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What is a Book Appraisal?

Book appraisers can estimate the value of rare books.
Used bookstores commonly engage in book appraisals.
Book appraisals determine of the value of a book.
First editions of books are more valuable.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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A book appraisal is a determination of the value of a book. Book appraisal is a routine part of the work at used bookstores and antique firms which handle books, and both of these types of businesses are good sources of recommendations for book appraisers. For laypeople who are not familiar with the ins and outs of book values, getting a book appraisal can be very important before selling or disposing of a book.

Book appraisers consider a number of factors when they assess a book to determine its value. The condition of the book is one factor, but so is the title, the edition, and the rarity of the book. Considered together, these factors can be used to build a picture of how much the book would sell for on the open market or at auction, and the estimate of value will be included in the appraisal report.

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Just because a book is old doesn't mean it is valuable, and the same holds true for first editions. A faded, shopworn volume may be quite valuable because of its rarity, while a pristine book with an author's autograph may be of little interest. In order to know how much a book is worth, someone needs experience in the book dealing and literature trade. Many book dealers have stories about finding diamonds in the rough at thrift stores, yard sales, and other peculiar places, illustrating the fact that the value of a book is often hidden. Unscrupulous dealers may even knowingly pay a very low price to an unwary seller for a book which they know to be valuable in order to profit.

There are a number of reasons to seek out book appraisal. For collectors of rare books, having a book appraised before purchase, if possible, is a very good idea, and appraisals can also raise the sale value of a book, when they are conducted by a reputable source. Some people also like to specifically insure their rare and valuable books, in which case the appraisal may be required by the insurance appraisal. Appraisal may also be requested in the course of valuing an estate.

As with any type of appraisal, it is a good idea to get a book appraisal from a neutral party, to ensure that the appraisal is honest and the valuation is fair. Insurance companies, bookstores, antique dealers, and auction houses can all make recommendations, and people should avoid having a book appraised by someone who has an interest in the sale of the book.

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croydon
Post 3

@pleonasm - Well, it's not only old books that are valuable. Take the Lost Girls book by Alan Moore. He couldn't find a publisher for it, so he and his wife did it together and there aren't a huge amount of copies. It's sexually explicit so many bookstores won't carry it and those that do can charge up to $100 for it.

Whether or not you agree that the story is worth reading, it's a valuable item nonetheless and will only increase in value, no doubt. Treating it cavalierly seems just as much of a mistake as treating a pair of diamond earrings badly.

And the most valuable books are that way because they have history and a story of their own. They aren't just a copy of Pride and Prejudice, they are the copy that Jane gave to her mother (for example). Owning something like that would be like owning history and I would love to be able to do it.

pleonasm
Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I'd rather just have copies of the books that I could read. With first editions and other valuable books you need to have a property appraisal for insurance and you need to make sure they aren't exposed to sunlight and to damp air and to so many other things to protect them.

To me, books are there to be read. I appreciate the idea of people collecting them, but it can be taken too far. Look at comic book collectors, who might never even take the book out of a bag.

I'd rather be able to fish my books out of a pocket and read them at my leisure without having to worry about breathing on them.

KoiwiGal
Post 1

It is a lot of fun to go into a thrift store and try and find a valuable book, or at least a first edition. One of my most thrilling finds was a first edition of a book that had been signed by the author. It was relatively recent and it probably has no extra value, but I love it just the same.

I would love to be able to make a small collection of more valuable books though. If you want to find those through the thrift stores you'd really need to know what you're looking for, because if something was obviously valuable it would already be snapped up a priced accordingly.

Likewise, you can check out books that go through estate sales and similar. But you'd really need to know what you're looking for and I don't have the time to research that kind of information on book appraisals.

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