What Defines a Rare Book Being a Collectible?

Written by on July 28, 2020 in Stuff with 0 Comments

Not all rare books available out there can be considered as collectibles. That’s because numerous factors define whether a book is a collectible or not. If you are a person who is working as a book collector or who is interested in becoming a book collector, you will need to keep these facts in your mind. Then you can understand whether a rare book that you come across is truly a collectible or not.

Following are the most important factors that transform a rare book into a collectible.


Primacy is one of the most important factors that transforms a book into a collectible. This is why the books that contain earliest known mentions of an idea, character or a theory are considered as collectibles. First edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stones book is a perfect example for such a book. That’s because this is the book where the Harry Potter character is introduced for the very first time.

On the other hand, some other books available for you to get are significant due to the presence of a specific language. Or else, the location where the book is printed can also contribute heavily towards the value of it. For example, the books that are printed in Antarctica have a different value when compared to the books that are printed in Pennsylvania.

First books

Shapero says before you proceed with reading, it is important to understand that first books don’t always refer to the first editions of the book. Most of the people who hear about first edition books tend to assume that they are expensive. However, not all the first edition books published by publishers are expensive like that. In fact, most of the books don’t even get published for the second time as the people don’t enjoy reading them.

The perfect combination of demand and rarity is what makes a first edition book a collectible. The first book of the author is often printed for a smaller audience. If you take a look at the debut book of J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, only 500 copies were printed. One book out of those 500 can be sold at a price of around $45,000 in an auction. However, the first edition of Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets, which is the second book of the series is priced at around $7,000. You should keep this in mind at the time of getting collectible books into your collection.

Condition of the book

For a book to become a collectible, it should be in pristine condition at all times. In fact, the overall condition of a book can determine the value associated with it. However, you should also keep in mind that the binding in most of the books that were published during the 19th Century are not uniform. Therefore, you cannot expect those books to be in perfect condition as of now. You need to make sure that they are in a decent condition, so that you can go through the content. The book should contain all the pages as well. If you are planning to invest on a modern book, you need to make sure that it is in a perfect dust jacket. For example, the very first edition of The Great Gatsby book in the original dust jacket would cost around $400,000. However, the same book without a dust jacket can only be sold at around $8,000 in an auction. Hence, you should be mindful about the condition of the books before getting them into your collection.

Contemporary binding

People who are trying to get collectible books into their collections are often focusing on the books that are in their original binding or contemporary binding. If a book has been re-bound, it doesn’t have the same value as the original book. You should also keep this fact in your mind while you are spending to purchase the collectible books into your collection.


A book comes with many different parts. For example, you can get maps, color plates and illustrations along with a book. At the time of getting a book, you need to make sure that all the parts, which initially came along with the book are available. If not, you cannot call it as a collectible. That’s because the overall value of the book will drop without having all these parts. The price can reduce dramatically and it is not worthy for you to invest on such an incomplete book. You can never call it as a collectible.


If a book was owned by someone important, you might be able to call it as a collectible as well. This is applicable if the book comes from a celebrated library as well. Provenance is all about the history of ownership associated with a book. This can significantly increase the overall value of the books. For example, a book that is marked for just $100 would increase its value to more than $50,000 due to provenance. The books that belonged to George Washington have such a massive value. If you can get one of those books, you will be investing in an excellent collectible into your book collection as well. On the other hand, you should also understand that bookplates and signatures are capable of enhancing the value of a book as well. That’s because these elements are in a position to showcase the evidence of ownership associated with a book.

Quality of printing

Most of the people tend to collect books as objects. That’s because the books are finely printed and beautiful masterpieces. In such a situation, you should be mindful about quality of printing as well. If the book has an excellent quality printing, it can become a collectible.

Make sure that you focus on these factors and differentiate collectibles from rare books. Then you can pay the right price for collectible books and get them into your book collection.

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