Frequently Asked Questions
How much is my book worth?
The value of a particular copy of any given book will be further affected by many other factors: its condition, its binding, its provenance, and the significance of any inscriptions it may contain.The evaluation of manuscript material, including letters and signatures of well-known people, involves still other considerations. Inquiries regarding the evaluation of specific items should be directed to ABAA members specializing in the kind of material offered. Inquiries by mail should provide the following information (usually found on the title page): author, title, date, place of publication, publisher, and edition. A description of condition and any other appropriate details should also be included. Search for and contact a member bookseller here.
How can I tell whether I have a first edition of a book?
Unfortunately there is no simple way to determine whether a book is a first edition - different book publishers use different identification standards. There are several popular reference guides which can help answer this question, some of which you may find at your local library. You can also visit our Find a Bookseller page to contact an ABAA member who may be able to help you.
How can I tell what condition my book is in?
Grading a book’s condition can be a very difficult process relying on previous experience with similar books or previous copies of the same title. Even among experienced booksellers there are differences of opinion - condition grading is a subjective process. However, there are general standards and terms which can help you; visit the Glossary for more information.
How much is my old Bible worth?
The old family Bible is often an important heirloom with significant personal value, and booksellers recognize this. However, the Bible, in various forms, is also the most printed book in history and many old copies have survived to the present day. Consequently, few old Bibles have any collectible value. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, click here to search for a member.
Only in rare instances are books valuable only because they are old—a surprising number of one, two and three hundred year-old books have survived in large numbers and are not avidly collected. On the other hand, fine press or limited edition books which were published very recently can command considerable sums in the rare book market. “Antiquarian” is a very loose term for collectible books as opposed to used books. To find out more about the factors which make a book collectible, click here.
How old does a book have to be for it to be an antiquarian book?
Only in rare instances are books valuable only because they are old--a surprising number of one, two and three hundred year-old books have survived in large numbers and are not avidly collected. On the other hand, fine press or limited edition books which were published very recently can command considerable sums in the rare book market. "Antiquarian" is a very loose term for collectible books as opposed to used books. To find out more about the factors which make a book collectible, click here.
Where do booksellers get their books? Booksellers get their books from a variety of sources - there is no single source for rare and antiquarian books. Most booksellers who specialize in a particular subject are interested in buying books in their field from private individuals. Please visit our Find a Bookseller page to locate booksellers to whom you can offer books for sale.
How do booksellers price antiquarian books?
Most book prices are determined by an individual bookseller’s understanding of the constantly changing rare and antiquarian book marketplace. Perceived desirability and scarcity, condition, the sales history of previous copies or comparable copies, and the amount the bookseller had to pay for the book are just some of the factors involved in pricing books.
What are the best books to buy or invest in? There is no easy answer to this question. Some books have, without question, appreciated considerably in value of the years. Others have remained steadily desirable without seeing a significant rise in price, and still others can be purchased for little money but give great personal satisfaction. An experienced bookseller can help you decide what kind of collection you would like to build - please visit our Find a Bookseller page to contact an ABAA member who may be able to help you.
Do books ever lose value? Obviously, as with any valuable object, damage to a rare book can hurt its value. Less predictable are changes to the rare book marketplace which can affect book values. While comparisons with old price guides and bookseller catalogs demonstrate that most collectible books rise in value over time, there can be no guarantees. Please visit our Find a Bookseller page to contact an ABAA member who can further address your specific concerns.
Why do I see many listings for the same book at very different prices? Differences in prices can reflect many variables including particulars of condition, the uniqueness or desirability of the particular copies in question, and the personal experience of the individual booksellers. Prices reflect an ever-changing book market, of which the Internet bookmarket is only a part.
I am new to book collecting; how do I interpret catalogue descriptions?
Booksellers and collectors use many terms and abbreviations to describe books. Please visit our Glossary for more information.
If I don’t see the book I’m looking for, does that mean no one in the ABAA has a copy?
ABAA members have large stocks which have been acquired over many years. Only a fraction of the books for sale by our members can be found online, so even if you don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s worth contacting a member who specializes in the field you’re interested in.
How can I tell if an autograph is authentic?
It is not uncommon for publishers to print facsimiles of author’s signatures as part of a book, for example at the end of an introduction or, in older books, underneath the author’s portrait. Also, because an author’s signature can often increase a book’s value significantly, forgery is a legitimate concern among book buyers. The ABAA’s strict Code of Ethics ensures that all material offered by ABAA members is guaranteed to be authentic. Because of our rigid membership standards, ABAA members have the experience and reference tools necessary to differentiate between genuine, facsimile, and forged signatures. If you have a question about a specific autograph search for and contact an ABAA member who may be able to help you.
How does an inscribed book differ from a signed book, and which is better?
An inscribed book is one which was signed by the author (or another notable person) for a particular person as shown by the inscription itself. In specific instances one may be more desirable than another, but in general there is no consensus among book collectors or booksellers that one is preferable to the other. section, and you can visit our Find a Bookseller page to contact an ABAA member who may be able to help assess your restoration needs.
Simply put, our members have extensive knowledge of their respective specialties and have a track record of adhering to ethical or professional standards. All ABAA members are bound by our strict Code of Ethics, which has actively been enforced for more than 60 years. Applications for membership follow rigid guidelines which ensure that all members have demonstrated to their peers and to the book collecting community a high level of expertise. Learn more about How to Join.
Who are you and what do you do?
The ABAA is a trade association of rare booksellers that was formed 60 years ago. We have 450 members who specialize in books in all fields, as well as maps, prints, documents and autographs. While our members sell, buy, and appraise books and printed matter, our staff can assist you with finding a bookseller and with other trade-related matters. Individuals with old books or manuscripts in their possession often wonder how to ascertain the value of such material. The value of a book is affected by a variety of factors, including the intrinsic importance of the work, its scarcity, and collectors’ interest in it. In general, the books most sought after are the great works in the humanities and the sciences, usually in the first editions.Unfortunately, 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.
Why buy from ABAA members? I am a book collector - can I join the ABAA?
The ABAA is composed exclusively of professional bookselling firms whose principal place of business is in the United States. At this time, we don’t have a membership association for collectors. But, you might find a bibliophilic organization that suits your interest here.
I am a bookseller - how do I join the ABAA?
Please visit our How to Join page for more information.
What is the difference between ABAA, ILAB and ABA?
The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) was founded in 1949 as a trade association for rare booksellers. It is the American component of The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), the umbrella organization for national rare and antiquarian book associations. Additional questions may also be answered at the FAQ section of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries RBMS.