Love Antique Books? How to Know If You’ve Found a Literary Treasure

Written by sol-jewel on . Posted in Blog

Do you consider yourself a book enthusiast? Do you love to stroke the binding, smell the pages, feel the paper with your fingers, and thumb through the chapters to look at the typeface? Maybe you think of books as your old friends, and you revisit them time and time again to relive past adventures. Perhaps, for you, a book’s front cover functions as a portal that allows you to explore other worlds.

If you feel this way about books, it shouldn’t surprise you that you have graduated from cheap paperback editions to deluxe hardcover ones. Nor should it come as a surprise that you’ve gone beyond the traditional hardcover to antique editions and first printings. Antique books often have much lovelier covers, richer smells, and more history.

But how do you know you’ve found a good antique edition when you visit pawn shops, thrift stores, or antique malls? Have a look at the tips below. They can point you in the right direction so you only collect the very best volumes in your personal library.

1. Consider the Title and Author

As you might expect, you’ll pay more for an antique book from a well-known (even famous) author than a
writer who never achieved popularity. For example, anything by Charles Dickens will have more worth than stories written by Arthur Hume Plunkett-after all, most people have never heard of Arthur Hume Plunkett. His stories have not had the impact on the modern zeitgeist that Dickens’ have.

Additionally, more popular stores from a particular author may more value than others. Most works by
Dickens have enough popularity that Bleak House would go for a similar price as A Christmas Carol, depending on the edition, the publisher, and the publication date.

However, consider authors like Jane Austen or Geoffrey Chaucer. Both writers created many beautiful works, but Pride and Prejudice and The Canterbury Tales will often have more value than Emma or The Book of the Duchess.

2. Have a Look at the Publication Details

Once you’ve found a title and author that have caught your eye, take the book out and open it to the publication details. Keep in mind that some older books may lack these details, so you’ll have to do research online to find the information. Specifically, look at the publication date. The older a book is, the higher its value in many cases.

3. Consider the Décor on the Cover and Pages

A book with a heavy, solid cover with pictures, gold leaf, etching, and other décor will normally have more worth than a plainer edition. Check the book’s pages as well-if you see gold gilding on the outside of the pages, or if you notice full color illustrations inside the book, then you have stumbled across something truly special.

4. Evaluate the Book’s Condition

Just as you would pay more for a car in good condition, an antique book in good condition has a higher value as well. Gently check the spine’s strength. If it feels wobbly or sounds crackly, it has weakened. You may also notice missing pages, fraying covers, and other signs of wear and tear.

Keep in mind that yellowed pages do not necessarily affect the book’s condition, as the mixture used to make paper in older books has a different chemical makeup that simply yellows with time. The pages will not decompose if cared for properly.

5. Research the Number of Copies Printed

Even if you find an old, beautiful edition, it may have less value than a newer, less decorative edition simply because more copies of the older one exist. The more copies of a vintage book you can find, the less intrinsic value they have.

6. Use Online Tools to Find the Book’s Net Worth

Rare editions of popular titles from popular authors in good condition can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Others may have no more value than 20 dollars. Use the clues above to start your research on old books that interest you. But if you want to know a book’s value for sure, use online appraisal tools. You can quickly consult several appraisal websites with a search on Google.


The next pawn shop, antique store, or neighborhood yard sale could yield the special book you’ve dreamed of finding. Ensure you purchase your literary treasures for a fair price and guarantee that you fill your library with great antique books by using the tips above. 

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