Do You Know Where To Find Collectible Books?

When someone decides to start collecting a book series, the first thing that comes to mind is comparative shopping. People spend quite a bit of time combing through bookstores, eBay listings, auction houses or online advertiser Craigslist trying to find hidden treasures at the best possible prices. As someone who has dealt with rare books for quite a while, this is what I concluded when searching through all these sources:

Firstly, finding first or even early editions of rare books in bookstores are small, especially if you’re only looking in one city. Even when I have visited bookstores outside of my geographic region, I have had very limited success in finding anything valuable.

I have had better luck finding books using books search engine, which draws from a much larger database of bookstores. Even there, I can usually only get one photo of a particular book (which happens only if the seller has the capability to send either a scanned or digital image of the book). Talking to a seller on the phone is always useful, because then one can learn more about the books condition regarding its spine, hinges, coloring, tears, edition, color plates, dust jacket, etc.

If, however, you decide to try the bookstore route, you will be surprised at the difference in book pricing. Almost identical books can be listed for anywhere from $100 to $2000. The next question you should ask yourself is, “why there is such a big difference in price?” The only way to answer that question is by doing due diligence, such as sending an e-mail to the bookstore asking for more information, asking follow-up-questions, requesting pictures of the book, etc.

Finding collectible books through auction houses is also very tricky. Unless you know for certain that the auction house will be selling books that you are interested in, I would not recommend visiting them with just the hope of finding collectible titles. Also understand that, as a buyer, you will end up paying a certain premium if you win the books at an auction. If you are bidding using eBay, you should expect additional eBay fees on top of the fees imposed by auction houses.

Using Craigslist is another option, but you are limited to searches in your area, which means it might take a long time before you will find a listing for a series that you are looking for. If you are not in a hurry, the biggest advantage of this source is that you will be able to physically inspect the book before committing to buying it.

eBay is a place where you can find many rare books. However, many of them are advertised as first editions because many inexperienced sellers believe that they are, in fact, in possession of true first editions. Unfortunately, in many situations, this is not the case. There is a good chance, however, that you will be able to buy true collectible books on eBay, you just won’t most likely be getting a bargain. That is because experienced dealers will often try to win the antique, valuable books from under you at any cost.

One more word of caution regarding eBay: it is not the right place for a novice collector. Often, sellers do not provide pictures or indicate the true condition of the book. Or, sometimes-unscrupulous sellers send the books that are different from those they advertised (it happened to me as a buyer), or the color plates in the book are facsimiles (again, I speak from personal experience). Bottom line: BEWARE of buying collectible books on eBay if you are new to this business. In the last several years I sold over 1000 books from the same series, and still sometimes get deceived by dishonest sellers.

The satisfaction of finding a true collectible book at a good price is a great feeling. However, it is not easy. Rather than spending more money that you should on a book that simply is not a collectible item, it may be worth your while to contact an experienced and honest dealer who will help you find what you are looking for. In the end, both of you will be happy with the result!