How to Find the Value of Antique Books: Why Online Prices Are Misleading

October 21, 2017

Why You Shouldn’t Use AbeBooks and Biblio for Pricing

One big stumbling block in buying and selling books in the age of the internet is the dependence upon websites like AbeBooks and Biblio for evaluating worth.

This is a scenario we run into often with many of our customers.

More often than not, Average Joe will inherit a collection of books from his parents or grandparents and decide that he wants to sell them.

The first thing Joe does – naturally – is hop onto Google to do a little research in an attempt to gauge the value of the antique books. This inevitably leads him to AbeBooks where he very likely will find one or more copies of his book.

“Look honey,” he’ll say to his wife in excitement, “it says here that this book is worth $100!”

What Joe and so many folks like him unfortunately don’t understand is that the prices listed on AbeBooks are, in fact, the sellers’ asking prices, and are therefore not a true reflection of the book’s actual worth.

Prices listed on book selling websites are sellers’ asking prices, and not always an accurate current market value of a book.

Why Book-Selling Websites Often Can’t Determine Authentic Values

While some of the major online book websites are indeed wonderful resources for buying and collecting a vast number of books of all sorts, the trouble is that none of them are accurate in showing current market value. 

Someone may have a perfectly good book that they’ve listed on AbeBooks (or Biblio, or Alibris) with a price tag of $500. Does that price tag make the book worth $500? No, of course not – it’s just what the seller WANTS for the book, and he is perfectly entitled to ask whatever he’d like for his item.

The book is still only worth the amount that it or a similar copy would have realized on the open market.

AbeBooks

AbeBooks is one of the first sites that pop up when you start searching for information on the value of an antique or rare book.

AbeBooks is an online marketplace known for its extensive inventory of new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. It offers a wide range of titles from independent booksellers around the world, making it a valuable resource for book collectors and enthusiasts.

One of the benefits of AbeBooks is its comprehensive database, which provides pricing information for antique books based on factors such as edition, condition, and rarity. This allows users to research and compare asking prices easily.

While the platform offers a wealth of data, including listings from various sellers, these prices are not definitive indicators of a book’s true market worth.

Prices on AbeBooks can vary widely depending on factors such as seller reputation, book condition, and buyer demand. Additionally, listings on AbeBooks may not always reflect actual sales transactions, as books may remain listed for extended periods without being sold.

How to determine value of an antique book

Biblio

Biblio is another online marketplace specializing in rare, collectible, and out-of-print books. It serves as a platform for book enthusiasts, collectors, and sellers to buy and sell antique books from various genres and time periods.

One of the nice features of Biblio is its comprehensive database, which allows users to research the asking prices of antique books based on factors such as edition, condition, rarity, and demand.

Users can search for specific titles, authors, or keywords to find listings of antique books available for sale. Each listing typically includes detailed information about the book’s edition, publication history, condition, and pricing. 

What’s the Best Way to Find the True Value of an Antique Book?

Search Auction Records

One of the best ways to find an accurate evaluation of an antique book’s worth is by sifting through past auction results.

Auctions are very useful in finding the value of an antique book because books sold at auction pit collector against collector in determining a final price that the current market will bear.

While online auction sites like eBay do offer a better idea of value than asking-price sites like Amazon, Alibris and AbeBooks, one of the very best methods is to examine results from real-world auction houses.

These auction results are actual lists of what various books sold for after being offered at market.

Seller’s Tip: If you’re going to search eBay to get a range of value, make sure you search completed items, and items that are marked as “sold listings.”

Use Auction Sales Results to Find Book Values

Search WorthPoint’s Database

WorthPoint offers a paid service that provides access to actual sales results for a wide range of collectibles, including books.

This service offers a significant advantage over simply looking at asking prices, as it allows users to see the prices at which items have actually sold. By accessing real sales data, you can gain a more accurate understanding of market value, as it reflects the prices that buyers are willing to pay for specific items.

Using WorthPoint’s Price Guide, collectors and enthusiasts can make more informed decisions about buying and selling antique books. Instead of relying on asking prices, which may be inflated or not reflective of actual market demand, users can reference real sales results to gauge the true value of a book. 

Use a Paid Book Evaluation Service

We offer a paid service that’ll provide you with a current market auction estimate for antique and collectible books. We take into account the book’s condition, edition, scarcity, recent sales history and current market desirability in determining auction value.

Determine the Book’s Edition and Condition

Once you have an idea of actual sales prices for your book, the next step is to examine its condition.

Here’s a quick starter on how to examine an antique book’s condition for pricing:

  • Examine the cover for wear, tears, or fading.
  • Assess the binding for looseness or damage.
  • Check the pages for discoloration, stains, or foxing.
  • Note any writing, markings, or missing pages.

You’ll need to determine whether your book is in better or worse condition than the auctioned copies that you are referencing. Depending on condition, your book may be worth more (or less) than copies sold in the past.

In Conclusion: If You’re Unsure, Get Professional Help

Whether you’re selling or buying a book, it’s always worth seeking professional help when you want to value your antique books. Rare book dealers and auction houses can be helpful resources as these professionals will have access to thousands of real world sales results to inform you.

If you believe you have a valuable antique book and need help evaluating and selling the book at auction, you can learn more about the types of books we deal with at auction, or submit a consignment inquiry.

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