The Value Of Old Books
Is Sometimes Hidden In Plain Sight

By Joe Waynick

If you want to learn how to find the value of old books then you’ll need to know what book research tools are available to make the task easier.

The most common ways of looking up rare old book prices is through Amazon and eBay. These websites are well suited for common fiction and non-fiction titles.

But to get an accurate picture of the true value of collectable books you want to use more sophisticated resources.

Price Comparison Websites

If you’re going to sell used books then one place to look to better pinpoint the value of old books is one of the many price comparison websites.

All you have to do is enter the ISBN into the designated area on sites like Bookfinder, Chambal, and my personal favorite, Addall. If you don’t have the ISBN or if you’re working with pre-ISBN books, that’s okay because you can always look them up by author, title, publisher, and publication date.

Rare antiquarian book collecting can not only be fun and personally rewarding. It can also be very profitable.

For example, if you go to and type in the required information, you’ll soon have a list of dozens of websites selling the book you’re researching, along with the selling price being asked on each site.

This gives you a clear picture of what other sellers think the book is worth. But that’s not always the best barometer of the true value of old books. Sometimes those prices can be too high or too low.

What Makes A Book “Collectible?”

Being a book collector doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be down right fun if you know what you’re doing.

The four most influential factors in determining the value of old books are:

  1. Scarcity
  2. Edition
  3. Condition
  4. Issue Points

Properly understanding these four factors will help you become an expert rare bookseller. Let’s look at each one a little more closely.

The Most Influential Factors

The scarcity of a book can be described as how easily it can be found. If you can walk into any thrift store or into library book sales and find a copy, then it’s too common and won’t fetch a very high price.

Condition is a critical barometer for discovering the value of old books. Torn and tattered books in very bad shape will have little value.

The edition of a book can be important too. Most collectors prefer first editions. And signed first editions are even better.

But this is not always a hard and fast rule. Sometimes later editions are more valuable because of their issue points.

Speaking of ”issue points,” also known as ”points of issue,” we’ll briefly discuss them now.

Issue points are subtle nuances found in limited copies of a book that make it unique from all other versions of the book.

It can be a misspelled word, forgotten paragraph, special binding, watermark, and a host of other things.

Points make old books worth a lot more money. Truly rare antiquarian books with valuable issue points require an old book search to be found.

Another valuable skill for you to have is to know how to remove book odors before selling them. Offensive odors like mildew and cigarette smoke can ruin a books' worth.

More Resources

You can spend years learning how to be an antiquarian book collector. But there are many resources available to help you along your way.

Review the book research tools found on this website. You can also try the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.

Any book published after 1972 typically comes with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). That makes it easy to find using the And finally, AbeBooks is a good place to look up collectible books too.

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