When you’re out shopping at your favorite market or antique store, participate in the long, illustrious tradition of book collecting. Of course, you can just pick up titles that catch your eye or have beautiful covers, but if you want to start a library-worthy collection of your own, check out these tips.
Choose what kind of books to collect.
The number of books on the market, both new and vintage, is overwhelming. Narrow down your choices by choosing a type of collection. You can collect by several different methods:
Collect by genre. You can choose any kind of book, from vintage school textbooks and dictionaries to classic literature or stories you read as a child. But whatever genre you choose, make sure it’s a subject you love. You won’t keep interest for long if you start your collection simply for the sake of collecting.
Collect by author. You can shape your collection around a specific author or a group of authors. Collect texts by famous poets like Shakespeare and Robert Burns, or stick to modern literary geniuses such as T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Wolfe.
Collect by aesthetic. This method is a bit different because you’ll look at each book as an art piece instead of searching for books by their content. Try collecting music books with interesting graphics or hardback books with bindings from the 19th century.
Find the right books for your collection.
Once you’ve decided what you want to collect, keep an eye out for books that fit into your collection. When you find a book, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you purchase it:
Condition. Book sellers categorize the condition of their stock with the same set of terms. A book in “As New” or “Fine” condition has very little wear, with no loose pages, stains or writing. “Good” and “Fair” books may have some writing, wear on the binding and a few dog-eared pages. Beware of books in “Poor” condition, which may have a torn, stained or missing cover, and missing pages inside.
Edition. The first printing of a book, also called the first edition, can be very valuable, especially if the book has gained popularity over the years and had a small initial print run. To tell if a copy is a first edition, check the copyright information inside the book against the book’s publication year. If the copy mentions any other years, it’s not a first edition. Some books will also contain a “First edition” label.
Dust Jacket. You’re in luck if the book you’re after has its original dust jacket. This will make the book more valuable because dust jackets are so easy to lose and tear. For example, a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby without its original dust jacket is worth about $2,000, but a copy with its dust jacket will sell for over $190,000 because the dust jacket artwork is so famous.
Above all, do you homework. Become familiar with the kind of book you want to collect and the typical price ranges for the author’s work or genre of books. Then get out there and start looking!
If you’re still interested, here are a couple additional resources for you:
Abe Books is a good resource to find and become familiar with old and rare books. Peter Harrington also has a wide range of information about rare books, including a great article on first editions.