History

7 Factors that Determine the Value of a Book

In collaboration with Job Kwakman - Books Expert

Have you ever come across an antique book and wondered if it could be worth a fortune? There are a number of factors which make books valuable. It’s important to remember that ‘old’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘rare’. Books are a different story than antiques in that way; age doesn’t always determine scarcity and value. Here at Catwiki we have team of book experts who know exactly what to look for when determining whether a book will sell for €100 or €1000 or even more. They have shared a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether your antique book could be worth a fortune.

1. Importance

If your book was historically influential in any way, it is more likely to be valuable. Whether it was a book that changed the course of history or revealed a new scientific discovery, the stories attached to these books increase their value.

2. Design & Craftsmanship

Sometimes books have value because of their design. Book cover, (original) illustrations, and illuminations, for example, done by artists or famous designers. Then it's all in the name. Whether it's valuable or not depends on the quality and rarity of these features.


3. Firsts

An author’s first book, the first edition of a famous novel, the first mention of a beloved character and other firsts in literature all make for more valuable books. First editions especially are often the most interesting for collectors.


4. Condition

Books are graded on their condition and, like with most things, the better the condition, the higher the potential value. When grading a book, experts factor in the state of the binding and dust jacket, any stains, and the completeness of the text and illustrations. The condition of a book can range from ‘as new’, which will hold the most value, to ‘ex-library’, which will hold almost no monetary value and be good only for reading.

5. Signature

There are a surprising number of signature, inscription, and dedication types that can affect the value to a book, but a good rule of thumb is that any genuine signature from the author/illustrator/editor will add value. The longer the inscription, the better. Not only does this mean that the author spent more time with the book writing a long dedication, but this also adds to the authenticity as a lengthy dedication is harder to falsify than a simple signature.

6. Provenance

Who owned the book before you can seriously affect the value. Association copies are books which were previously owned by the author or someone closely connected with the author, such as a family member. Books owned by celebrities will also be more valuable, however it is important to be able to prove the provenance in order to gain the added value.

7. Rarity

Perhaps an obvious one, but the number of copies of a book affects the value, but not as much as you might think. Older books are often rarer as they have survived the test of time, however this is not always the case. Books printed in the 19th century are quite abundant for example. Also, just because a certain edition of a book is rare, doesn’t mean it’s valuable if nobody wants to buy it, therefore often only rare, sought-after books become valuable.


Hopefully, this list gives you enough information to start digging for treasures among your own antique books. Should you ever stumble upon one that may be valuable, the book experts at Catawiki are always standing by, eager to take a look and give you their opinion as well. It’s free to register for an account and free to offer up items for the experts to review, making Catawiki a great resource for your treasure hunt.

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