Center for Archival Collections

Frequently-Asked Questions: Rare Books

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People have a special relationship to their books. Whether our books represent pleasant leisure hours, or hours spent in intensive study or meditation, we treasure them. We also respect the relationships that others have to their books. The Rare Books Division relies upon gifts of books, periodicals, manuscripts, and ephemera to build BGSU's collections. We also assist people who have questions about books they wish to keep. we hope that the information and resources listed on this page will help our visitors understand their book collections better.

1. What is a "Rare Book"?

Your Old Books by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries answers the most commonly-asked questions about Rare Books.

What is a Rare Book? includes answers to this question (excerpted from the above source) as well as a glossary of terms used to describe Rare Books. The Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis sponsors this web page.

2. How much is my book worth?

Although the CAC staff cannot appraise books, we can suggest places to search to find out the monetary value of your books (see Question 3, below). Many factors influence the value of a book, but condition is the most important of these. Local interest also affects the market value of a book, so the same book offered for sale on the east coast may not bring the same price if offered for sale in the midwest.

On the other hand, books which do not have a high monetary value can still be extremely useful to researchers, and collections of books and papers which individually would have little monetary value, can, when taken together, form a very worthwhile resource for scholars.

3. Where can I find out how much my book is worth?

Two online sources which will allow users to compare their books with those offered for sale are found below. Many of the same dealers appear in both listings. The greater the number of comparisons you can make, the more accurate your understanding of your book's market value will be.

Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America(ABAA) has a searchable database that allows a very refined search and features lengthy descriptions of the books offered for sale. Book dealers whose offerings are found here are members of the ABAA, a professional association which binds its members to a code of ethics for the conduct of their business.

Bookfinder.com is a web-based resource which draws information from online book dealers' catalogs. It is simple to use and it allows users to compare the book they have in hand to other copies of the same book which are being offered for sale right now. Descriptions of condition and edition are clear.

4. Where can I find a reputable book dealer near me?

Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America(ABAA)-- follow the link "Our Booksellers" to find a searchable database of members of this professional organization. Members are required to adhere to a code of ethics in their business dealings.

Search your local telephone directory for dealers of "used," "second-hand," "antiquarian," or "rare" books. Get to know the reputation of the business by asking others who have worked with them.

Book dealers must consider their own business expenses and the local book market when purchasing or appraising books.