Things You Should Know About Determining a Book’s Value

If you are new to book collecting, or you have a book that you would like to determine the value of, you will need to know some terms related to book grading. A book’s value is based on two basic things: scarcity and condition. If a book is scarce (very few copies available throughout the world) it will have value. A book can be in pristine condition, but if ten million copies were printed, it will not have value above the “new” bookstore price. This is why first editions are the books most commonly collected, since the first edition- first printing generally is the fewest number of copies. Scarcity also applies when an author signs a book, since there are far fewer signed copies than the common printing. A book’s condition is the other key: to a book collector of a scarce edition, condition makes a big difference in value.With the popularity of online book-selling, a common language to convey a book’s condition is in general usage. A seller must accurately describe a book’s condition in order to have a satisfied customer, and to justify a price which correlates to the condition. Except for the very fine condition, many booksellers also use steps in between grades, such as “near fine,” “very good plus” or “very good minus.The book conditions described below also apply to a book’s dust jacket (if the book was originally published with one), which can account for up to half the value of the book. When a hardcover book comes with a dust jacket, the dust jacket grade is stated last. For example, a condition may be described as Fine/Very Good (or F/VG) which means a fine book in a very good jacket.Very Fine (VF) or New The highest grade given to any book copy, very fine describes a crisp fresh copy with no flaws. The corresponding term is New, but New can not be used to describe a book which was printed more than a year or two in the past. If a book has even a minor blemish it is not graded “very fine”. Some sellers use the phrase “mint” or “as new” in place of “very fine.” These terms are also acceptable.Fine (F) A fine grade corresponds to a copy that has no visible flaws. Collectible book dealers rarely give a book a grade higher than fine. A book that is graded “fine” has been carefully handled. A fine grade may have exceptions noted to specify minor blemishes in the book or the dust jacket.Very Good (VG) Very Good is the most common grade given to a collectible copy. A very good copy is no longer crisp; it has been handled and shows some signs of wear, but it is still sound. Flaws such as ownership signatures, bookplates and remainder marks must be noted in the description, along with rubbing, chips and tears, and price-clipping in dust jackets, where applicable.Good (G) Good is the lowest grade given to a collectible book. The book has been used and shows evidence of handling, but it is whole. There may be flaws, like staining or a cracked hinge, or there may be a collection of minor problems, such as writing, highlighting, bumping (smashing of spines or corners due to handling) or torn pages. A dust jacket may have some rips or tears, but it must not be falling apart.Fair A term used for a fairly beat-up copy is “fair”. This condition is rarely purchased by book collectors, since copies in this condition are not valuable. A “fair” book is basically falling apart.Ex-library A common example of an uncollectible book is an ex-library copy, which generally has defects such as glued pockets, rubber-stamping and pasted-down sheets. An ex-library copy, while not collectible, may be an acceptable reading copy.Book Club EditionA Book Club Edition is not generally collectible. There are several ways to identify book club editions (BCE). Different book clubs use different criteria for identifying their books.Book club editions are commonly smaller than the regular hardcover book. There often is a blindstamp impressed or embossed into the back cover of a hardcover book near the bottom of the back cover, near the spine. This blindstamp always indicates a book club edition. The dustjacket may contain a notation “Book Club Edition”Notes about First EditionsHow can you tell if a book is a first edition? This is not an easy question to answer. Criteria for indicating a first edition varies from publisher to publisher. Some publishers do not identify their first editions at all. Otherwise, a book will usually be marked on one of the first few pages (the copyright page) “First Edition”. There may also be a number line 9 8 7 6 etc… and whichever number is the lowest in the sequence is the printing run. A first edition first printing is the most valuable, so the number line would go down to one. This designation was implemented after World War II, so books before this will not include it (an many after). Also, if the printing date matches the copyright date, there’s a good chance the book is a first edition.

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