Antiquarian, or old books, can often be a difficult thing to value. There is no one book or association that has a list of old books and their exact worth. There is not even a consensus on how old a book has to be to be considered antiquarian.
If you have an old book and you are curious about its value, here are some ways you may be able to determine it.
- Not all old books are valuable. What makes a book valuable is the fact that it is desirable to collectors. The first and quickest way to see what a book is selling for is to check out its selling price on websites like Alibris or BookFinder.
The information you need from your book to do a search on one of these websites is the name of the book, the name of the author, the publication date, and edition and printing. Search for a book that has the identical information to your book. You may get several results, just one or two, or sometimes none.
Once you get results, check out the book's description in each result. Is it in the same or similar condition as yours? Look for things like writing in the book, tears to the book and dust jacket, odors, etc.
If the copy on the website has a dust jacket and yours does not, you cannot compare prices. A book with a dust jacket will be more valuable than a book that is missing its dust jacket.
If you succeed in finding a book or books similar to yours then you can get an idea of what the booksellers are charging. You may be surprised to see that different booksellers charge greatly differing amounts.
If you're interested in a more accurate picture of what your book is worth, there are price guides that are printed based on what dealers are selling the books for. One of the oldest and best guides is Bookman's Price Index which is published twice a year.
Another resource for finding the value of a book is a price guide that is compiled by individuals based on their expert knowledge. The one most commonly used is Collected Books: The Guide to Values.
It is possible to have books professionally appraised, but appraisers charge a fee for their services. If you have a number of books that you think may be worth money, a professional appraiser may be worth your while. If you're only in possession of one or two books that you are looking for a value on, it is probably more economical to do the investigating yourself. If you believe you have something that is valuable, then bring in an appraiser.
Once in a while, an organization or community will hold a book fair. Sometimes they will have an appraiser at the fair who will appraise books for free or for a nominal fee. The appraiser may not be able to give you the book's exact value right off the bat, but he may be able to let you know if the book is worth investigating or not.