How to Sell: Books

This one is coming in a little bit late – sorry about that!

I won’t pretend to know everything there is to know about this topic, but I’ll share what little I have learned!

Selling vintage books can be quite the profitable business. Depending on the title, first edition hard covers with the dust jacket in pristine condition can be worth a lot of money. We’ve never been lucky enough to come across one of these rare objects, but I can tell you how to look for them at least!

First, a little terminology:

Spine: The backbone of the book where the pages are bound together.

These are the spines on a set of Stoddard's books

Cover: The front and back of the book that have the pages enclosed between them.

This is a hardcover edition of one of the titles from the Nancy Drew series.

Endsheet: Usually decorative or at least a different color, this is the sheet of paper that joins the cover to the rest of the book. The piece attached to the cover is called the pastedown, while the piece that can be freely turn is called the flyleaf.

This is a decorative endsheet. The pastedown is on the left, and the flyleaf is on the right.

Foredge: The ends of the pages opposite the spine.

Dust Jacket: The paper covering for the book in order to protect the covers.

A dust jacket in excellent condition will greatly increase the value of your book.


Now that we’ve got that down, here’s what you want to look for when you’re buying vintage books:

1. A HUGE portion of the value of a book is in the dust jacket. Make sure it is in the best condition possible.

2. Hardcovers are longer lasting and more valuable than softcovers.

3. Copyright and printing dates are always important. This will tell you what version of the book it is. First editions are always more valuable than later editions.

4. Be sure the pages are free of rips, folds, and writing, and that all of the pages are actually present. Be wary of worm holes and foxing (discoloration).

5. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter who wrote the book and what it is about. If a talented and famous illustrator drew pictures for the volume, it can be valuable based solely on this fact.

6. Nonfiction almost always does better than fiction, but there are a lot of other factors that go into the value of a book that would make this not so true.

7. Decorative endsheets increase the value of a book.

8. Binding is also important, and leather-bound books are something to keep an eye out for.

There you have it! That’s a pretty simple overview, but definitely some points to keep in mind. It would be a good idea to become familiar with certain types of books and start out with those. I’d recommend some of the original Nancy Drew books, as they’re pretty common and pretty popular.

Good luck!

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