Top 10: Book Collecting tips
Keen to start your own book collection? These Top 10 Book Collecting tips should set you on the right path to an impressive collection that could be worth a few bob too.
First editions: When it comes to value, collectors place the greatest emphasis on first editions: the first time a book was printed. There is no convention for denoting a first edition among publishing houses, it’s a case of researching the habits of each one; infuriating at times, but certainly rewarding for those with the application. A signed copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses is currently the world’s most expensive first edition at $460,000.
Rarity and demand: The owner of a first edition book that is in great demand but scarce in number is in a strong position indeed. Contemporary books can too quickly prove of worth, the difficulty comes in identifying desirable works or authors before they become global bestsellers. Those who bought one of the 300 first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997 now have a book worth thousands of pounds.
Condition is key: Books are meant to be read. But in collecting terms, those that have never been thumbed are worth considerably more than oft-frequented copies.
Jackets are vital: If a book was issued with a dust jacket, it is important that it retains it. A dust jacket has been said to contribute 75% or more of a book’s value.
Go for early works of great authors: First editions of works written before the author became well-known are among the most collectible items. For example, Sinclair Lewis’s originally unheralded 1912 work Hike and the Aeroplane, written under a pseudonym, is worth significantly more than a first edition of his much-loved later work It Can't Happen Here.
Consider non-fiction: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sold at Christie’s for $194,500 in June, 2008, and the world’s most expensive book is John James Audubon’s early 19th century Birds of America, a copy of which sold for £7.3m at a Sotheby’s London auction in 2010. You may wish to set your sights a little more conservatively, but non-fiction can be valuable. Antique cookery and medical books are particularly in demand at the moment.
Concentrate your efforts: By concentrating on a specific author, genre, or era, book collectors have the opportunity to become quickly knowledgeable in their field. Never was the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” more applicable.
Purchase through a reputable dealer: Purchasing through a dealer offers you confidence that the books you are buying are genuine, especially if the dealer offers a lifetime guarantee.
Become part of the community: There are many well-frequented book collecting forums out there, with experts ready to solve your queries and to encourage your passion.
Look after your books: There’s no point buying a load of valuable first editions if you’re not going to care for them. Keeping them away from high humidity, excessive heat, direct sunlight and dust is a good start. Storage in an acid-free, alkaline-buffered archival box is also highly recommended.
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