Book Collecting Guide

How to get a book appraisal

The most common reason to get a book or book collection appraised is to get an official determination of the fair market replacement value of the books. You might need an appraisal to insure a rare book or book collection, or to help with inheritance issues or for determining the value for a charitable donation.

For the most part, if you aren’t planning on insuring, donating, or willing your collection, you may not want an appraisal at all. You may simply be looking for a rough estimation of the value of your books (see our article on valuing books here ).

A few things to consider for book appraisal:

  • A book appraiser will charge a fee for their services.
  • If someone appraises your book or collection, they can’t offer to buy the item(s) they appraise. That’s an ethical standard, not a legal requirement, but it’s generally understood that you should never be paying someone to tell you how much they would pay you for a book.
  • An appraised value will typically be the average market price for a comparable copy of that book on the market currently. That can be slightly complicated, as the value of a rare or collectible book may fluctuate somewhat over time, so the value of a book may change from it’s appraised value due to the market forces that dictate the desirability and scarcity of the item. That tends to be more likely true for modern (20th century and later) publications.
  • The market price is not necessarily the amount of money that you should expect to realize for the sale of the item. Rare book dealers often take years to find the right buyer for a scarce volume. If you are wanting to sell and aren’t interested in devoting years of your life to the process, you will probably be selling to a professional bookseller. A bookseller will necessarily need to pay you less than the amount he hopes to one day.

If you just want to know how book is worth and don’t need an official document

  • Do some market research yourself. This article gives a very general overview of that process.
  • If you are serious about trying to get money for your book or books, you very likely want to start talking to local, reputable booksellers in your area to check if they are interested in making you an offer. You may want to start with members of a professional trade organization or look for booksellers who have been in business for some time and have ties to the community.
  • If you have a collection focused on a particuler theme or have an especially unusual book to sell, you may want to find a specialist in that area of collectible books.

Who is qualified to do an appraisal?

There are no legal requirements or certifications for becoming an appraiser. In general you want to find a professional bookseller who has been in the business for a few years at least. They will have personal experience and resources for identifying a book correctly, and researching the actual, current value of that item. There are professional associations for appraisers, but it’s not necessary to belong to a association for appraisers to be qualified and competent.

A book appraisal will be a document describing in detail each book, including a professional, thorough account of the book’s condition, merits, and relative value, ideally with some citations for comparable copies.

Here is a list of some of Biblio’s booksellers that offer appraisal services.