Whether you've been collecting rare books for decades or are just beginning to be interested now, you've probably wondered about some or all of these questions at one point or another. So to help answer any that are unresolved, here's a look at some of the issues most frequently asked about in terms of collecting rare books:
1. What Makes a Book Rare? Before you can go collecting rare books, you have to understand what rare books are. Rare books, to put it simply, are books whose demand exceeds supply. They don't have to be old or famous or about a certain topic; they just have to involve more people wanting them than are available to be sold. While there is no single set of standards for measuring this sort of scarcity and demand, rare books do have some common characteristics. To determine whether or not a book is rare, you may research its availability online and/or consult a professional book appraiser.
2. Why Collect Rare Books? There are many reasons to collect rare books: for the personal pleasure and enjoyment, to preserve pieces of history, or even for the investment aspect of rare books that may be financially valuable. The financial aspect is less lucrative than some might think, however, as book values are always changing and are influenced by many factors, from a book's condition to its scarcity.
3. What Books Should I Collect? To this question, Richard Davies writes in Publishers Weekly, "The answer is simple — collect the books you love."
4. How Much Does Condition Matter? The condition of a book plays a significant role in determining its value. While measuring condition is largely a subjective process, a few of the factors usually considered are: the book's binding (Is it held together or spreading apart?), completeness (Is it missing pages? Dust jacket? Part of the title page?), and damages (Are there stains, smudges, marks and so on?). The newer a book looks and feels, the higher its value tends to be.
5. How Much Is My Book Worth? Ultimately, the monetary worth of a book comes down to several factors. According to the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, "There is no single reference work or 'price guide' which can be relied upon to provide the current values of antiquarian books, nor is there any simple way to explain in a few words how such values are determined." Taking your book(s) to an appraiser is a good step towards determining value, which will involve the book's condition, binding, inscriptions, edition, etc.
Whether your passion is rare sci-fi books, rare children's books or rare books from the early 1900s, collecting books you personally value will never steer you wrong.