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Over 60,000 English titles worldwide are published every year. Many are school textbooks. Other big categories are popular retail sale publications. Books written for the public library market, such as how-to books, represent another large market. However, used books possess a dimension beyond that of other merchandise. Books are cultural artifacts. Some carry emotional baggage. Old books may have spiritual and perhaps intellectual values; they rarely have monetary value. The monetary value of most books relates to the demand for them; value is only important if demand supports it. How does one determine books that need appraising? And what are books of value that command real money? A book is worth what someone will pay for it, and a book’s price during the year can vary widely. A book appraisal is an informative opinion, an estimate of value at a particular place and a specific time. I recommend a written appraisal for the purposes of estate planning. Book appraisals are also useful for charitable donations and insurance purposes. In the unfortunate event of fire or theft, an appraisal for the approximate replacement value is great to have. A worthwhile appraisal will cover, in writing, the degrees of similarities to other books of similar value, the books’ circumstances, book market conditions (such as normal, “deflated” and “hot”) as well as whether the item is “not commonly sold in the market.” Some books will have a value that depends on where they were purchased and the market conditions at the time of sales. It is well known in the book trade that in the “reasonable foreseeable future, value cannot always be predicted.” In times of financial downturn, the book market usually is off. Too many books on a topic, regardless of quality, can have a negative influence on value. Is the book considered a regional scarcity, or is it commonly available? The highest number of book shop dealers and libraries in the United States are located on the East Coast, but an expanding number of retired book collectors and collections are moving to the South and West. Because the market is different, prices do range in different places. Unlike stamps, coins, comic books and paperback books that have price guides, the majority of titles in the book field are a lot less regimented, with fewer price guides. Unfortunately, no single reference work or “price guide” can be relied upon to provide the current values of books, nor is there any simple way to explain in a few words how such values are determined. It takes experience working with books to interpret values. For many book collectors the absence of consistency and regimentation remain attractive features. However, books with good contents, which are often quoted or used for authoritative information and illustrations, have a long life and increasing value. Many collectors prefer first editions because they are the closest to the original thought of the author — first editions directly represent the author’s dreams and desires. Literature collectors will pay a premium for the first edition and the first printing with an original dust jacket. Books with jackets or wrappers, typically after 1920, will enhance the value of a book. (Dust jackets first appeared in the early 19th century but did not become common until after 1920. A few collectors consider dust jackets as a factor only after World War II.) The value of books without jackets would normally be 15 percent to 25 percent of their value with jackets. A well-known writer’s first book, such as James A. Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” (New York, 1947) in fine condition cost $2,500 in 2000. In general, there seems to be less tolerance for defects in works of a literary nature than for those dealing with nonfiction subjects, perhaps because literary works are collected for the physical object and not for the text. One wishing to read the classic text will easily find a later edition or reprint to flip pages or consult. NINE MAJOR VALUE FACTORS Book appraisers will look at as many as nine major factors that indicate value. Besides their sense of the real market prices based on their own knowledge and readings, estimates of values are adjusted from auction records, prices of similar items, dealers’ catalogs, book fairs and specialized price guides such as Tom Broadfoot’s “Civil War Books,” 4th ed. (Wilmington, N.C., Broadfoot Publishing, 1996). Briefly summarized, the factors are as follows: � Market Demand. Books in the “classic” category have a very specific demand in the market. (A “classic” is a book that will almost always be found in print.) For example, Tom Clancy’s “Hunt for Red October” (Annapolis, 1984) went from a $50 book to a $650 book almost overnight. The first printing of 30,000 had half the copies sold to libraries. Charles Dickens’ story “A Tale of Two Cities” (London, Chapman and Hall, 1859) in the original cloth recently sold for $1,750. However, many books have no viable market. Books in this category are only worth the donation value of the price they would bring at a thrift shop, library sale, yard sale, school sale, church sale, charity book sale or antique shop. Bargain books are commonly valued at $2 for hardbound titles, with paperbacks commonly valued at $.50 a copy. Particularly in literature and the arts, tastes in collecting are subject to fads and fashions. What is highly prized today may not be in the near future. Luckily, in the sciences and nonfiction, fads and fashions are much more subdued. � Condition. A major determining factor of a book’s value is its condition — this can be a subjective value by the appraiser who describes both the book’s desirable and defective characteristics. Condition is relative to the particular book involved, and this significant factor applies to the binding as well as the text. A book is judged not in good condition if the cover is loose or dirty. A book with detached or missing pages is considered in poor condition. Copies of books with minor defects often sell for half of the retail price. A copy of Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet Common Sense (Philadelphia, Bell, 1776) fetched $8,500 at auction and later sold, with a facsimile of the last page that was missing and a restored cover, for nearly $20,000. Had it been complete, it might have sold for between $75,000 and $100,000. Displayable books often command the highest value. Most of these copies have hardly been read. If the collected book is primarily for display, this is a crucial factor. If, however, the criterion is a readable copy, then that is a factor. Many common books are extremely difficult to find in excellent condition to satisfy the discriminating collector. � Scarcity. Books are considered rare if less than 100 copies exist in the United States. A check of major library Web sites around the world will identify cataloged holdings in their collections. Isaac Asimov, a prolific New York City writer on a variety of subjects, wrote his first book, “Pebble In the Sky,” in 1950. In 2000, a scarce copy would have cost $750 to purchase. Trade books with publication runs over 25,000 copies will usually not become rare. � Association. Association is any tangible identifying evidence, such as inscriptions, signatures, bookplates, letters or photographs laid in a book box or tipped in (glued separately into a book). Books are sometimes marked up three or more times their normal worth if they are signed or inscribed in some way. The real determinant of price, though, is the author’s signature. Some authors are very generous, and others are not. Some rarely inscribe a book. If the recipient is also well known, it is an added value. Marginalia on the end papers, marks of ownership, doodles, sketches and relevant ephemera material associated with a celebrity figure, a person of historic importance or notorious interest will command an increased “hoopla value.” Books that were banned, removed or destroyed because of controversies, such as the political censorship of Czarist-era books after the Russian Revolution, have a higher value. Books that have as their subject matter a historical event are also in demand. Thus, a book about a significant issue such as a major Supreme Court case (like the Dred Scott decision) or a happening like the Lewis and Clark expedition exploring west of the Mississippi River have good association value. Evidential Value. Does the book possess or demonstrate a printing history? Look for watermarks, wax seals, cancels, printing techniques and typographic errors. First-edition copies will sometimes have the publisher’s sale ads at the end of the text, which can reveal a publication date. A particular edition is often identified by its evidential value. A book with questionable edition authenticity may be verified by its physical format or marks. Age. If the book was published (printed) before 1800 in the United States, it is considered an American imprint or if before 1500. it is considered an early European imprint. Publication in a particular location and time add value, such as books published in France during Napoleon’s reign. Other examples are a Confederate imprint because the book was printed during the Civil War in a rebel state, and books published in the 1870s in Arizona and the Wyoming Territories. Aesthetic Value. Does the book have well-tooled leather or an ornate binding that would be considered artistic? Is the book published on an exotic paper or perhaps on vellum? If the book was printed by a prominent printer or was the first book produced by a new printing process, it is considered to have aesthetic value. Other aesthetic values include an unusual typeface, end papers and fore-edge paintings, and maps. Books with illustrations not easily reproduced, such as an original color or original woodcuts, etchings and engravings are in demand for their aesthetic value. A designer binding and pencil, ink or watercolor sketches are also aesthetic values associated with books. An example is “Mother Goose In Prose,” first published in Chicago in 1897 and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, which sold in 2000 for $4,000. Edition. Some facts to know about editions of books are as follows: About 2 percent of all books go into a second edition. The same book published in England will have a lot fewer copies than the same book published in the United States, a much bigger potential market. The biggest book market area in the United States lies between Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine. Some collectors seek the first accounts of an Arctic expedition or medical discoveries. Many collectors concentrate on literary first-edition classics. While first editions are usually the most prized, significant other editions are also sought, especially those with important revisions by the author, or the first English translation of works originally published in other languages. Limited editions, generally under 501 copies, that are signed by the author (and sometimes the artist) as well as being numbered, in a different binding and slip-cased or boxed, are treasured by collectors. A first edition of Currer Bell’s (Charlotte Bronte’s) “Jane Erye,” published in London in 1847, sold recently for $45,000. Market Considerations. Book dealer catalogs and book auction records suggest values but not necessarily the actual sale price or hammer price, plus commission if auctioned off. The wide use of the Internet in all aspects of the literate public worldwide has created more up-to-date, continuous and accurate book values than pre-Internet days. Common book values go down, and higher-valued books go up. Lower-priced and medium-priced books are more plentiful than before, and therefore the market is pushing the prices of these books lower. Books sold over the Internet by book dealers are routinely marked up, sometimes 10 percent to 20 percent from their actual fair market value. The auction sites on the Internet have appeal for low-margin sellers (retired people and amateur booksellers, etc.). Rarely does a serious book dealer sell books under $100 in value unless it is part of a lot. Book buyers who surf the used book sites can check an estimated 20 million-plus book citations. Books either not found or not found for a long time have their prices pushed up. Sometimes books are sold at more than a specific cost, or their assessed value, because at least one buyer was willing to bid up the price. The big factor with eBay and like auction sites is that about a third of their items are not described well and are often returned. Advanced book collections have some common characteristics that should be noted by the book appraiser. Look for the collection’s story line. Can you determine topics? Serious collectors will trade good condition over rarity of the book. It is always easier to sell an item in better condition than a rare book needing restoration. However, a rare item generating a unique interest is hard to find. Collectors educate themselves and are knowledgeable about the subjects they chose to acquire, with many collectors relying initially on knowledgeable book dealer specialists. Most items are purchased at a fair market price; collectors will often consider both authenticities and condition. Many collectors will collect a variety of subjects and thoroughly enjoy the hunt or search as well as the thrill of discovery. A collector’s favorite book is often the last book she bought because she liked it. Many will keep the original invoices and some will photograph the highly valued books. Others will invest in books with a profit projection, at times with professional guidance from a curator or dealer and will occasionally reinvest in another subject collection after a sale. A book appraiser who is not a book dealer or an auction house book specialist has several advantages. Such an individual does not have any conflict of interest such as bartering or selling the books being appraised. Thus, he or she approaches the task with greater objectivity. It is for this reason that a lawyer and his client may wish to consider an independent book appraiser. After examining a collection and doing his or her research of specialized bibliographies, an appraiser prepares a written analysis. This analysis will serve the client’s interest better because it defends the value of the appraised item. In most cases a market comparison study is done to estimate current values. For example, the American Society of Appraisers requires their appraisers to include an explanation of purpose, intended use, a certification, a description and narrative about the collection, a glossary of terms used, a bibliography of sources consulted, a certification of limitations, a privacy notice, a listing of experiences and the appraiser’s qualifications. An appraiser should follow the principles of Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice as revised annually by the Appraisal Standards Board of the Appraisal Foundation. Few book dealers and auction house book staffs are willing to prepare a written analysis, and most of them do not have the background to write a report. When you have an important collection that should command high value, a professional appraisal with appropriate supporting documentation is the best approach. Books are cultural artifacts. Some carry emotional baggage. Old books may have spiritual and perhaps intellectual values; they rarely have monetary value. Alan Aimone is an independent book and manuscript appraiser and has been a professional librarian since the mid-1960s.

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