he has ever seen, and though he isn’t sure of the book’s price, he does know that it’s worth far more than he’s paying. Later, he sells it to yet another dealer for $2,500, who sells it to a fifth dealer for $4,000, who eventually sells it to a collector for $6,000.
So as you can see, book values are never written in stone, and any given book is worth precisely what someone will buy it for. In this particular example, the book’s price kept shooting up and up because it was rare enough that nobody had recent sales examples upon which to base its worth, and no other avenues through which to purchase another copy.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t determine the approximate value of most collectible books. You can, for example, see how much a given book has sold for in the past. Also, many book values, or ranges of values, are listed in price guides or magazines such as Firsts. Keep in mind, however, that not all price guides are created equal, and no one guide should be considered “definitive.” Plus, book values are fluid, and sometimes rise and fall as if with the tides because the market is fairly small; it only takes a single person on the hunt for a rare first edition to spike that book’s price, sometimes quite dramatically. On the other hand, if a handful of owners simultaneously put a specific collectible book up for sale, the price may plummet because there simply won’t be enough people interested in buying it.
Overall, however, the price of collectible books does rise over the years, sometimes significantly so. Comparing old price guides to new ones makes that maxim quite apparent.
Of course, you can’t really know just how much a book’s price has risen until you sell it. Professional sellers and long-time collectors do develop an “eye” for collectible book values and are often capable of appraising collections, but not until the money is paid and a book changes hands can someone ever know a value for certain. Don’t think of this as a bad thing, though—in our opinion, this mystique just makes book collecting that much more interesting.
Top 5 Reasons for Collecting First Editions
FAQ - On Signed & Rare Books
Signed First Editions - A Collector's Crown Jewels
The Why of Book Collecting
Book Grading Definitions
Celebrity and Author Book Signing Events
Never miss another book signing again. Get the latest information on the most popular celebrity and author book signings in NYC, NJ, and from all over the US. Dates, times and locations. Meet your favorite celebrity or author and get your book signed!
Easton Press Leather Bound Books
Are you a collector of fine Easton Press leather bound books? You're welcome to join our free email newsletter and receive special offers & coupons on books before they are publicized in the store.
Free email Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and enjoy special reduced price offers, advance notice on our contests, special featured listings, and much more.
For the Stephen King Fan and Collector
Ideal for the Stephen King fan and collector. Receive coupons and special offers on rare books before they are publicized in our store. Includes news and updates on signings, contests, and other great content.
Our Customers Say...
"Thank you!!! Your dedication to your customers is commendable, and Veryfinebooks is a fantastic place. I will be sure to recommend your store and its amazing selection to my friends. Next time I need to buy a book, you have my word you guys are the first place I will go to! Again, I can't thank you enough for this."
-Daniel, from Virginia
"Bought this for a Christmas gift for my brother, who is a long-time Gibson fan. The Easton Press edition is beautifully bound, and he was thrilled to add it to his collection. As a bonus, I inherited his dog-eared paperback copy to read myself. It's an excellent book - well-worth the time. Excellent customer service. Item was not in stock when I ordered, but shipper assured me that if he could not get it in time to ground-ship for x-mas, he would send it faster to ensure it would arrive when I needed it. Very happy."
-Grant, Plymouth, MI.
"The service and sale was excellent. I received timely emails about my order and shipment of the book. The book came very well protected and i received it much sooner than anticipated. The book itself it terrific. I will definitely be back. Awesome job!"
- Shaun Melich, Jan 2009
"These 14 Volumes were bought for my husband. He talked about reading his father's set as a child, so it was great to be able to give him his own.The books were in amazing condition; all still in the original wrapping. They were exactly as described. I have absolutely no complaints and wholeheartedly recommend this company!"
- Sarah Eva
"Words cannot express how happy and satisfied I am with VERYFINEBOOKS! It is a great joy and pleasure to work with Emmanuel knowing that he truly cares about the customer and their needs. They have everything you need! satisfaction guaranteed ! Thanks for everything!" Norman
Washington, Nov 2008
"SUPER FAST DELIVERY & OUTSTANDING COMMUNICATION!!! 4 STARS!!!"
Timothy, Westville, OK
"...purchased a number of magnificent signed first edition books. I am absolutely delighted with my books and the service I received from the veryfinebooks team. Christmas wishes to you all. Cheers...."
"Just a line to thank you for packing this volume so well, and for despatching it so promptly. I was away when it arrived, hence my delay in writing, but I'm delighted with the book and look forward to browsing through your catalogue again in the near future. In the meantime I shall certainly recommend your site to my colleagues here at the BL. Best wishes."
Terrance, United Kingdom - April 2008
"For selling your collectible books there is no place I’d recommend other than VeryFineBooks. Emmanuel will work closely with you in order to help you achieve your goals and VeryFineBooks has often helped me determine the best prices for my items and has sold some for more than I would have been able to do on my own or through an auction site. I cannot express enough my satisfaction in working with someone of his quality, professionalism and personal attention to detail. A very rare thing to find these days!"
- Chris, Nov 2008
"Beautiful leather book. FABULOUS seller. FRIENDLY & FAST. The Best. PERFECT transaction in every way. EXCELLENT communication. Very Fine Indeed."
Paula, Westchester, NY