You might follow any number of ‘How to’ books for guidance on how to begin your book collection, but we prefer a more empathetic and heartfelt approach that applies equally well to books as it does to art or any other collectible: acquire what you love.
Purchase a book that speaks to your heart and mind, touch it in your hands, feel its texture, appreciate the cover, and plunge right into a random portion of the book, letting your thoughts wander. You may even hold it up to your face and inhale its history. Here’s a quick overview of the steps that you need to follow to become an expert in antique book collecting.
Keep your Focus
Surely, the aim of any collection is to bring together related objects or things of the same sort. The same is true for literature, so think about where your true passion resides. Is it a specific subgenre of literary fiction, a genre like travel writing or science fiction, or just your favorite author’s work? Whatever it is, it will bring your collection into focus and simplify your plan.
Locate Your Sources
There are a variety of methods to find books, so think about what works best for you based on your time, money, and goal. Are you still not convinced? Consider if you have the time and patience to scour thrift stores and second-hand bookshops for hours in quest of that one-of-a-kind edition to round out your collection. If you don’t, be honest with yourself and search for ‘easier’ options like internet channels.
Bookshops, like libraries, are likely to have always been hallowed locations for you. Despite the loss of physical storefronts and the shift to internet sales, your favorite local bookshop is still the best place to get that freshly released first edition you think will be collectible in a decade or two. (It does, in fact, pay to be patient.) The real judge of your book-collecting judgement will be history.)
If you enjoy bookshops, we’re confident you’ll enjoy secondhand bookstores even more. Although it is becoming less common as more people switch to e-readers, there are still likely to be a few second-hand bookstores tucked away in your neighborhood. While its owners are likely to be collectors and specialists in their own right, there are still deals to be obtained provided you know what you’re looking for and are willing to haggle.
Although the golden era of thrift store finds may be ended, as charity stores become more aware of the potential worth of rare books, you shouldn’t discount them as a source of intriguing collectible books. The general rule is that the less polished or well-designed a store is, the more likely you are to find anything interesting. Even if it isn’t a first edition of JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, it is nonetheless interesting.
More treasures may be found in your local street markets. Sellers are less likely to have particular expertise of book collecting than those at second-hand bookstores and are more willing to accept a modest offer if you can avoid being overly enthusiastic about the book you’re trying to buy.
Gather Facts Before you Proceed
You want to be sure you’re getting a good deal, so do your homework and look up the current pricing of the works you’re interested in. Sources like abebooks.com may be quite useful in determining not just the price range of a book, but also its rarity. More than that, it will assist you in determining additional aspects such as the value of a signed work or a first edition, both of which may significantly increase the value of a book.
Hardback books are generally considerably more valuable than paperbacks, which should come as no surprise. Why? First and foremost, they’re tough – literally made to last – and second, the print run is limited, adding to the uniqueness aspect. There are exceptions to the norm, such as specialty, rare works or novels that never had a hardback edition, but in general, focusing your collection on hardbacks is considerably safer.
So, you’re prioritizing hardbacks in your collection, but their worth will skyrocket if they’re first editions – yep, before the general public realized the work’s literary qualities. You should also check if the edition is a first printing, in addition to first editions. What’s the best way to tell? Take a hardback off your shelf and examine the copyright page, which you must normally skip to get to the beginning of the book. If you look attentively, you could notice a line that says, “First edition” or “First printing.” If you do, smile and utter a quiet prayer of appreciation to the publisher’s immense wisdom.
The status, on the other hand, is more likely to be divulged by some cryptic number code. You’ve located a first edition and first printing if you see a series of numerals like ’10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1′, ‘1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10’, or even ‘1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2’. If you find a different sequence, proceed with care because you’re very definitely looking at a later printing from the same year, if not a different year altogether. If you really like the book, go ahead, and buy it, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it has any long-term worth.
Make the Most of Your Money
As your collecting bug takes hold and your hobby develops into a harmless addiction, you’ll need to start thinking about how to manage and maximize your money in order to keep your book-buying habit going. The simple solution is to utilize your newly acquired talents to both purchase and sell. You’ll surely uncover other copies of books in your collection as you go along, and you’ll have the option to keep the better-quality copy and sell the lesser-quality one — preferably for a profit. Finding space for your collection, in addition to expense, might be a challenge.