Let me start by telling everyone reading this that you probably don’t have a collectible First Edition James Joyce hidden among your books or in that big box of dusty old volumes you found at a yard sale or flea market. As a long-time personal property appraiser, I know. One of the most valuable things that we learn is how to appraise rare books.
Treasure stories like that exist, of course, and are true for the most part. I recently read an account of a couple who placed a very rare and valuable book, which had been stolen from an exhibition, in a box of books that was for sale at a bazaar. They were caught when they subsequently tried to sell it for thousands of dollars. Their defense that they had found the book at the bazaar didn’t wash with the jury, unfortunately for them. Rarer than rare books themselves is the chance you’ll find one just floating around.

Is your library of books worth anything substantial? While the written accounts of aviators is of no interest to most of us, the fact that aviation books have a dedicated following automatically creates a market for them. Did grandpa buy a book about Jimmy Doolittle that lies forgotten somewhere on the top shelf? Maybe he even had it autographed during a book tour that came through town once upon a time.

From out-of-print books to signed editions to used textbooks, all publications have value. Magazines and even ads that were torn from them are desirable to collectors and curio buyers. Have one or two interesting items? Do your own research to find out what they’re worth. Have a much larger collection? Better call your insurer who can advise you how to proceed. They will likely request an appraisal of the books and then write a floater policy to protect your investment.

Condition definitely affects what a collector is willing to pay for a book. There are more terms identifying different parts of a book than you would think. And twice as many descriptions of condition or damage pertaining to each of them. Some examples: sides dust-soiled, corners rubbed, hinges reinforced, page repaired with small portion of image lacking, inner margin reinforced, and some reinforcements affecting sharpness of image, two leaves supplied from another edition. Staining and spotting variously, generally light, a few early inked marks of emphasis, and scattered marginalia in English. Spine sunning and crack along top back edge. Spine of volume slightly darkened, and some spotting; interior clean and lovely. Spine with gilt-stamped title; some rubbing and with a bit of green discoloration to paper of front cover. Minor offsetting to frontispiece and title-page; mild to moderate foxing in first third of volume and to last few pages. Believe it or not, values depend on minute condition differences such as these.

Hire an Expert to Appraise your Rare Book Collection

The rarity of a book has a lot to do with its value. A first edition of the collected works of Shakespeare published in 1623 sold recently for more than $6 million, a record price for the Bard’s works. Not too many of those lying around.

Some book dealers advertise book appraisal services but bear in mind that their profits depend on their buying low and selling high so tread carefully. Some appraisers may provide you with “judgment call” appraisals while others use data from sales reports, auctions and on-line marketplaces like eBay. Our guidelines require us to research all of our assignments before arriving at a fair market value.

A personal property appraiser must process a great deal of information, making it a very specialized profession. Our reports must be accurate so insurance underwriting and claims, bankruptcy, donation, estate or equitable distribution issues can be resolved equitably.In the case of tax-deductible donations, book sellers from whom you purchased items are no longer allowed to perform appraisals according to IRS guidelines. Make certain you’ve obtained an acceptable appraisal before letting your collection go.

Having the opportunity to view interesting and sometimes very rare books is an extra added attraction in the life of a personal property appraiser. Assignments like these are a pleasure.

The St. Lucie Appraisal Company
P.O. Box 2700
Fort Pierce, FL 34954
Phone: (772) 359-4300


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