Knowing whether a book is collectible, or rare, or even valuable is not always easy. In fact it can be downright confusing to know what it is that you’re looking at, and whether it’s worth anything. There are guides available floating around this massive cloud of information that people sometimes call the internet, my professional life is almost entirely dependent on the unlimited potential at your fingertips and I sometimes still have no idea what the hell I’m even looking for, let alone how to find it. In a search engine a single word can mean the difference between unlocking a library of vast and limitless knowledge and power, and staring at cat videos for ten hours. Where does the time go?
My bookstore is a collection of new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books, I will mention that at any given moment, with every conceivable opportunity that I find to do so. “New, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books.” The extent of what I offer might, to some people be obvious, while most of you may have a general idea of what it is that I mean by new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible. To be honest, it’s actually fairly confusing, I know that a lot of you don’t know exactly what it is that I have, let alone what it is that I am offering. The type of bookstore that I maintain is so much less difficult to describe if you can actually see and touch something right in front of you, if you can smell it, and speak to me face-to-face you’ll have one of those “Ah-Ha!” moments that will open an entire world up to you. Just yesterday I was talking to my mother and she asked me, again, “What type of bookstore do you have? I mean, can you get a book for me, that’s about to come out?” “Yes, mom, of course I can, I use the same book distributer as Barnes&Noble” “Really? So you can get that one book, hold on let me look it up, Russian something…Russian Roulette?” “Yup, do you have a preference between a hardcopy an eBook a digital book?” “Get a hardcopy so you father can read it to.” “Alright.”
I am Barnes&Noble online but with the added benefit of you being able to communicate directly with the owner, the book buyer, the bookseller, the inventory manager, and the shipper. Imagine your own personal Barnes&Noble: yup, that’s me. And yet, I still, also, offer used books, and yes I can order used books for you! And, I can likely even get used books for you for a better price and in better condition than Amazon.com. How? You might ask, well I’ve been working in this industry for most of my life: I started as a bookseller at Borders Books, Music & Café, I’ve worked as a manager at Hastings Entertainment, I worked as a manager at the Barnes&Noble on 86th and Lex on the Upper East Side in New York City, and if you were to have walked into Op. Cit. Books in Santa Fe, New Mexico while it was at the Sanbusco Center anytime between 11:00AM and 8:00PM Monday through Friday I’m the guy you spoke with, because there was no one else there, I started Wardrobe Books inside the Boerne Emporium in Boerne, Texas, and I’ve been selling books online through Abebooks.com and Amazon.com for years (before starting my own website), and I’m an avid reader and book collector, and I am a freelance writer, and book reviewer. I know the industry better than most people you will talk to at any Barnes&Noble or Amazon store or through any customer service hotline. I cannot speak for other bibliophiles and bookstore owners, but I can guarantee you that I will get the best price for the book you’re looking for anywhere online.
I will also help you to understand what it is that you have. I do book appraisals. I will offer free estimates, and for an in-depth appraisal I charge $100 an hour, visit my page for more detail.
However the purpose of this entry is to offer to you a better idea of what selling new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books means, and how to spot a rare or collectible book, to the best of your ability, because it is not always easy to spot a first edition—or first printing, as they are more traditional referred to—most people seem to think that if you find the words “First Edition” somewhere on the copyright page then whatever it is that you’re looking at must, in fact, be a true First Edition, but that is not always the case, and, unfortunately, with as many publishers as there are, and because most of them do things a little differently, unless you know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it.
Fortunately, if the book is a stated “First Edition” it is, in every case, always a First Edition, but whether the book is a true First Edition or if it’s a First Edition/Later (Second, Third, Fourth…34th, etc.) Printing as opposed to a Second Edition/First Printing et c., because, yes, it would seem that some publishers enjoy throwing people off by printing First Editions with a number of Printings, which means that if your book specifies that it is first edition and is followed by a series of printings that does not specifically say First Printing, than your book is not a true First Edition.
If you’re holding a book and somewhere on the copyright page it reads: First Edition, and there is no Number Line, or Letter Line, and it doesn’t specifically indicate whether there are printings first or otherwise, then the book you’re holding is a true First Edition. Like I mentioned different publishers like to indicate Editions/Printings differently. For example, if the book states First Edition and includes a number or letter line then you should disregard the stating of First Edition (in the sense that if your book is not a First Edition AND a First Printing collectors do not accept that as a true First Edition)—just like you would if your book has a later printing (anything other than a First Printing)—and focus, instead, on the number or letter line. A Number Line or Letter Line often looks like a line of scattered seemingly nonsensical numbers, however, with most books if there is a number 1 or the letter A anywhere on the line then the book IS a First Printing. If there is not a number 1 or the letter A then you would look for the next lowest number or letter. For example: if the book is a stated First Edition with a number line and the lowest number you can find is a 3, then you’re looking at a First Edition/Third Printing. Or if the book is a stated First Edition with the letter E, it’s a First Edition/Fifth Printing.
Now, here’s where it gets even more confusing…
Not every book is a stated First Edition, however if it still has a number, or letter line and the number 1, or letter A is listed than the book is still a First Edition/First Printing, unless otherwise stated. And it might otherwise be stated by saying: Reprint or Anniversary Edition or “This book has been printed x number of times.” With the case of Anniversary Editions that are stated, or otherwise First Printings, those books still might have market value. I have a VIKING printed Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that has a number line, with the number 1 indicated, and so it is a First Edition/First Printing Fiftieth Anniversary Edition and the value is still right around $50—imagine what a 1939 First Edition/First Printing of The Grapes of Wrath would be worth? (It goes for as high as $17,500, but I can get it for under a $1,000 so, you know, don’t be fooled).
And, it can get more confusing still…
Random House, sometimes, lists a First Edition/First Printing by stating First Edition and leaving the number of THAT Specific Printing OFF of the number line: so if the book is a stated First Edition and the only number that is missing is a 1, then that book is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition, and the lowest number is a 4, then that book is a First Edition/Third Printing. But, again, it’s challenging because Random House does not always do this.
Now there are other publishers, and books that were published before a certain year (depending on the publisher) that will only include the date. The book will not necessarily have the words First Edition printed anywhere on the copyright page, there will be no number, or letter line, and you may be left with the words—for example—“copyright 1955,” only. In this case you need to find out what year that book was printed. More often than not if that particular book is not a true First Edition, it will have a list of copyright dates indicating later printings—but not always.
You know what another fun game that publishers and authors like to play is? Some authors had both the cloth and paperback copy of their books published at exactly the same time, in the same year! Of course, the edition/printing will, likely, still be stated on both the hardback and paperback copies, but nevertheless, for collectors, that’s an interesting thing to come across. Thomas Pynchon, for example, printed Gravity’s Rainbow—“A screaming comes across the sky.”—in both formats, simultaneously.
I bet you didn’t know it could be so complicated! Having a signed book, too, can be more complicated than you might have thought. A number of collectors prefer signed books that are, what the industry considers, Flat Signed: which means that the author, when signing, only wrote his/her signature. Most collectors prefer this to an inscription (but that, too, will depend on the book, and how difficult it is to find). Occasionally you’ll find a book signed by the author, and inscribed to someone, for example:
To: Roberto, Thanks For All the Wisdom
& Advice. You Are a great Friend.
Keep on Keeping On!
AKA. LA CHUPACABRA!
Above is the inscription in a copy of The Da Vinci Code I have, inscribed by Dan Brown. Personally I like to collect books inscribed by authors, if for no other reason that you come across something like THAT: cool inside jokes between people, or nice connections between two people.
When I state that I sell New Books there is sometimes a misunderstanding of what exactly that means. New means that the book has never been read before, and it has never been owned, that could mean a book titled that was released fifty years ago that is still being printed, new, and books that came out this week. I have both new books available, and am able to get any book you might be interested ‘new’ or old.
Remainder Books, however, are also new books. These books have never been read before, and they have never been owned, at least by anyone other than a bookseller. Remainder books are books that have been printed in excess, and have been liquated and resold. I have a large inventory of remainder books, and am able to get almost any book on remainder. If you, as a client, request me to find you a new book, with your permission, I will always look to find it as a remainder first, because I am able to price Remainder books below 50% there list price.
So, the world of book buying and collecting can obviously be difficult, and determining whether a book is a First Edition/First Printing can be exceptionally difficult, and confusing, and it takes a wealth of knowledge, and experience in order to do so, but having a general idea of what you’re looking at can be helpful, so I hope this helps, otherwise feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
How does CommuniTea Books price our books?
The vast majority of inventory at CommuniTea Books are used and remainder books. It might help, first, to establish what used and remainder books are. Used books, well, yes, they are exactly what you might expect them to be, used books are preowned books that we have acquired either through our community as trades or direct sales, off premises at estate sales, or inventory purchased at other used bookstores. Remainder books are new books printed in excess by publishers, and are being liquidated at vastly reduced prices, and resulting we are able to offer fantastic prices for.
We price our used books, generally, at 60% the list price. We do this, in part, because we are independently owned, and are in business to support ourselves, and our employees. Also we only accept used books that are in pristine condition, in most cases it would be very difficult to recognize the difference between one of our used books, and a new paperback. We will, on occasion, accept books that are below our typical standards of quality, and we might do this if the book is rare, or collectible, or under stocked in our store, in such cases we price accordingly; if the book is not rare or collectible, and is beneath our general standards of condition/quality, the price will reflect that. It might be important to note that our pricing standards are based on the example of a high quality trade paperback book. All used mass-market books in CommuniTea Books are priced well below 60% list price. Inasmuch our rare or collectible paperback books will be priced according to the market value of that particular rare or collectible book.
Half Price Books, which is located throughout 16 of 50 of the United States, the company started in Texas, and as advertised they price their standard quality trade paperback books at half of the listed price, unless it is a rare or collectible books, then it is priced—actually, I have no idea how Half Price Books decides the prices of rare or collectible books, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or rhyme or reason to that decision. CommuniTea Books is slightly pricier than HPB because we offer a better quality product, considerably better service, and a more comfortable environment.
Yes, remainder books are new books, they have not been previously owned; these books were printed and shipped to a bookseller or distributer, and never sold. At which point the additional copies were bought by remainder outlets and are sold to various, usually independently owned bookstores, for considerably reduced prices. CommuniTea Books prices our remainder books at UNDER 50% the list price. And remainders do make up the second largest selection of our inventory at CommuniTea Books. They include classic, commercial, and obscure titles from almost any conceivable author.
We are grateful that we can offer these new books to our customers, and to our community, for less than is available almost anywhere, especially in, and around the San Antonio area, and Texas Hill Country (Boerne, Bandera, Bulverde, Comfort, Fair Oaks Ranch, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Leon Springs, New Braunfuls, and Spring Branch).
Rare & Collectible Books:
Rare and Collectible books are books that are, obviously, difficult to come by, or have been printed in low numbers (First or Early Editions/Printings), and/or have been signed. The market creates a demand for these books, and therefore the value is increased, and the market is willing to pay. The value of these books is decided, also, by the market. CommuniTea Books researches the value of like or similar books that are considered rare or collectible because they are hard to find, they are an early edition/printing, and/or they have been signed, and we price them as low as the market suggests. Some booksellers involved in rare and collectible bookselling will sell at average or higher than the market suggests, it is important for us to get the book in the hands of someone who will appreciate it, and therefore we want to make it as accessible as possible for our customers.
Also, being a collector, I have a personal appreciate for precious literature, and would like to see that appreciation, and love shared, and continued by our community, by people.
With that said, we have collectible books priced as little as $5-10 and upwards to over $1,000. One of the most interesting things about books is that you could hold something in your hand, and never know the value of what you have, and, at the same time, hold something in your hand and over-estimate the value of what you have. An old book, just because it is old, does not necessarily mean that it holds value, and more often than not, it doesn’t. I have seen antique stores, and bookstores, over-price antiquarian books simply because they’re old. People will stamp a price of $20 on it, when it could be worth next to nothing—$1, 2, 3, or less—in that particular instance what gave that book value was nothing more than not knowing what it was, and ‘you’re’ willingness to pay for it. And, if that book maintains a sentimental value to you, at home, on your shelf, then great I’m not going to challenge or disagree with you, but if you could have found the same book on Amazon for pennies, or if no one else on the planet gives that particular book value, and that’s what you’re interested in, you probably should have invested that money in a comparably priced book on my shelf at CommuniTea Books—because we definitely, always do our research. We know what we have, we know what you have—you know, if you share it with us—and we do it because we love it, and we love sharing.
Harry Potter: if you have a first printing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and/or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban than you have something special, what you have is rare, and collectible and they have a monetized value. However, first editions after the first three books are, essentially, worthless. Don’t get me wrong having first printings of all 7 books is really cool, and is an awesome collection, but, again only the first three are worth anything…why? Because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and every book following had massively large first printings, which is to say that sometimes it’s actually more difficult to find a copy that IS NOT a first printing.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico some of my friends and I had a running joke that if we found a copy of any book in the bibliography of a certain author we knew, that WAS NOT SIGNED it would be more valuable than the seemingly hundreds of copies we would persistently find that were signed. There is a well-known author there that loved to sign his books, I mean if he could get his hand on a copy, he would sign it—and no, this isn’t George R. R. Martin—it became a game for us, every time we went into a bookstore, to the point even that when I came back to Texas I would flip through his books if they were available in whichever bookstore I was in, and still, more often than not, I would find his signature on the title page of his books regardless of where I was.
It was funny, and it also illustrates the point about the value of books. You could have the most amazing, collectible book sitting on your shelf right now, and never know it, or you could have a collection of old leather back books with the newspaper inside torn slightly so that you could make it out as part of the cloth cover, sitting behind glass, and tucked away in plastic bags, and they could be worthless.
If you have questions about our pricing standards, or about rare or collectible books in general please feel free to message me, I hope this continues to offer insight into the world of books, bookstores, and CommuniTea Books!
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.