June 23, 2019
“What is my old book is worth?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in the rare book world. It is understandable with TV shows showing newly discovered treasures emerging form attics and indeed, while this is not frequently the case, there are a lot of valuable books that lie around unnoticed, get inherited, or pop up in unexpected places.
We run a sister site devoted to evaluating old and rare books at RareBookBuyer.com and certainly you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or text me photos at 6464691851 if you would like me to evaluate something.
There are other excellent resources on-line that one can use as well.
1. For retail prices of other books on the market, you can do a keyword search on VIA LIBRI. Keep in mind these are retail ASKING prices and one must be careful to compare edition and condition etc. Also, it is good to reverse price order the books and look at the lowest priced copies – all being equal, you would probably look at the cheapest price available if you were buying.
2. For Auction results there is a useful subscriber site called RareBookHub which has become a bit of an indispensable and frequently consulted tool in the trade. These are actual sale prices – albeit they usually include the buyer’s commission. When considering what you would get for a book with a comparable listings, one must reasonably remove the auction house commission and fees which can get close to 40% these days.
3. For a rough determination of rarity, Worldcat.org is a decent database (albeit sometimes error prone and a bit confusing with microfilm copies). It often lists institutional holdings of rare books. If there are many library holdings, the book may not be considered particularly rare – albeit it could still be rare in commerce.
4. For a professional and FREE evaluation, you are welcome to contact me with photos or one of my many colleagues in the ABAA. I also travel for larger collections nationwide.