How to Value Books, Maps and Manuscripts

While one might think of books, maps, and manuscripts as being everyday mundane items to store on a shelf or in a desk, they can actually be highly sought after and valuable if old and rare enough.

Do you not know what to do with the box of dusty old leather bound books you found in your grandfather’s basement? Did you find an ancient looking copy of Shakespeare’s plays at an antique shop? Perhaps you would like some tips and tricks on how to authenticate your old maps? Navigating the world of selling and buying antique books, maps, and manuscripts can be a nebulous endeavour. However luckily there are guidelines that exist in order to assist in whatever your pursuit may be.

Condition

The first step to take in determining the value of your item, is to observe its condition. If your book is extremely old, one might check for bookworm damage, as moths and larvae have been known to burrow through pages and binding. Dampstains, which appear as darkened blotches from water damages should also be looked out for. Foxing, or the oxidation of impurities in paper, leave undesirable rusty brown marks. If a book is rebound due to damage of the original binding, this might decrease the price estimate. If pages are pulled away, ripped, or otherwise damaged, the effect will be the same. However do not be completely put off if your book is not in perfect like-new condition; if it is rare and old enough, exceptions may be made.

"Navigating the world of selling and buying antique books, maps, and manuscripts can be a nebulous endeavour. However luckily there are guidelines that exist in order to assist in whatever your pursuit may be."

Scarcity

Any item will only be of significant value if its demand exceeds its supply. Thus just because your book, map, or manuscript is very old does not guarantee that it will be worth a great deal of money, as there might be thousands of copies in circulation. Several examples of texts that possess great value due to scarcity are anything printed before 1501, English books printed before 1641, American books printed before 1801, and banned works of which very few copies exist. A complete first edition Gutenberg Bible will sell for an estimated £20-28 million.

Authenticity

Determining the authenticity of an item is undeniably a crucial step to take. In the case of books the process is typically straightforward as it should feature a date of publication, however it can get significantly more complicated with antique maps.

Many antique maps were reprinted during the twentieth century for decorative purposes, and are essentially worthless. In order to differentiate these from the real deal, it is important to observe the piece underneath a magnifying loop. If there is a pattern of dots comprising the image, it is a reprint. Maps printed before the 19th century will feature an indented grid of lines from the method of printing. Another sign of authenticity to look out for is a fold down the middle of the map. Most maps from antique eras were used in atlases and thus would have had to be folded in order to fit inside.  

Online Price Guides

One of the best ways to get an idea for the price estimate of your book, manuscript, or map is to look at how much other similar items have sold for. Luckily today the internet provides an availability of various price guides to help narrow down your estimate. Some examples of such websites are map-world.com, the rare book section of abebooks.com, and the Search for Books section of abaa.org. However the suggested prices that such websites list are not to be set in stone, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt.

Why?

Books, maps, and manuscripts are all subcategories of the collectibles market that possess uniquely intriguing qualities. To own an antique book provides the opportunity to immerse oneself in another world, not only in the sense of a literary setting, but also in the context of the period of history in which the book itself was published. An antique manuscript can allow for a similar experience in that it allows insight into the initial birth or invention of a body of work, showcasing the author’s personal touch through its handwritten nature. Antique maps provide the viewer a glimpse into the perceptions of another world from another era, serving as a reminder of the progression of humankind.

Seeking Appraisal

It is no wonder that so many people are taken by the pursuit of collecting these items, and a steady market does exist for buyers and sellers.  However even the most confident, well-versed collector can be prone to making mistakes in determining value for such items. That is why the final, most imperative step in order to avoid such errors is to seek professional valuation services. Luckily there are expert appraisers here at Value My Stuff available to lead you in your valuation efforts today!

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