Before you start to seriously go out and buy books, you need to learn some terminology and become familiar with book publishing and production process. For example, while most people think of book collecting only in terms of the final product as it appeared in the bookstore, there are other elements of a book that are more valuable, more elusive, and more heavily collected. Plus, the more you know about the history of books and how books are constructed, the more finely tuned your critical senses will be, and the more you’ll appreciate finding a truly good book. This article is an attempt to educate and provide you with resources to get you started in book collecting.
For the collector, there are three primary things to consider when buying a book: EDITION, CONDITION and SCARCITY in this condition and edition.
Understanding these areas is the different between success and failure, between being able to build a collection of treasures and an assortment of reading copies, between being able to collect and sell for money, or just going out and buying a lot of worthless books.
Parts of a Book
*Cover- To put something over or upon, as to protect, conceal or enclose. Dustcover.
*Spine-The back part of the book and it faces outward when you shelf the book right.
*Title Page- The page at the beginning of the book, usually containing the title of the book and the names of the author and publisher.
*Copyright Page-Where the copyright date is found.
*Dedication Page-Its the place where the author dedicates the book to someone.
*Table of Contents-A list of the books contents, arranged by chapter, section, subsection, Etc…
*Forward- An introduction by person other than the author, and it is usually a famous person..
*Text (or Body)-The actual words of the book
*Glossary-A list of hard words with their meanings often printed in the back of the book.
*Bibliography- A list of books, articles, etc. Used or referred by the author at the end of the book.
*Index-A list of subjects and names in alphabetical order at the end of the book.
*ISBN-International Standard Book Numbers–is a ten digit number that uniquely identifies books and look-like products published internationally.
The used and collectible book market divides into three neat categories:reading copy, antiquarian, and modern first edition.
Are books you can take to the beach or into a bathtub. They’re the largest part of the book market, and they’re everywhere. If you buy a book with anything in mind other than collecting, you’re buying a reading copy.
Antiquarian book lovers seek out classic old volumes—editions of Scott, Wordsworth, the Bay Psalm Book, examples of fine printing and binding from centuries past.
Modern first edition collectors tend to limit themselves to this century, to the writers who have defined the times we live in, such as Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Faulkner.
The first step to being a good book scout is to take a look at your own bookshelves at home.
This is going to be your opening stock, so take a minute to appraise what you own. Do you have a lot of paperbacks with cracked spines and tattered covers? Or do you have a nice selection of good hardbacks neatly care for, books you brought as soon as they came out? The fact that you own books at all shows that you’re a lover of books, which is the first step to becoming a serious collector.
First Edition or Printing
So, obviously, you’ve got to learn how to identify first editions to avoid making costly mistakes. After all, if you think it’s a first and you turn out to be wrong after paying a premium. The problem is, nearly every publisher has its own method of identified first editions. You can memorize the policies of every single publisher in the history of the book trade, and even then you’ll make mistakes, because all of the rules have exceptions. On my shelves, and on on the shelves of every collector I know, there are at least a few books that looked like a first of first, but turn out later to be plain old books instead.
As general rule, there are two things to look for right off the bat:a statement of edition, or a number line.
The statement of edition is exactly that: on the copyright page, the book says “FIRST EDITION” or “SECOND EDITION” or FIFTY-THIRD EDITION.” Or if not “edition” it will say “printing”. With lots of publishers that’s all you’ll need to find.
Unfortunately, some publishers don’t remove the edition slug from subsequent printings; or sometimes a book club edition will state that it’s a first; or sometimes there’s nothing stated at all.
The next thing to look for is the number line. This is a sequence of numbers which, on the first, usually go from 1 to 10 (some publishers will go 1 to 5 and then the five years around the year of publication: for example, 123459495969798); it may be in order, or it may start with 1 on the left, the 2 on the right, and so forth, with the 10 in the middle. Look for the 1. On every publisher employing a number line except Random House, a number line with a 1 is a first edition. Random House, just to be sure that no one can ever be sure, use a 2 on the number line and the “FIRST EDITION” slug.
There are some publishers who indicate a first edition by not indicating it. If you don’t see anything that says it’s a second or third edition, then it must be a first. There are other publisher who code the information into the book somewhere, but it isn’t always easy to find.
Those three checks will help you identify most books from most publishers, but not all.
These little differences, about where the photographs should be, wrong lines printed in the book, etc., are known as points.
The easiest way to start learning points is the obvious one: pay close attention to the better price guides, which rarely fail to list the major points. Never just look at the price, look at the entire entry.
Because points are so vital, it’s time to introduce one of themes of this article: to collect successfully, it is important to specialize to a large extent. You are never going to learn the full field of points, of every single detail differing in every single book. In the comfort of a used book shop, maybe the owner has time to run back to check twenty reference books to research points.
But you are standing in the store, looking at the book, and you’re not sure, you’re on your own. If you’re specialized, you’ve got a better chance of coming up with the right answer. This is not to say you should never go out of your field; but in your field, go for depth. Learn everything you can. If you’re a science fiction fan, a modern lit fan, a devotee of travels and voyages, there are specialized bibliographies and reference books you can use to track down and discover new points.If you’re interested in children’s books, study the authors, and pay attention to every detail of the book in your hand.
We’ eve looked at the details of the edition; now it’s time to look at the details of condition. You can own a copy of the rarest book in the world, and if the boards are off, the hinges sprung, if there’s writing and foxing on the pages and heavy water damage along the edges, all you got is a lump of worthless paper. For a first edition book to be collectible, there is nothing that affects the price as much as condition. Even the rarest first, if trashed, is just trash, not a collectible book.
Dust Jackets/Dust Wrappers
It is the condition of the dust jacket that determines the largest percentage of the book’s price—-some dealers estimate as much as 80%—-and so this is where you should start grading. A wonderful book without a dust cover is just a reading copy. Collectors want prime dust jackets.
That’s what they see first, that’s what’s displayed on the shelf, so the dust jacket should be treated like cash money.
When grading a book, look at the dust jacket first, and then move on to the book itself. When you look at catalogs, you’ll see most dealers will give one grade for the book itself, and another for the dust jacket. The whole package is important, but the dust jacket has priority. Without exception for books produced in the last 40 years, there is nothing more important for the book’s value than the dust jacket.
Grades are given in descending order: Very Fine, Fine, Near Fine, Very Good, Poor.
* Very Fine–A book that is in perfect condition There are no sign that the book has every been read. The dust jacket is bright and shiny as it was the day it came off the press. No signs of rubbing, bumping, chips, dents, dings, or creases. Book should be tight, creaks with you open it and does not fall open to any particular page of section. No ownership marks on any of the book.
* Fine–It is a small step down. A tiny bump or two is allowed. The book may have been read, but very carefully. The dust jacket has lost some of its sheen, bit it is still intact, with no tears or chips in it.
* Very Good–A book that is physically intact, dust cover on and reasonably unmarred. A book that has some basic flaws. These are the books on most people shelves. The dust jacket may have rubbing, a tear or two and a couple chips. It could be sun-faded.
* Good–A Book in reading condition only. Dust jacket will have serious problems–Large chips, tears, and price clipping (were someone cup the price tag off) are to be expected. Book may have stains, hinges torn loose from spine.
* Poor–The final condition before the recycle bin
* Library Markings: There is one other thing that makes a book worthless:library markings. These may be a stamp with the library’s name on it, the glue from a return-card pocket, or stickers on the dust jacket.
To be a good book scout, you have to keep your eyes open at all times. Never drive by a place that might have books for sale. You can find books at Book Auctions, Garage Sales, Estate Sales, PTA Auctions, Antique Stores, Book Fairs, Thrift Shops, Goodwill, etc.
Tools to use when you are Book Scouting.
1. Allen and Patricia Ahearn’s Collected Books:The Guide to Values.
2. Book Prices:Used and Rare
3. Mandeville’s Used Book Price Guide
These three guides will cover a good percentage of the book market.
These two sites are great for founding and getting prices on books.
A supply of dealer catalogs can teach you more about the currency book market and current prices than anything else.
Never, ever throw a price guide or a catalog away. Updates do not always have the same books. You may often find yourself scrambling through a stack of material, looking for what year a particular book first showed up. With some practice, it’s not that difficult to prorate the market and update material yourself, and the old guides are a valuable source of information. Beside which, watching how the guides change can teach you how the market has changed, and whether the prices you’re paying or asking are fair. Pricing a book is an art form in and of itself and one you can never be entirely sure of.
* Editions and Points Guides
1. Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler’s First Editions
2. A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions
I recommend owning both guides.
*Books about Collecting Books
1. Modern Book Collecting By Robert Wilson
2. Understanding Book Collecting by Grant Uden
3. How to buy Rare Books by William Rees-Mogg
All three books are excellent in getting you started.
*Book Buying Tools
1. Scoul Pal– Check out their scanner system that adapts to any cell phone. Scanner are simple and easy to use. You just scan the barcode containing the ISBN or UPC number and ScoutPal will present concise results, including a summary of market prices and quantities, sales rank, editions and availability, and used/new/collectible details.
2. AsellerTool– Check out their scanner system too.
Spotting Trends and Picking Authors
Like all other fields, the book market moves in cycles.There is more short-term money in spotting trends than there is in buying classic writers, but there is also a lot more risk. Trends come and go, while the classic authors more slowly but steadily.
Which is one of the reasons why it’s important, even in books you’re planning to deal, to buy things you like. There is no telling when you’ll get struck with them. If you are a collector, simply buy what you love. You can never go wrong doing that. Dealers have to look at things a bit differently.
What you must remember is that all hot books have their day, and that day almost invariably comes to an end, sooner or later. If you’re buying a book for resale, not just for collecting, it’s important that you constantly monitor the price guides and the catalogs for fluctuations in value.
When picking authors watch for cycles. Watch for books in new categories. Some writers have a strong enough visions that they are indefinable, and these writers tend to to be especially collectible in their early works. Tom Clancy is one.
So watch for what’s new, for who’s on the cutting edge, because even if you look at classic collectible books, you’ll see that those authors, too, were pushing the envelope. That’s what’s made them worthwhile for so long: Hemingway’s restrained prose; Steinbeck’s social consciousness. T. S. Eliot reinvented poetry, as did Allen Ginsberg. That’s why their books are still sought after, still read and discussed.
There is nothing as lovely as an autographed book. It has a special feel that cannot be matched by any other copy. This copy was in the author’s hand, before it came to you.
Signed copies are always at a premium. Everybody wants a copy of a book that has passed through the hands of a favorite author.
There are two kinds of signed books. Limited editions, which were produced to be signed. Signed trade editions are the copies that fans and hopeful dealers have taken up to the author and gotten signed themselves.