for the beginning collector of books:
Internet explosion has fundamentally changed the world of book collecting, in
ways both good and bad. The sheer
quantity of books available, and the ease of searching for them, are a
tremendous boon to collectors. On
the other hand, the Internet has introduced big business into a world formerly
inhabited mostly by quiet, collegial booklovers. Overall, the benefits for the book collector probably
outweigh the dangers, and by following our advice we think you can make your
collection experience both fun and low-risk.
have always been rogues and thieves in the book trade, of course.
Luckily, book collectors have the same powerful tool today for finding
legitimate dealers that they have had for 50 years—the ABAA.
The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America lends its logo only
to ethical dealers who will describe books professionally and send them when
promised. To be a member of the ABAA, a book dealer must have been in
business at least four years, be of good character, and have a spotless
reputation. Disputes with dealers
are resolved quickly and firmly by the ABAA Ethics Committee, which is also
responsible for the association’s code of ethics. As a beginning collector, you will do well to consult the
ABAA’s website, at www.abaa.org, for the
names of reputable booksellers in your field.
considering a book dealer close to home, the beginning collector’s most
important resources are word of mouth and common sense.
HOW MUCH IS
THAT BOOK WORTH? Value depends on four
factors: Content, author,
manufacture, and condition.
- If the book’s subject matter is of lasting interest, the value will be
higher. Among our books, for
example, arctic exploration is always a popular subject.
Most books about popular culture, such as television programs or kids’
collectibles, will not fare so well over the long term.
- In general, bestsellers do not outlast their authors’ appearances on the
talk-show circuit. That said, some
popular authors, such as Stephen King, produce books that are in demand for many
years to come. If you truly believe
in an author, buy first editions as they are published, store them carefully,
and your grandchildren may be glad you did.
After all, if your ancestor had been a fan of Walt Whitman, wouldn’t
you be grateful?
- A book that is manufactured with care and good-quality materials simply will
be worth more than a cheaper version. For
example, there is no contest between a full leather folio edition, AEG (all
edges gilt) of a volume on hummingbirds and the same book on cheap paper with
- How close a book is today to its original condition will play a vital part in
its value. A Fine (see definition
below) copy of the first edition of John Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez in dust
jacket will be worth far more than the same book discarded from the public
HOW DO I KNOW
IF IT’S A FIRST EDITION? Simple
- it usually says so. Check the
front and back of the title page. Different
dates or publishers means this is not a first edition.
DO THOSE CRYPTIC LETTERS MEAN?
Dealers who describe books in writing invariably use a shorthand.
Here’s the terminology you’ll see most:
- book club edition; usually cheaper version of first edition, shunned by
- Book of the Month Club edition; usually cheaper version of first edition,
shunned by serious collectors
bds - boards;
covers, same as cvs
· crnrs bmpd - book corners bent inward, frequently with loss of cloth on the edges
- book has been checked for the presence of plates (pictures) and maps, and any
cvs - covers; the
outer covering of a book
D/J - dust jacket;
the paper cover on most hardbound books
Ex-lib - former library
book with stamps, discard notices, and the like
F - fine
condition; fewer flaws than many new books
- front free end-paper; fly leaf
ed. - first edition;
first printing of a book
pr. - first printing
hge strt -
front hinge starting; a serious fault, the cover separating from the body of the
hge tndr -
front hinge tender; front hinge showing signs of separation (not as serious as
frt hge strt), so book must be handled carefully
G - Good
condition; a book that can be in sad shape; all faults must be described
- a perfect copy; rarely used term, because it indicates no flaw at all
VG - usual used
book condition; presence of dust jacket is described in same manner, e.g.,
“VG in VG” means a Very Good copy in a Very Good dust jacket
- front; often used in reference to title page; often indicates a new date or
- usually printed by a publisher other than the original one, frequently with
inferior paper and binding
- title page
- back; often used in reference to title page; generally contains publishing