These standards are from the International
Book Collectors Association (IBCA), and the Independent Online Booksellers Association
(IOBA). They assume that you are describing both the book and the jacket in a
single grade. AN/VF/Mint
- As New/Very Fine/Mint is to be used only when the book is in the same
immaculate condition in which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing
pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one)
must be perfect, without any tears. (Note: very few "new" books qualify for this
grade, as many times there will be rubs/scuffs to the dustjackets from shipping,
or bumped lower spine ends/corners from shelving)
Currently most dealers will describe the book and dust
jacket separately like this: F/VG - a book in fine condition with a dust jacket
in very good condition.
- Fine approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For
the use of the term Fine there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket
has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted. (The dustjacket
may have been slightly rubbed or spine ends slightly bumped from shelving/shipping)
NF - Near Fine is approaching FINE but with
a couple of very minor defects or faults
VG - Very
Good can describe a used book that does show some small signs of wear -
but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.
G - Good describes the average used and worn book
that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.
is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates)
but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket
(if any), etc. may also be worn. All defects must be noted.
Copy describes a book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is
as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible.
Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed,
stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
- Ex-library copies must always be designated as such no matter what the
condition of the book.
Book Club editions
must always be noted as such no matter what the condition of the book.
Binding Copy describes a book in which the pages
or leaves are perfect but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or nonexistent.
Dustjacket - in all cases, the lack of
a dustjacket should be noted if the book was issued with one.
terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or
misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing
the book. When in doubt, describe the book exactly as it is, as to physical condition,
textual reading, and edition.
Note: The IBCA discourages the
practice of elevating a book's condition from its actual physical appearance based
on age. Even if a given old book is in great shape for its age, but its physical
condition is still just that, and description of condition should follow the standards
Taking Care of Books
no point collecting books if you don't look after them...Don't
write in your books. If you already have put your name in them, accept
this and deal with it. Don't scribble it out with a pen or marker or white out
- this is worse still. If for any reason you have a need to put your name in a
book, do it in pencil.
Shelving. Place books
vertically on shelves that have more height and depth than you need, so that only
one edge of the book needs to be in contact with the shelf. Very large books should
be placed horizontally. Shelves without backboards are better, they give the air
more chance to circulate. The best places for shelves are away from sunlight,
warmth and moisture, which rules out much of the house, and means definitely not
the garage or basement. A few whole cloves in the corners of bookshelves will
prevent mildew. A dark room, that is cool and dry will be best (did I just describe
Storing. The best place is on
a shelf. If you are out of room, use boxes. In boxes they should be upright, as
if they are on shelves. You may have noticed overstocked used book stores doing
this. Do not stack the boxes! If you need more space efficiency, lay the books
down flat, but make sure that their spines are square and not twisted. Do not
wrap books with newspaper - it is very acidic.
Jacket Protectors. Use them. These are the clear plastic covers that public
libraries use - and they know what they are doing. Do not seal the actual books
with plastic, for mold could develop.
Bugs and rodents love books. The worst offenders include cockroaches, silverfish,
mice and termites. The ideal room (dry, dark and cool) will naturally have less
critters, and even less again if it is kept clean. Any bug remedy (spray, powder)
will harm books, so cover them and be careful.
Give them a wipe every year or so. Use a feather duster. Image a movie from the
1940's. Imagine a mansion, and in that mansion, in the library, a maid in a black
and white outfit is cleaning. Be that maid.
odors. Place the book in a bag of crumpled newspapers overnight. The newspaper
will absorb the musty odor. Otherwise, you can try pouring a few inches of cat
litter or baking soda or charcoal into a plastic container with a tight fitting
lid. In a smaller container place the offending book. Do not put a lid on the
smaller container. Place the smaller container into the larger container. Put
a lid on the larger container. Books may be left in the container for up to one
Reading. Be gentle. Have clean hands.
Don't eat at the same time. Don't lick your fingers to turn pages - that's disgusting,
as well as acidic. If you use bookmarks, use thin ones.
everyone owns a book, and many of us may be very proud of how many we have accumulated.
But are they collectible? Consider the following criteria:Generally
Not Collectible - The vast majority of books, especially paperbacks, book
club editions and mass printings of hardcovers. The latest Stephen King horror
novel is, by definition of its popularity, not a collectible. Also (in general!)
most encyclopedias, textbooks, dictionaries, popular fiction without dust jackets,
Reader's Digest condensed books, romance, magazines after 1960, "family bibles"
and non-illustrated Bibles (after 1790) are not collectable.
- Try getting a copy of A
Handbook for Booklovers: A Survey of Collectible Authors, Books, and Values
Condition - The lesser the condition, the less
collectible and valuable it will be.
- Prize-winning books have been voted as the best books in a given field. This
gives them a stamp of quality. The first edition (which came out before the awards
were decided) will not have Blah Blah Award Winner on the cover. Well known
prizes include: Pulitzer, National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner, Hugo or Nebula (sci-fi)
and the Booker Prize (British).
Age - An
old book isn't necessarily valuable. However there are some rough guidelines that
indicate when a book might be worth something:
All books printed before
English books printed before 1641
American books printed before
American books (west of the Mississippi) printed before 1850
First Edition - Most books are only ever printed
as a first edition, and most of those only have one print run. With books that
have muliple editions, the first edition will usually be the most valuable. First
editions usually say "First Edition" or "First Printing" on the page after the
title page. A second edition will contain different content to the first edition.
Different printings of the same edition will usually be exact replicas, except
for the print date. Check dates to be sure of a first printing of a first edition.
First Books - These can be obscure tomes
that just didn't sell, yet gained curiousity value when the author's subsequent
books did do well. The combination of a small print run and future fame of the
author can make these books especially valuable.
- Single volumes of sets or incomplete sets are not usually worth much.
Limited Editions - Sometimes, a book will have a
deliberately small print run, usually less than 1500 copies. They are better than
regular editions. They are often signed by the author.
- Of course any book signed by the author is more valuable than one that isn't.
Understand though, that signatures can be forged, and that the signature of a
notoriously reclusive writer will be worth more than one who does in-store book-signings
every other day. If the book is Inscribed with a
hand-written note by the author it becomes more collectable. If the note is addressed
to another famous person, it will be extremely collectable.
This is really difficult. Each
publisher will have their own codes and ways of indicating a first edition. Be
wary of any simple "rules" you may read, for they will just be generalisations
that won't always work. There are 3 ways of finding out:
the book with those listed online as first editions. Often the dealer's description
will contain a lot of detail.
- Get an appraisal
from a dealer
- Consult a book on the topic,
Guide to the Identification of First Editions (a cheap general guide)
of Issue : A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19th-20th Century Authors
( lists specific books)
Editions : A Guide to Identification (authorative)
Prize - First Edition Guide - every winner covered
Porretta - Antiquarian who does book appraisals
Price Guide Reviews
Infography about Book Collecting - online and print resources, recommended
by an expert
- is a good source for Book Collection Software
Network - portal covering anything collectable
- a communal weblog for book lovers
Book Repairs, Binding, Restoration
- Vinegar Hill Books / Google
For a professional online book appraisal
Books you might like
Gentle Madness : Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
for Book Collectors - This seventh edition of John Carter's classic text contains
in-depth descriptions of every aspect of antique and modern book collecting from
A to Z
Collecting 2000 : A Comprehensive Guide - Big reference book
Guide to Children's Books 1850 to 1950 : Identification & Values