First Edition Book Values - How Much is a Book Worth? • Empty Mirror (2022)

What’s the Current Retail Value of Your Books?

determining value via online sources

How do you determine the ballpark current value of the one that’s on your desk right now?

It’s actually pretty simple to research book values online. Here’s how.

First, familiarize yourself with your book, taking careful note of copyright date, printing history (edition/printing), publisher, and other details. It’s also very important to know the condition grading terms that booksellers use, and which one applies to your book.

Then, you’ll want to visit one of the websites where booksellers list their books for sale.

AbeBooks is usually a good place to start. Just visit AbeBooks.com to search.

Or, use the form below to search AbeBooks.

First Edition Book Values - How Much is a Book Worth? • Empty Mirror (1)

Search:

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The “advanced search” option on the AbeBooks.com website includes more options than the basic form provided above; there you can also fill in publisher, year published, and other detail fields.)

Look at the results very carefully. Compare your book to the details of each book listed, comparing the publisher, year published, edition, condition, and any physical description of the book.

The details are important: If your copy is a 3rd printing, or a book club edition, it won’t have the same value as a first edition; if it shows obvious wear, it won’t sell for the same price as a copy in fine condition. A hardcover book published in 1958 by Viking isn’t the same as a reprint published by Penguin in 1963.

A signed book may command a somewhat higher price; how much, if any, will depend upon whether or not the signature is in demand. Again, pay close attention to detail, comparing what you have to what is advertised for sale.

When you’ve found some books that are like yours, compare prices. The current retail value of your book is probably somewhere in that neighborhood. (Once again, keep in mind that retail value is likely much different than the amount you’ll receive when you sell the book.)

Also, remember that asking prices are not always selling prices (see below for information on how to understand and interpret the prices you find online).

a note on unrealistically high prices

When searching online, you may come across a situation where there are, say, 10 copies of a book offered by various sellers at prices ranging from $5-10, and one offered at $50, or $200. Why is one of them $50 – or even more?

Well, there could be a good reason; it could be a more desirable copy of the book. But, it could also be that the seller is unrealistic about the book’s value. Or, he may be just trying to take advantage of the notion some people have that expensive must be better. (That’s not necessarily so!) There are a number of these type of sellers out there.

Please be careful when buying books online – don’t buy the same book for several times what you should! Pay careful attention to what’s being offered, and ask plenty of questions. A good bookseller will be glad to answer your questions.

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get an appraisal

Another route is to contact a local bookseller who offers appraisals. Check your local phone directory under “books, used – dealers” to find an appraiser. Or, contact a local auction house if you believe your books may be very valuable.

The Value of First Editions – Scarcity & Condition

scarcity

Not all first editions are valuable. Each book that’s published, of course, has a first edition. And that’s often the only edition.

However, for a first edition to have value, there must be a demand for it. If not, the fact that it’s a first edition doesn’t matter. Some books are published in such huge quantities that first editions are very common. Since they’re so plentiful, supply will remain high, and the prices will likely remain low.

Other books may not be plentiful at all – indeed, there may be no copies listed for sale anywhere – but if there’s no demand for it, the price will remain low.

The first editions worth most tend to be those published in small quantities – for example, an author’s first books, published before she was well-known. Another example would be a small-press or mimeo publication by a much-collected poet. In that case, the supply remains low while demand for rises.

condition

Another important factor in the value of a first edition (or any collectible book) is condition. If it has flaws, it will usually be worth significantly less than a copy in excellent (fine) condition. Book collectors tend to be fussy about such things and will pay a premium for a copy that looks like it just left the printing press.

There are (rare) exceptions. If the book is extremely scarce and high demand, even a copy in “good” condition may be in acceptable (though it will bring a much lower price). It all just depends on the book and current market conditions.

Please see our how to judge a book’s condition page to learn how to determine your book’s condition.

Only when you have a clear understanding of its condition can you go on to determine an approximate retail value.

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Understanding Book Prices

So, you want to find out the value of your book. Or, maybe you want to figure out a particular used book is priced reasonably. There’s no one answer, though you can usually determine a ballpark estimate by doing a little research.

Prices of books offered online (and in brick-and-mortar shops) will vary quite a bit. So, you need to be aware of the factors that determine selling prices, and take them with a grain of salt when trying to determine the value of a book you possess (or a fair asking price for a book you’re considering buying).

Where to Sell Your Books

Got a few books to sell? There are various ways to do so.

  • eBay. It’s easy, fast, and low-cost. Prices realized vary widely.
  • Your local used-book shop, whether general or in a specialty area. (see above).
  • You may be able to find a bookseller – perhaps in a specialty area relating to your book – online. Some dealers are loath to buy books online (they like to see them in person before buying), but many are open to buying books and ephemera that way.
  • If you have many books to sell, and are adept at describing them accurately using common bookselling terminology, you can sign up as a dealer at a bookselling venue such as Abebooks.com or Alibris.com. See our article, 10 places to sell your books online.
  • Large lots of desirable books may be saleable at a local auction house.
  • If you have valuable books, you might contact Pacific Book Galleries, a specialist auction house in San Francisco.

Consider that while you may (or may not!) potentially be able to get more for a book by selling it online (on eBay or another venue), there are costs involved in doing that. It may be worth to get a few dollars less from a local bookshop right now, than to spend the time & money required to photograph it, list it on eBay, answer questions about it, & ship it.

what will a dealer pay for your book?

When you sell a book to a dealer, you won’t receive the retail price (that’s the price at which he’ll offer it) but rather a percentage of that amount. Think of yourself as a wholesaler.

Dealers usually pay about 10-30% of the retail price of the book. So, if a dealer plans on pricing your book at $40, he may offer you anywhere between $4 and $12. A few (especially large, chain used bookstores) may pay less.

If the book is very special – in the dealer’s specialty area, extremely desirable, and he knows he can sell it right away – you may be offered more. But for most books, 40-50% is way too much to invest in a book that will sit on the shelf for a while.

Realize that just because you’ve seen a book offered for a particular price somewhere doesn’t mean that another dealer would value the book in the same way – or that it’s sellable to anyone at the higher price.

Some dealers may be willing to take special books on consignment, offering you a percentage (perhaps 50-60%) of the selling price.

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asking prices vs. selling prices

Keep in mind that prices listed online (and in brick-and-mortar shops) are asking prices, not selling prices. While there may be a copy of a particular book listed for $200, it may have been offered at that price without a sale for years. In the meantime, a dozen copies of the identical book (the same edition & condition) may have been sold by other dealers for just $50. So, $50 will be closer to the actual “value” of the book.

A book is only worth what someone is willing to pay.

determining asking prices

A dealer may take a number of factors into consideration when pricing books:

  • the current demand for the book amongst his customers
    (keep in mind that demand & economics vary from region to region)
  • the book’s edition & condition
  • if the book is signed or an association copy
  • how much they paid for the book
  • how much of a profit they need to make
  • if the book is in their specialty area
  • dealer’s knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about the book
  • how quickly copies of that book have sold in the past
  • how quickly they want to sell the book (see example below)
  • how many copies of the book are currently offered online or by local competitors
  • time taken to research the book (if any)
  • time taken to photograph the book (if any)
  • the dealer’s mood that day

on making a fast sale

Often the price of a book depends on how quickly the seller wants to sell the book.

For example, a hard-to-find book about 19th century maritime exploration might be reasonably priced at $1 at a garage sale (where a fast sale is desired, and where a buyer for an higher-priced book on a specialty topic may not be found). However, the same book might be reasonably priced at $75 if found in the shop of a bookseller who specializes in maritime or history books.

That bookseller may be willing to wait until a knowledgeable buyer, who collects that specialized kind of book and is willing to pay $75 comes into his shop. Or, he may not want to wait that long, so will perhaps price the book at $25 (about the cost of a new hardcover book) instead, hoping for a much faster sale.

The average person who may buy the book at the garage sale for $1 will probably not be willing to pay anywhere near $30 or $75; they may just think the book seems interesting and worth a dollar or two for a good read. (They may even be looking for books to resell on eBay, where books will typically sell for much less than they would in a specialty bookshop.)

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Denise Enck

Denise is Empty Mirror's founder and editor. She's edited several other literary magazines and small-press publications since the 1990s. When not at Empty Mirror, you can probably find her reading or writing -- or out exploring the back roads and beaches of Washington State.

FAQs

How do I find the value of a first edition book? ›

Dealers usually pay about 10-30% of the retail price of the book. So, if a dealer plans on pricing your book at $40, he may offer you anywhere between $4 and $12. A few (especially large, chain used bookstores) may pay less.

How do I find out what my book is worth? ›

In determining the value of a book there are three basic elements: 1) rarity, 2) condition, and, 3) demand. Books with the most value normally have all three of these elements, and the loss of any will likely result in a loss of value. Age of the book is not always a key factor in value.

Are paperback first editions worth anything? ›

If you're able to locate one of the editions numbered between 1-100, you should expect to pay in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When these have appeared on the market, they've sold for upwards of $250,000. Other numbered copies of the first edition are likely to sell for around $100,000.

How do you know if an old book is valuable? ›

To help find the value of your old books, there are many price comparison websites that can help. Bookscouter is a great option, as all the information that you need can be accessed easily. Using the search box on the website, add in the title and author of the book.

What makes a first edition book valuable? ›

First Books (Not First Editions)

(And many didn't enjoy a second.) What makes a valuable first edition is the perfect confluence of rarity and demand – which is why, while there are exceptions, an author's first book, typically printed for a small audience, is the one most likely to achieve impressive prices.

How can you tell if an old book is a first edition? ›

Look for the Words “First Edition” on the Copyright Page

This will fluctuate depending on the publishing house, but most publishers will designate that a book is a first edition on the copyright page.

What is considered an antique book? ›

Antique book values prove that age is just a number

Many serious and experienced antiquarian book collectors are focused on tracking down works from the 16th century and earlier. As most antique collectors and aficionados are aware, items are typically considered to be “antiques” if they are aged 100 years or older.

What makes a book collectible? ›

So what makes a book rare – and valuable? Unsurprisingly, the scarcity and uniqueness of the book is key. First editions and original bindings, signatures or inscriptions by the author or a famous owner are factors that can make a book more valuable.

What makes a book rare? ›

book which has an enhanced value because the demand for the book exceeds the supply, usually because of its importance, scarcity, age, condition, physical and aesthetic properties, association, or subject matter.

What is the difference between a first printing and a first edition? ›

What and Why First Editions. A first edition is the first printing of a book. It's true that a first edition may have one or more printings and that a second edition will normally be noted only if there are actual changes, usually major, in the text. But for a collector, a first printing is the only true first edition.

Are first edition library books worth anything? ›

Books that have been circulated in public libraries, "Ex-library" or "Ex-lib" books, as they are generally referred to within the hobby, have very little collectible value, even if they are first editions.

Are first editions a good investment? ›

When it comes to book investments, first edition books are key. They tend to be the most sought after by collectors, plus modern first editions can be easier to obtain as you don't need to get your hands on older releases in order to make a profit.

Where can I sell my books? ›

Where To Sell Used Books: 6 Of The Best Places Online (And In...
  • BookScouter. I like to start with BookScouter.com. ...
  • Half Price Books. ...
  • Amazon. ...
  • 4. Powell's Books. ...
  • Online Buy Back Programs. ...
  • Your local indie.
31 Oct 2017

What is a first edition book? ›

An edition comprises all the copies of a book printed from substantially the same setting of type (the particular arrangement of the letters). The first edition, therefore, is the very first group of books printed for a specific title, before any major changes to the text or page layout are made.

How much are 1st edition Harry Potter books worth? ›

Prices for first edition first printings go up to around $6,500 with a fair selection between $4,000 and $5,000 - many signed by the author - although cheaper copies can be found.

Are first editions more valuable? ›

The most important thing to keep in mind is that very few first editions are actually valuable. A book's market price is dependent on many factors, including condition, scarcity, and demand.

What is the original copy of a book called? ›

A book can go through several print cycles, sometimes with edits that add in author notes or additional material, so the book in its original form - during its initial release (or first printing) to the public - is what is generally defined as a first edition by collectors and sellers.

What do the numbers under first edition mean? ›

Number Lines:

Generally speaking, if the “1” is present, the book is a first edition (first edition, first printing). For the second printing, the “1” is removed, so the “2” is the lowest number present. For example, a number line that reads 5 6 7 8 9 indicates a fifth printing.

What does the number line in a book mean? ›

The number line, or printer's key, often seen on the copyright page of books is simply a method of record-keeping that helps identify the book's printing and, for some, year of printing a specific book, which may or may not be different than the original copyright date listed elsewhere on the page.

What are antique collectors looking for? ›

Consider Looking for Valuable Collectible Antiques

Original art, Depression glass, rare books, light fixtures, and other categories tend to have high value among antique collectors. If you keep an eye out for these items as you browse in thrift stores and antique shops, you can add value to your collection.

How do you tell how old a book is? ›

There are a couple of ways to find this out! Look inside the cover on the second or third page (the Edition notice or copyright page). You'll see a copyright year (or several, for a book with multiple editions).

What's the difference between vintage and antique? ›

In short, an antique is 100 yearsor older, while vintage is younger,though typically still prior to 1999. It's a relatively simple distinction,but not necessarily as importantas you think it might be.

Do books go up in value? ›

Unless a later book became a huge seller, an author's first book will always be the most valuable. This is typically because a first book is usually released with a small first print run. Old books that have something to say and look good will appreciate in value.

What is considered a collectible? ›

A collectible is an item worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and popularity, as well as its condition. Collectibles aren't always as common or as great an investment. The term collectible is sometimes applied to new items that have been mass-produced and are currently for sale.

What makes a book collectible on Amazon? ›

To be considered collectible, a book should be unique in a way that could reasonably be assumed to increase the book's value to a collector such as first editions and first printings; signed, inscribed or scare copies; and advance reading copies and uncorrected proofs of out-of-print books.

What if a book has no ISBN? ›

If your book does not have an ISBN, you will have to approach each outlet separately to ask them to list your title. ISBNs denote the official publisher of the book.

What is rare books in library? ›

A book that is distinguished by its early printing date, its limited issue, the special character of the edition or binding, or its historical interest. Origin of rare book. 1890-1895.

Are misprinted books worth money? ›

One of the most common misconceptions about books is that misprints make them rare or valuable. Unfortunately, while certain types of errors can contribute to a book's collectability, these alone will not increase the value of an otherwise inexpensive book.

Why doesnt my book have a number line? ›

The idea here is an elimination game. In most cases, the first number on that number line indicates what printing that copy was a part of. With each printing, the publisher removes a number from the line of numbers.

How many books are in a first printing? ›

A printing is one print run of a book. So if you ask the printer to print 10,000 copies of a book and then you sell them all and go back and ask for another 7,500 copies, the first 10,000 copies was the first printing; the next 7,500 copies was the second printing. Those two printings are in the same edition.

How do you tell if a Charles Dickens book is a first edition? ›

This is why many of our descriptions of Dickens's novels say “first edition, bound from parts”. A good way to tell if a copy is bound from the original parts is by checking for stab holes, tiny holes in the gutter (the margin adjacent to the spine) left by the needle when the parts were originally bound in wrappers.

What is the rarest book? ›

When you look at every other book that is one-of-a-kind, and you factor in how sought after this one is, it's safe to say that Codex Leicester is the rarest book in the world. It was last sold at an auction in 1994 to Bill Gates for $30.8 million, which is nearly $51 million in today's currency.

How do I sell my book to a library? ›

6 Steps to Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries
  1. Research, research, research. ...
  2. Nice people finish first. ...
  3. Create a sell sheet. ...
  4. Show off (persuade) a little. ...
  5. Ensure your book is available from library wholesalers. ...
  6. Offer to do an event. ...
  7. Librarian pitch template. ...
  8. For more insight.
21 Nov 2019

Does restoring a book decrease value? ›

In most cases however, where a high spot is in bad shape, restoration actually has a positive effect on its value, unless the book is in fact considered to be an artifact. In such case, preservation rather than restoration is more appropriate.

Is there a market for rare books? ›

Although COVID may be disrupting specific industries, the rare book market is still booming, with books worth more than $100,000 easily selling at auction as of 2022 – 2023. The difference between how small booksellers and sellers of rare and antique books have fared during the pandemic is wide.

Where can I list Rare books? ›

Both the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of American (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) provide lists of affiliated book dealers in the U.S. and internationally, and you can search for shops according to the bookseller's field or specialty.

Are books worth investing? ›

Books are one of the best investments you can make. If it is a good book it will worth every penny. It will pay itself many times along your life. And you can keep it forever and read it many times you want, they won't disappear like the drinks you bought last night.

Can you tell if a book is first edition by the ISBN number? ›

Generally speaking, if the “1” is present, the book is a first edition (first edition, first printing). For the second printing, the “1” is removed, so the “2” is the lowest number present. For example, a number line that reads 5 6 7 8 9 indicates a fifth printing.

How do you tell what year a book was printed? ›

There are a couple of ways to find this out! Look inside the cover on the second or third page (the Edition notice or copyright page). You'll see a copyright year (or several, for a book with multiple editions).

What is the difference between a first edition and a first printing? ›

What and Why First Editions. A first edition is the first printing of a book. It's true that a first edition may have one or more printings and that a second edition will normally be noted only if there are actual changes, usually major, in the text. But for a collector, a first printing is the only true first edition.

What does the number line in a book mean? ›

The number line, or printer's key, often seen on the copyright page of books is simply a method of record-keeping that helps identify the book's printing and, for some, year of printing a specific book, which may or may not be different than the original copyright date listed elsewhere on the page.

What does CN mean on a book? ›

Sometimes book club editions will display full publishing data, sometimes they won't. I don't have solid data to back this up yet, but CN is probably referencing an in-house catalog number.

Why doesnt my book have a number line? ›

The idea here is an elimination game. In most cases, the first number on that number line indicates what printing that copy was a part of. With each printing, the publisher removes a number from the line of numbers.

How much is a first edition Harry Potter book worth? ›

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The main characteristics of a 1997 first edition first issue are a print line that reads 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 and the crediting of "Joanne Rowling", not JK. Prices on AbeBooks vary from $40,000 to $55,000. A handful of advance proof copies are available from $7,500 to $13,500. '

What is considered an antique book? ›

Antique book values prove that age is just a number

Many serious and experienced antiquarian book collectors are focused on tracking down works from the 16th century and earlier. As most antique collectors and aficionados are aware, items are typically considered to be “antiques” if they are aged 100 years or older.

When did they start putting dates in books? ›

When Did Books Start Having Publishing Dates? Books have been around for centuries, but it was not until the early 15th century that they began to be printed with publishing dates. This practice became more common in the 16th and 17th centuries, as books became more widely available and affordable.

Why would a book not have a copyright date? ›

The book could be in the public domain for some reason. Therefore no one would own the copyright to it. The copyright may have expired or the copyright owner may have released it to the public domain, or it may not have been eligible for federal copyright in the first place.

How many books are printed in a first edition? ›

For example: a publisher preparing a brand new book sets the type and prints 1000 copies–this is the first edition, first impression.

How many books are in a first printing? ›

A printing is one print run of a book. So if you ask the printer to print 10,000 copies of a book and then you sell them all and go back and ask for another 7,500 copies, the first 10,000 copies was the first printing; the next 7,500 copies was the second printing. Those two printings are in the same edition.

How can you tell if you have a first edition Mockingjay? ›

The first edition is clearly identified by a photograph of Harper Lee credited to Truman Capote on the back of the dust jacket. Later printings replaced the photo with praise for the novel. The book was not made well: the binding tends to loosen upon reading, and the dark red dust jacket rubs and chips easily.

What is ISBN number on books? ›

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. The ISBN is intended for a monographic publication: text that stands on its own as a product, whether printed, audio or electronic.

What does first trade edition mean? ›

First Trade Edition

First trade editions are another type of printing distributed for general commercial sale. They fall into the category of a true first edition if they are printed simultaneously with the original book.

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