Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Book Collecting

There are many factors one must take into consideration when collecting books of any sort. This is an attempt to cover the basics.

Editions: A first edition is almost invariably the preferred edition of a novel. An edition is the first state a book appears in, including the original typeset and dust jacket. It can include multiple printings, and so just because a book is listed as a first edition, it is not necessarily the first printing or state.

Printings: A first edition, first printing is a true first. It is, obviously, the first time the book has a printing run. A publisher will print a number line on the copyright page, and in the case of a first printing, will normally show a 1 or an A.

*A certain novel may have been released in another country prior to its publication in your own. If that is the case, then the nation’s publication where it was printed first would be considered the true First Edition.

Book Club Editions: If a dust jacket does not have a price listed anywhere on it, chances are it is a book club edition (BCE). BCE’s are almost invariably worthless to a collector. They are also normally about an inch shorter in height than a trade edition, and use inferior paper and binding.

Remaindered Editions: Books that have been returned unsold by booksellers to the Publisher are called remainders. Publishers then in turn resell them to bookstores for pennies on the dollar. These are the hardcover’s you see selling for 4-6 dollars. In years past, publishers would clip out the price on the dust jacket, but in recent years such books are normally denoted by a black mark somewhere upon the outside of the paper block. Remaindered editions are worth signifigantly less than an unremaindered edition. Price clipping reduces the value even more.


On Condition: The condition of a book is incredibly important with regard to value. A Fine volume will normally fetch at least twice the price of a Good one. The rule of thumb in book collecting is to buy the best condition copy you can afford. Here’s a simple grading chart.

-Fine: Like new in modern books. No scuffing or dog-eared pages. No dirt or stains or creasing or tears. DJ also like new with no fading, tears, or creases.

-Good: A little bumped up. Perhaps a scuff or two, or a dog-eared page.

-Fair: Can be a bit tattered with a cracked spine and stains. Perhaps some tears in the dust jacket. Obvious fading to DJ can be present. Such copies should be avoided if at all possible.

-Poor or Reading Copy: A book that needs a new binding or has pages missing. Chunks can be torn out of the dust jackets. Basically a ratty old book that’s only good for reading.


On Dust Jackets and Wraps:

A dust jacket is the paper cover that wraps around a hardcover book. Wraps is a term used to describe the cover of a paperback. These two terms are not interchangeable.

Like condition, dust jackets are incredibly important to the value of your books. Tearing or fading can negatively impact your investment in a big way. Just as well covered our books in high school, I recommend everyone protect their investments with Brodart dust jacket covers. They will guard against spills and tears, and help keep jackets in pristine condition.

In addition to Brodart covers, an important thing to keep in mind is to keep your books out of direct sunlight. Fading happens quickly, and a faded spine severely depreciates value.


On Value:

A book is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This is the only steadfast rule, though I will try to create something of a price guide on this site. If someone were to pay 200 dollars more than I would suggest here for a certain volume, well then it was worth whatever it sold for.

Not all science fiction and fantasy books will go up in value. In fact, the majority of genre books published in hardcover degrade in value. It is in knowing (and guessing correctly) which will increase in value that a valuable collection is made.


On Author Signatures:

Signatures add to both the collectability of a book and its value. I have attempted to post a meager collection of actual autographs from popular speculative fiction authors elsewhere on this site. Too often fake autographs are sold for high prices on places like eBay. Buyer beware.



-Trade Hardcover: The hardcover edition of a book. Normally it’s first state, complete with a dust jacket.

-Trade Paperbacks: The larger type of paperback, normally shorter than a hardcover and taller than a mass market paperback.

-Softcover or Mass Market Paperback: The average sized paperback book, about 7 inches tall.

-Foxing: Yellowing due to bad paper quality or any sort of chemical reaction.

-Inscribed or Inscription: When an author autographs a book to a certain individual.

-Presentation Copy: A copy reserved by an author to give to friends and family as he or she desires. Highly sought after by collectors.

-Numbered: A book that is limited to a certain number of copies and each individual copy is accorded a certain number in the set limitation. This number is written on the limitation page.

-Lettered: Even more exclusive than a numbered edition. A book that is limited to a certain number of copies and each individual copy is accorded a certain letter in the set limitation. This letter is written on the limitation page.

-Slip Case: An individual case created to house a particular volume or volumes.

-Advanced Reader’s Copy or Advanced Review Copy (ARC): An ARC is normally a plain review copy produced by a publisher to get the word out about a forthcoming title. Increasingly, publishers have been releasing limited and higher quality ARC’s. Some can become incredibly valuable and be highly sought after by collectors.

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