How To Conduct An Old Book Search

When you conduct an old book search you’re not just considering its age.

Truly valuable books are rarely found because few of them possess the unique characteristics that make them desirable. You must learn how to recognize the personality of rare books to be a successful rare book seller.

Exactly what are these elusive qualities that enhance the worth of a book over the passage of time? Many things, but it all boils down to either the physical characteristics of the book or its content. It’s what’s known in the book collecting trade as “points of issue.”

Bill McBride writes in his classic book, Points of Issue: A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19Th-20th Century Authors:

”A point of issue occurs when a change is made in a book during the production of the first printing of the first edition without that change being noted as a change elsewhere in the book. Thus some copies of the first printing exist without the change and some with it.”

The changes to which McBride refers can be numerous and before you can conduct an old book search you must understand them well.

For example, an altered paragraph, a typographical error, misprint, or unique marking on the dust jacket can be all that’s needed to make a particular book suitable for rare book collecting purposes.

In addition, a rare book may be one that’s been banned or censored.

Books that have been manufactured with exotic engravings, meticulous binding, or have unusual shapes can be prized possessions to the right book collector.

Even if a book is considered rare, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valuable. To sell antique books for the most profit the book has to be in excellent condition.

Damage will drastically decrease the value of old books on the open market and severely hurt your profits.

Book Scout Secrets

Old and rare books can be found in many places. Some of the most popular places that a book scouter will look when conducting an old book search are:

These are all good book scouting sources and should be investigated. However, most scouters know about them so the competition will be intense.

The truly professional scout builds a network of contacts that provide leads when valuable books become available. For example, while most scouters attend estate sales, the professional scout has a relationship with probate attorneys who may know about the existence of a collection long before a sale is held.


Properly conducting an old book search can yield exceptional profits. But you have to know the industry.

You must choose a genre of books in which you specialize because no one can be an expert in everything.

Once found, you can sell books online, trade them with used book store owners, sell them in your own retail book store, or donate them to a book museum or other charity for the world to enjoy.

For more information about buying and selling old and rare book, consider my recommend reading selections in my online book store.

Good hunting!

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