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BOOK CARE & COLLECTING TIPS

BOOK CARE &
COLLECTING TIPS

Making the grade: book grading scale and condition definition

By Steve Leach, HPB Buy Guy

Condition is key when it comes to determining a book's value. Whether you’re selling books or buying them, it’s important to be familiar with the book grading scale and condition definitions. Here’s a list to help you understand the major grading scale of hardback editions used by brick-and-mortar and online booksellers.

Mint (M) or As New.

This is the top grading, reserved for unread books that are still in the same condition as when they were first printed.

Fine (F).

A book in this condition may have been read, but looks new and has no defects thanks to the owner practicing good book care rules and guidelines.

Near Fine (NF).

Near Fine refers to books that are clean and have no defects, but may show slight wear at the edges or on the dust jacket. This comes from good handling, protection and storage of the book.

Very Good (VG).

These books show minor signs of wear, and may have minor defects, all of which should be noted. A dust jacket in Very Good condition is almost a must for modern firsts, accounting for up to 80% of a book’s value. Books in this category can be more specifically classified as VG+ or VG-, depending on the number and extent of flaws. Such defects might include:

  • clipped dust jacket
  • slightly torn or chipped dust jacket
  • small owner’s inscription
  • bookplate
  • remainder mark
  • minor foxing, bumping, spotting or rubbing

Good (G)

Your typical reading copy, complete, but with more obvious defects, including:

  • any of the defects listed above, to a major degree
  • torn, rolled, or slanted binding
  • cracked hinges
  • very minor water stains
  • writing or tape on dust jacket
  • highlighting

Good (G)

These books have suffered damage and are therefore not collectible. Problems may include:

  • water damage
  • mildew or mold, which can result from humid climates
  • library markings
  • book barely holding together

Poor.

This category represents books that aren't salable due to severe damage or missing parts

What it all means

Modern firsts from the last twenty years should be VG+ or NF. These guidelines become more or less strict depending on the age and scarcity of the book. Books from the 19th century and earlier are allowed more foxing and other defects. In general, pricing lists in guides are for books in Fine condition, with a Fine dust jacket (F/F).

  • A book in Very Good condition may only be worth about half of the Fine value.
  • Books in Good condition may only be worth one-sixth to one-tenth of the Fine value.
  • A minor flaw in a hard-to-find book won’t affect the value nearly as much as in a more common or recent book.

Read more about conditions of books, music and movies in our Condition Guide

Book grading scale and condition guide
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By Steve Leach, HPB Buy Guy

Looking for the right words to describe your book? Sometimes it can be difficult to understand book terms used by our expert bibliomaniacs. But worry not! We’re here to help you get familiar with jargon used by booksellers when describing a book's appearance and condition. Below is a list of key terms commonly used in the wide world of books.

Book sizes

Book-size categories were originally based on the number of times a full sheet of paper was folded by the printer when making a book.

  • folio—(12 x 19) sheets folded once; a large-sized coffee-table book
  • quarto (4to)—(9 ½ x 12) sheets folded twice; phone-book sized
  • octavo (8vo)— (between 5 ½ x 8 ½ and 6 x 9 ½ ) sheets folded three times; most novels are octavo-sized books, the larger ones referred to as royal octavo and the smaller ones called crown octavo
  • duodecimo (12vo)—(5 x 7 ½) smaller than standard novel size

Measurements vary for all of these sizes.

Terms related to the cover

  • boards—cover of hardback book
  • cloth—cloth-covered boards commonly used in publishers’ editions
  • head—the upper edge of the book
  • hinge, joint—the junction of the spine and the back or front cover (When a book’s hinge is loose, it is described as weak or, worse, cracked)
  • leather—usually leather bindings are calf or morocco (goat)
    • half-calf/half-morocco (or half-bound)—spine and corners are leather-bound
    • quarter-calf/-morocco/-bound—only the spine is leather-bound
  • spine—the part of the book that is visible as it stands on the shelf, usually containing the name of the author, the book’s title and the publisher
  • wrappers—soft covers on a book, such as pocket paperbacks, trade paperbacks, and uncorrected proofs and advance reader’s copies

Cover condition descriptions

  • bumping—used to describe places, often corners, where the cover has been noticeably dented
  • rolled spine—used to describe a book that has been crushed or has a weak spine; a cocked spine is one that is bent
  • rubbing—used to describe wear to the lettering on a book’s cover, or scuffing or wear to the cover

Terms related to the dust jacket

  • flap (front, back)—the part of the jacket that wraps around the cover, usually containing information about the book, its author, the price, and sometimes blurbs.

Dust jacket condition descriptions

  • chipped—small pieces missing at the edge of the jacket
  • creased
  • closed tear—small tear with none of the jacket missing
  • fading—used to describe loss of color due to sun exposure
  • price-clipped—used when the price has been cut from the jacket flap
  • soiled, worn—general descriptions of jacket wear-and-tear

Terms related to pages

  • copyright page—the page following the title page; it contains information about the publisher, the date published and often the edition and printing info
  • edges—any of the edges of the pages
    • fore-edge—the edge opposite the spine; a deckle edge describes untrimmed, rough fore-edges
    • top-edge—the upper edge of the pages; when colored they are called stained, when gold they’re called gilt edged
  • endpapers—the pages at the beginning and end of the book that connect the cover to the other pages
    • free endpaper—the part of the endpaper that is the first or last leaf of the book
    • paste-down—the part of the endpaper that is attached to the book’s cover
  • tipped-in pages—pages or plates glued by the publisher to the bound pages
  • laid-in pages—separate sheets relevant to the book that the book’s owner has placed in it
  • title page—the page with the title, author’s name, publisher and often the date of publication; the half-titleprecedes the title page, and usually only contains the book’s title (the reverse side, or verso, sometimes lists other books by the author)

Page condition descriptions

  • foxing—brownish, mottled discoloration due to age
  • water damage, staining—moderate discoloration due to moisture; any serious water damage may keep a book from being sellable

Check out our Condition Guide and Glossary of Book Terms too.

Book terms for the everyday booklover
|How to spot an authentic signed book|

What is it about vinyl?

By Steve Leach, HPB Buy Guy

Many businesses are now getting into selling vinyl LPs. We never got out!

For a while, a lot of people thought LPs were a thing of the past. At HPB, we may have had a little doubt, but we've always believed in records. Even at their lowest point, we kept space for them in our stores, because we always had customers who appreciated them.

LPs were introduced around 1948, and became the dominant recorded medium through the mid-Eighties. Then came the compact disc, and interest in the LP format waned. After that, digital music came along and threatened all hard-copy formats of music.

But now, the record is on the rise, even if its market share is still relatively small. Sales of new and used LPs—as well as turntables—are increasing by double digits every year as vinyl has become popular among both the young and old.

There is still a big market for the LP, both as a type of collectible and as a listening medium. Why the renewed interest in LPs? Well, in many ways it never really went away.

  • Sound quality.There are many audiophiles who swear that the sound quality is better. The argument is that a digital recording compresses the sound down to the binary elements of zeroes and ones, while old analog recordings capture the sound in its purest state, or at least the way a human ear hears music live. With the rise of the MP3, the sound quality issue is more pronounced, due to the fact that the sound is compressedeven further.
  • Collectability. Vinyl is a hot collector category. It reminds older music lovers of their past, and it gives younger music lovers an opportunity to have records that influenced their own music heroes. The sterile, over-available nature of digital music has increased the interest in and the value of older, classic vinyl in all genres.
  • New vinyl. Throughout the CD era, there were always niche markets like Punk, Hip Hop and independent labels pressing new vinyl. In recent years, these niche markets have become bigger business, and they have brought the LP aesthetic along with them. Younger listeners can now buy vinyl versions of almost any new album, and often get a digital download along with it.
  • Hard-to-find music. Another reason LPs continue to sell is that not every record made its way onto CD or into the iTunes store. For a music lover, this is the great unknown.
  • Packaging. The LP cover has much more visual appeal than other formats’ packaging. Many of our customers frame favorite LP covers. There are quite a few coffee-table books that celebrate LP cover art and photography.
  • New turntables. The new turntables that allow easy analog-to-digital conversion mean that music lovers can have the nice sound and packaging of the LP and the convenience of a digital format. Turntables are now much easier to find in stores. (We’ve got ‘em!)
  • Great supply & price. Over the past couple decades, many record owners have converted to the CD format and sold their LPs. At HPB, our quantity and quality of records has increased, but the price has not.

Popular vinyl genres

Of course, some types of records tend to be of more interest than others. Generally, the more pop the artists are, the easier their records are to find. But there is still greater demand than supply for some of the classic rock bands, especially from the Sixties, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s also a lot of demand for vinyl soul from the ‘70s, country & western from the ‘60s, punk, metal, classic blues and reggae. No matter the genre, middle-of-the-road artists tend not to garner much interest, but there are exceptions.

Condition

Keep in mind that an LP’s condition is very important. Bad pops and scratches can intrude on your listening experience, and a warped record isn’t even playable. But you can give the really cool and old ones some leeway, like Muddy Waters at Newport or The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Sometimes it's worth it to own a classic piece of music history.

Learn more about condition of LPs in our Condition Guide

What is it about vinyl?
Got a question? Ask the HPB Buy Guy.

How to Care for Your Books

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

The elements

  • Keep books out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause the colors of the dust jacket to fade.
  • Keep your books dry. Humidity and dampness produce mold, which pretty much can't be cured.
  • Exposure to water will also ripple pages and deform the book.
  • Extreme cold isn't good, but extreme heat is worse, especially in a humid climate

Creatures

  • Keep bugs away from your books. Some bugs like to eat books; others will leave their mark.
  • Keep cats away from your books. They have a habit of leaving their mark, and it's hard to get rid of the damage. (You may be able to deodorize cat- or tobacco-befouled books by putting them in an airtight container with an air freshener for a day or two; of course, they may then smell like apple cinnamon.)
  • Keep kids and other free spirits away from your books. Books should be handled carefully, with clean hands.

Storage

  • Ideally, your books should be stored upright on your shelves. You want to be able to see them, maybe even read them occasionally.
  • Don't lay other books on top of them.
  • If you have to store your books in a garage or attic, be aware of heat. Store them in airtight, acid-free containers.

Protection

  • Make sure your hands are clean when you read your books, clean hands, preferably not while you're eating spaghetti or chocolate ice cream.
  • Use bookmarks. Don't fold the pages down, mark your place with your sunglasses or leave the book open and upside-down.
  • Don't write your name (or anything else) in your books. If you have to use bookplates, use nice, custom-made ones.
  • Put your dust jackets in protective dust jacket covers. Dust jackets protect and improve the look (and value) of books.
  • Occasionally use a feather duster to get the dust off your books.
  • If you loan your books, loan them to people who care about them as much as you do.
So you want to start a collection?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Think you might like to collect books?

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

You don't have to spend a lot of money.

You’ll probably never get rich buying selling collectible books, so just look for those of interest that are in the best condition, have the nicest binding and are the earliest edition you can find and afford. Keep in mind that the dust jacket of a collectible modern edition accounts for up to 80% of its value.

Learn how to identify collectibles.

A book doesn't have to be a first edition to be collectible. Look for signed editions of authors' works; limited, numbered editions; finely bound or illustrated editions; original paperback editions; or books containing maps or diagrams. If you want to collect first editions, find out how different publishers identify them. They don't all print "First Edition" on the copyright page. Some use number series starting with "1" or letter series starting with "A," while others simply don't list any later printings. You also need to make sure the book isn't a reprint, a book club edition or a facsimile of the first edition.

Keep your books stored safely.

Control the temperature and limit the humidity in the spaces where you keep your books. Protect dust jackets with Mylar protectors, and keep them out of direct sunlight so they won't fade. Shelve your books so that their spines don't bend or break and their covers don't get scuffed. And if you notice evidence of little critters around your books, take measures to eliminate them.

Don't write your name in your collectible books.

If you really want to identify a book as yours, you may use a nice bookplate. It will still devalue the book, but not quite as much.

If you have questions about collectibles you can email the Buy Guy
Cash for Textbooks

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Schools out! Unload all your used textbooks and classroom required reading at Half Price Books. We'll make you a competitive cash offer on everything you bring in to sell. Learn more about selling textbooks here.

How to Spot a First Edition

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Do you have a first edition?

If you'd like to collect first editions of your favorite books, there are a few basic steps that can help you build a nice collection.

Book club editions

Before you look up a book in a price guide or on the Internet, make sure it's not a book club edition. Here are some characteristics of many book club editions:

  • Smaller, lighter, noticeably cheaply made
  • Embossed or painted shape on the lower right rear corner
  • Plastic or paper cover rather than cloth
  • The acronym "BOMC" on the copyright page
  • No price on the front flap of the dust jacket
  • The words "Book Club Edition" on the front flap of dust jacket
  • No bar code (or there is a space at the upper right edge of the bar code where a price would normally be)

Reprint editions

You'll also want to make sure the book isn't a reprint edition, which is a print edition of a bookpreviously published by another publisher. Reprint publishers include Grosset & Dunlap, Tower and A.L. Burt. The copyright page of reprints will usually list the original publisher and publication date. Some reprints in dust jackets are collectible, including Modern Library and Grosset & Dunlap's Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tarzan series.

First edition indicators

If you think you may have a first edition, you must understand that publishers use different means of denoting their first editions. Look on the copyright page (the other side of the title page) for the following first edition indications:

  • The words "First Edition" or "First Printing"
  • The words "First Published" with a month and/or year
  • Number or letter series, usually beginning with "1" or "A"
  • Same date on the title page and the copyright page
  • No additional printings listed

There are many other ways to tell if you have a first edition. McBride's Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions is a nice, compact reference for various publishers' first edition styles.

How desirable is the book?

If the book appears to be a first edition, distinguish between desirable and common first editions. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If the author is well-known, make sure the title is one of the earliest by that author.
  • If it's signed and/or limited, it may have extra value.
  • If you haven't heard of the author, but the book looks unusual and old, it may be worth looking up. (But it may just be unusual and old. Or just old.)
  • Literary authors are often more collectible than popular authors.
  • Books that have won a literary prize are generally collectible.

Assessing your book's condition

If your book is a collectible first edition, determine its condition. All of these flaws may decrease the value of a book or keep it from being collectible:

  • No dust jacket.
  • Faded, torn or chipped dust jacket.
  • Water stains or mold (these are especially devaluing flaws)
  • Loose binding
  • Highlighting, underlining, bookplate, owner inscription or other markings
  • Foxing (brown "age spots")

To learn more about determining a book's condition, read our article on Book Grading Scales

Special features

Whether or not it's a first edition, if you have an old, interesting book whose value you're wondering about, check for special features that may make it collectible:

  • Does the book have a fine or leather binding?
  • Does it have illustrations, maps or charts?
  • Is it signed by the author? (And is the author well-known?)
  • Is it a limited or numbered edition?
  • Are there special interest groups—fan clubs, hobbyists, cult groups—that are interested in this book?

Is all this book talk a little much? The Buy Guy breaks down all the book terminology for you!

Is this old book valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

You can’t judge a book…

We all know a first edition by Hemingway is likely to be worth some money. Students know how expensive a current textbook can be. But what about a nondescript book called Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham, published in 1940? How can that be worth hundreds of dollars? Or Ricky Jay’s Cards as Weapons, from 1977?

In the old days, when an odd or very niche book would come in, we’d use our gut instinct to put a price on it, then put it on the shelf and hope the right person would come along seeking a book on, say, training and showing mules, or beating the stock market through astrology. More often than not, those books sat unbothered on the shelf.

Over the last two decades, the Internet has exposed a great mass of books to a great mass of people, causing the prices of most used books to drop, often precipitously. At the same time, though, it has caused a sharp increase in prices for a lot of extremely unusual books. There may be great demand for a John Grisham novel, but there are so many out there that the price is low. On the other hand, there may only be five people in the world looking for a book on Dental Gold Structures, but now they don’t have to be in your neighborhood to buy it from you

I thought it would be interesting to share a sample of titles that may not seem to be treasures, but that have sold for a lot of money, sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Crafts & hobbies

A lot of the craft books we get at Half Price Books look pretty mundane, pretty insubstantial. Most are indeed very affordable. But there are groups of crafters out there who are always looking for certain well-thought-of guides in the areas of knitting and crocheting, woodworking, and many other crafts.

For gamer hobbyists, Dungeons & Dragons and a lot of other role-playing material from the Seventies may be in demand. Early videogame players’ guides may be sought-after as well. Other unexpectedly coveted hobby books cover glassblowing, rocketry, trains (both model trains and the real ones), poker, and puppetry.

Some examples: Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford Ashley Book of Spinning Wheels (1993), by Joan Whittaker Cummer Denim Design Lab (2005), by Brian Robbins Modular Crochet (1978), Judith Copeland Canes and Walking Sticks (1974), Kurt Stein Advanced Speaker Designs for the Hobbyist & Technician, Roy Alden Flexible Shaft Machine Jewelry Techniques (1983), Harold O'Connor Greenberg's Guide to Gilbert Erector Sets, 1933-62 (1998), Wm. Bean Marble's Knives and Axes (1978), Konrad F. Schreier, Jr. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials, Vol. 2 (1997), Paul Schmookler

Early fiction by well-known authors

An early book by a popular author, sometimes written under a pseudonym and/or in a genre other than the one they’ve become known for, may be collectible.

Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts and Brenda Jackson are among those who started that way, and their earlier works may have some value. Mystery author Janet Evanovich wrote romance under her own name and as Steffie Hall.

Well into the 1980s, popular horror writer Dean Koontz wrote romance, adult novels, thrillers and other fiction under a variety of pseudonyms, including Brian Coffey, K R Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Owen West, Deanna Dwyer (!) and others. Many of these are hard to find and collectible, most often in paperback

Science/technical/business

Business and science books that are 40 years old or more can be surprisingly valuable. It may seem counterintuitive these would be of interest—and most aren’t. But some are considered classics in their narrow fields, and are still sought after, if only by a small number of readers. As far as science and technical books go, the higher the level and more specific the topic, the better.

A few examples: Beat the Market (1967), by Edward Thorp Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies, Seth A Klarman Reality in Advertising (1961), Rosser Reeves Mathematical Theory of Evidence, Glenn Shafer Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art (1976), ed. Russett, Starr Handbook of Electron Tube and Vacuum Techniques (1965), Fred Rosebury How to Build a Working Digital Computer (1968), Edward Alcosser Introduction to Structural Dynamics (1964), John Biggs

Esoteric subjects

If a book’s topic is something you don’t see often, or it’s just plain weird, there’s a chance it’s something someone is dying to find. Here are a few examples of books that may have more value than you would expect.

Performing arts: Carnival Strippers, Susan Meiselas Social sciences: Seduction Of The Innocent, Fredric Wertham (comic books and society) Paranormal: The Catchers of Heaven: A Trilogy, Michael Wolf (about UFOs) Horse racing: Authentic Arabian Bloodstock (1990), Judith Forbis Martial arts: Dynamic Judo Throwing Techniques (1967), Kazuzo Kudo Coal (1978), Jason Grant Lifestyle: Fact and Fancy about Cigars and Tobacco (1967), Morton L. Annis (a 56-page booklet) Fishing: Rivers of Memory (1993), Harry Middleton Fortune telling: The Mystic Grimoire of Mighty Spells and Rituals, Frater Malak Music biography: Billion Dollar Baby, Bob Greene (a bio of Alice Cooper)

A lot of odd and niche books are not much more than that: they’re unusual and stay in their niche, unsought and unappreciated. But there are indeed quite a few books out there that you can’t judge by looking at their covers.

Is my First Edition valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Which came first? A guide to identifying first edition books

Making sure you have a true first edition isn't always as easy as it seems, but we're here to help. A book that says it’s a first edition isn’t always the first printing of the first edition, and the first printing is usually the one everyone wants. Read on to figure out whether your book is worth more than just the enjoyment of reading.

First edition

The edition of a book changes when its content changes or illustrations are added, or when a different publisher reprints it. Textbooks regularly go through several editions, but novels usually do not. However, the first edition of a novel may go through several printings. The collector of modern first editions is looking for first printings of a book’s first edition. The value of any later printings drops off tremendously (although rare first editions’ later printings may still have great value).

Even if it's a first printing, it may not be the first state (or first issue). Sometimes, a collectible book will have changes made after the first printing is issued (known as points ), including text changes or corrections, price changes on the dust jacket, or changes to the book’s design. The most collectible version is the first issue of a first printing of a first edition.

Sometimes, a limited edition (often numbered) is issued by the publisher. When this edition truly has some special feature—special illustrations, binding—it may have value as a collectible. When a limited edition is issued mainly because the author is so popular that there will be a large print run of the first edition, the value is often more dubious. The first edition that follows this type of limited edition is often called the first trade edition. Most books only have a first trade edition.

Book club edition

Book club editions are generally more cheaply made than publishers’ editions. Most book club editions, especially older ones, are smaller than publishers’ versions, and are easy to distinguish. More recent Book-of-the-Month Club editions are often about the same size as their publisher-edition counterparts. There are several signs to look for when determining whether or not a book is the book club edition:

  • Smaller size
  • No price on the dust jacket’s front flap
  • Cheaper binding material, often not cloth-covered
  • A blank space where a price would be in the upper right corner of the ISBN area in the right-rear corner of the dust jacket
  • For books from the 70s and earlier, an indented or inked symbol (circle, square, or other design) on the lower right-rear corner of the back board of the book
  • A reference to “BOMC” or other book club on the copyright page
  • The words “Book Club Edition” at the bottom of the front flap of the jacket

None of these points is consistent, so you may need to use combinations of clues to be sure.

Some book clubs produce higher-end classics in literary bindings. These include

  • Easton Press, Franklin Library, Folio Society — leather binding, hubbed or ribbed spine, moire endpapers; often become collectible when they're no longer available to order
  • Heritage Press—popular editions of Limited Editions Club books
  • Limited Editions Club—high-end, collectible, limited editions, often signed by an illustrator, sometimes by the author
  • First Edition Library—facsimiles of great works’ first editions, issued in slipcases (a cardboard case into which the book fits, leaving the spine exposed)
  • International Collector’s Library, Harvard Classics — high- and low-end classics bound in imitation leather or cloth and on the low end, value-wise

Book club edition

Some publishing houses specialize in reprints of other publishers’ originals. Although they’re rarely true first editions, some early ones have decorative dust jackets and are collectible. Most, however, aren’t of much value. Look for a statement on the book’s copyright page indicating that the book has been previously published.

Publishers who primarily issued reprints:

  • Grosset & Dunlap (but they also published all editions of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and other children’s series, many of which are collectible in early versions)
  • Saalfield
  • Triangle
  • Tower
  • A.L. Burt
  • Sun Dial
  • Collier

Modern Library is a reprint publisher whose editions many collect, especially earlier First Modern Library editions and those with decorative dust jackets.

What's the Condition of My Book?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Condition is key when it comes to determining a book's value. Whether you’re selling books or buying them, it’s important to be familiar with the book grading scale and condition definitions. Here’s a list to help you understand the major grading scale of hardback editions used by brick-and-mortar and online booksellers.

Mint (M) or As New.

This is the top grading, reserved for unread books that are still in the same condition as when they were first printed.

Fine (F).

A book in this condition may have been read, but looks new and has no defects thanks to the owner practicing good book care rules and guidelines.

Near Fine (NF).

Near Fine refers to books that are clean and have no defects, but may show slight wear at the edges or on the dust jacket. This comes from good handling, protection and storage of the book.

Very Good (VG).

These books show minor signs of wear, and may have minor defects, all of which should be noted. A dust jacket in Very Good condition is almost a must for modern firsts, accounting for up to 80% of a book’s value. Books in this category can be more specifically classified as VG+ or VG-, depending on the number and extent of flaws. Such defects might include:

  • clipped dust jacket
  • slightly torn or chipped dust jacket
  • small owner’s inscription
  • bookplate
  • remainder mark
  • minor foxing, bumping, spotting or rubbing

Good (G)

Your typical reading copy, complete, but with more obvious defects, including:

  • any of the defects listed above, to a major degree
  • torn, rolled, or slanted binding
  • cracked hinges
  • very minor water stains
  • writing or tape on dust jacket
  • highlighting

Good (G)

These books have suffered damage and are therefore not collectible. Problems may include:

  • water damage
  • mildew or mold, which can result from humid climates
  • library markings
  • book barely holding together

Poor.

This category represents books that aren't salable due to severe damage or missing parts

What it all means

Modern firsts from the last twenty years should be VG+ or NF. These guidelines become more or less strict depending on the age and scarcity of the book. Books from the 19th century and earlier are allowed more foxing and other defects. In general, pricing lists in guides are for books in Fine condition, with a Fine dust jacket (F/F).

  • A book in Very Good condition may only be worth about half of the Fine value.
  • Books in Good condition may only be worth one-sixth to one-tenth of the Fine value.
  • A minor flaw in a hard-to-find book won’t affect the value nearly as much as in a more common or recent book.

Read more about conditions of books, music and movies in our Condition Guide

Does HPB buy LPs?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Many businesses are now getting into selling vinyl LPs. We never got out!

For a while, a lot of people thought LPs were a thing of the past. At HPB, we may have had a little doubt, but we've always believed in records. Even at their lowest point, we kept space for them in our stores, because we always had customers who appreciated them.

LPs were introduced around 1948, and became the dominant recorded medium through the mid-Eighties. Then came the compact disc, and interest in the LP format waned. After that, digital music came along and threatened all hard-copy formats of music.

But now, the record is on the rise, even if its market share is still relatively small. Sales of new and used LPs—as well as turntables—are increasing by double digits every year as vinyl has become popular among both the young and old.

There is still a big market for the LP, both as a type of collectible and as a listening medium. Why the renewed interest in LPs? Well, in many ways it never really went away.

  • Sound quality.There are many audiophiles who swear that the sound quality is better. The argument is that a digital recording compresses the sound down to the binary elements of zeroes and ones, while old analog recordings capture the sound in its purest state, or at least the way a human ear hears music live. With the rise of the MP3, the sound quality issue is more pronounced, due to the fact that the sound is compressedeven further.
  • Collectability. Vinyl is a hot collector category. It reminds older music lovers of their past, and it gives younger music lovers an opportunity to have records that influenced their own music heroes. The sterile, over-available nature of digital music has increased the interest in and the value of older, classic vinyl in all genres.
  • New vinyl. Throughout the CD era, there were always niche markets like Punk, Hip Hop and independent labels pressing new vinyl. In recent years, these niche markets have become bigger business, and they have brought the LP aesthetic along with them. Younger listeners can now buy vinyl versions of almost any new album, and often get a digital download along with it.
  • Hard-to-find music. Another reason LPs continue to sell is that not every record made its way onto CD or into the iTunes store. For a music lover, this is the great unknown.
  • Packaging. The LP cover has much more visual appeal than other formats’ packaging. Many of our customers frame favorite LP covers. There are quite a few coffee-table books that celebrate LP cover art and photography.
  • New turntables. The new turntables that allow easy analog-to-digital conversion mean that music lovers can have the nice sound and packaging of the LP and the convenience of a digital format. Turntables are now much easier to find in stores. (We’ve got ‘em!)
  • Great supply & price. Over the past couple decades, many record owners have converted to the CD format and sold their LPs. At HPB, our quantity and quality of records has increased, but the price has not.

Popular vinyl genres

Of course, some types of records tend to be of more interest than others. Generally, the more pop the artists are, the easier their records are to find. But there is still greater demand than supply for some of the classic rock bands, especially from the Sixties, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s also a lot of demand for vinyl soul from the ‘70s, country & western from the ‘60s, punk, metal, classic blues and reggae. No matter the genre, middle-of-the-road artists tend not to garner much interest, but there are exceptions.

Condition

Keep in mind that an LP’s condition is very important. Bad pops and scratches can intrude on your listening experience, and a warped record isn’t even playable. But you can give the really cool and old ones some leeway, like Muddy Waters at Newport or The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Sometimes it's worth it to own a classic piece of music history.

Learn more about condition of LPs in our Condition Guide

How to Care for Your Books

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

The elements

  • Keep books out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause the colors of the dust jacket to fade.
  • Keep your books dry. Humidity and dampness produce mold, which pretty much can't be cured.
  • Exposure to water will also ripple pages and deform the book.
  • Extreme cold isn't good, but extreme heat is worse, especially in a humid climate

Creatures

  • Keep bugs away from your books. Some bugs like to eat books; others will leave their mark.
  • Keep cats away from your books. They have a habit of leaving their mark, and it's hard to get rid of the damage. (You may be able to deodorize cat- or tobacco-befouled books by putting them in an airtight container with an air freshener for a day or two; of course, they may then smell like apple cinnamon.)
  • Keep kids and other free spirits away from your books. Books should be handled carefully, with clean hands.

Storage

  • Ideally, your books should be stored upright on your shelves. You want to be able to see them, maybe even read them occasionally.
  • Don't lay other books on top of them.
  • If you have to store your books in a garage or attic, be aware of heat. Store them in airtight, acid-free containers.

Protection

  • Make sure your hands are clean when you read your books, clean hands, preferably not while you're eating spaghetti or chocolate ice cream.
  • Use bookmarks. Don't fold the pages down, mark your place with your sunglasses or leave the book open and upside-down.
  • Don't write your name (or anything else) in your books. If you have to use bookplates, use nice, custom-made ones.
  • Put your dust jackets in protective dust jacket covers. Dust jackets protect and improve the look (and value) of books.
  • Occasionally use a feather duster to get the dust off your books.
  • If you loan your books, loan them to people who care about them as much as you do.
So you want to start a collection?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Think you might like to collect books?

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

You don't have to spend a lot of money.

You’ll probably never get rich buying selling collectible books, so just look for those of interest that are in the best condition, have the nicest binding and are the earliest edition you can find and afford. Keep in mind that the dust jacket of a collectible modern edition accounts for up to 80% of its value.

Learn how to identify collectibles.

A book doesn't have to be a first edition to be collectible. Look for signed editions of authors' works; limited, numbered editions; finely bound or illustrated editions; original paperback editions; or books containing maps or diagrams. If you want to collect first editions, find out how different publishers identify them. They don't all print "First Edition" on the copyright page. Some use number series starting with "1" or letter series starting with "A," while others simply don't list any later printings. You also need to make sure the book isn't a reprint, a book club edition or a facsimile of the first edition.

Keep your books stored safely.

Control the temperature and limit the humidity in the spaces where you keep your books. Protect dust jackets with Mylar protectors, and keep them out of direct sunlight so they won't fade. Shelve your books so that their spines don't bend or break and their covers don't get scuffed. And if you notice evidence of little critters around your books, take measures to eliminate them.

Don't write your name in your collectible books.

If you really want to identify a book as yours, you may use a nice bookplate. It will still devalue the book, but not quite as much.

If you have questions about collectibles you can email the Buy Guy
Cash for Textbooks

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Schools out! Unload all your used textbooks and classroom required reading at Half Price Books. We'll make you a competitive cash offer on everything you bring in to sell. Learn more about selling textbooks here.

How to Spot a First Edition

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Do you have a first edition?

If you'd like to collect first editions of your favorite books, there are a few basic steps that can help you build a nice collection.

Book club editions

Before you look up a book in a price guide or on the Internet, make sure it's not a book club edition. Here are some characteristics of many book club editions:

  • Smaller, lighter, noticeably cheaply made
  • Embossed or painted shape on the lower right rear corner
  • Plastic or paper cover rather than cloth
  • The acronym "BOMC" on the copyright page
  • No price on the front flap of the dust jacket
  • The words "Book Club Edition" on the front flap of dust jacket
  • No bar code (or there is a space at the upper right edge of the bar code where a price would normally be)

Reprint editions

You'll also want to make sure the book isn't a reprint edition, which is a print edition of a bookpreviously published by another publisher. Reprint publishers include Grosset & Dunlap, Tower and A.L. Burt. The copyright page of reprints will usually list the original publisher and publication date. Some reprints in dust jackets are collectible, including Modern Library and Grosset & Dunlap's Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tarzan series.

First edition indicators

If you think you may have a first edition, you must understand that publishers use different means of denoting their first editions. Look on the copyright page (the other side of the title page) for the following first edition indications:

  • The words "First Edition" or "First Printing"
  • The words "First Published" with a month and/or year
  • Number or letter series, usually beginning with "1" or "A"
  • Same date on the title page and the copyright page
  • No additional printings listed

There are many other ways to tell if you have a first edition. McBride's Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions is a nice, compact reference for various publishers' first edition styles.

How desirable is the book?

If the book appears to be a first edition, distinguish between desirable and common first editions. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If the author is well-known, make sure the title is one of the earliest by that author.
  • If it's signed and/or limited, it may have extra value.
  • If you haven't heard of the author, but the book looks unusual and old, it may be worth looking up. (But it may just be unusual and old. Or just old.)
  • Literary authors are often more collectible than popular authors.
  • Books that have won a literary prize are generally collectible.

Assessing your book's condition

If your book is a collectible first edition, determine its condition. All of these flaws may decrease the value of a book or keep it from being collectible:

  • No dust jacket.
  • Faded, torn or chipped dust jacket.
  • Water stains or mold (these are especially devaluing flaws)
  • Loose binding
  • Highlighting, underlining, bookplate, owner inscription or other markings
  • Foxing (brown "age spots")

To learn more about determining a book's condition, read our article on Book Grading Scales

Special features

Whether or not it's a first edition, if you have an old, interesting book whose value you're wondering about, check for special features that may make it collectible:

  • Does the book have a fine or leather binding?
  • Does it have illustrations, maps or charts?
  • Is it signed by the author? (And is the author well-known?)
  • Is it a limited or numbered edition?
  • Are there special interest groups—fan clubs, hobbyists, cult groups—that are interested in this book?

Is all this book talk a little much? The Buy Guy breaks down all the book terminology for you!

Is this old book valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

You can’t judge a book…

We all know a first edition by Hemingway is likely to be worth some money. Students know how expensive a current textbook can be. But what about a nondescript book called Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham, published in 1940? How can that be worth hundreds of dollars? Or Ricky Jay’s Cards as Weapons, from 1977?

In the old days, when an odd or very niche book would come in, we’d use our gut instinct to put a price on it, then put it on the shelf and hope the right person would come along seeking a book on, say, training and showing mules, or beating the stock market through astrology. More often than not, those books sat unbothered on the shelf.

Over the last two decades, the Internet has exposed a great mass of books to a great mass of people, causing the prices of most used books to drop, often precipitously. At the same time, though, it has caused a sharp increase in prices for a lot of extremely unusual books. There may be great demand for a John Grisham novel, but there are so many out there that the price is low. On the other hand, there may only be five people in the world looking for a book on Dental Gold Structures, but now they don’t have to be in your neighborhood to buy it from you

I thought it would be interesting to share a sample of titles that may not seem to be treasures, but that have sold for a lot of money, sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Crafts & hobbies

A lot of the craft books we get at Half Price Books look pretty mundane, pretty insubstantial. Most are indeed very affordable. But there are groups of crafters out there who are always looking for certain well-thought-of guides in the areas of knitting and crocheting, woodworking, and many other crafts.

For gamer hobbyists, Dungeons & Dragons and a lot of other role-playing material from the Seventies may be in demand. Early videogame players’ guides may be sought-after as well. Other unexpectedly coveted hobby books cover glassblowing, rocketry, trains (both model trains and the real ones), poker, and puppetry.

Some examples: Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford Ashley Book of Spinning Wheels (1993), by Joan Whittaker Cummer Denim Design Lab (2005), by Brian Robbins Modular Crochet (1978), Judith Copeland Canes and Walking Sticks (1974), Kurt Stein Advanced Speaker Designs for the Hobbyist & Technician, Roy Alden Flexible Shaft Machine Jewelry Techniques (1983), Harold O'Connor Greenberg's Guide to Gilbert Erector Sets, 1933-62 (1998), Wm. Bean Marble's Knives and Axes (1978), Konrad F. Schreier, Jr. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials, Vol. 2 (1997), Paul Schmookler

Early fiction by well-known authors

An early book by a popular author, sometimes written under a pseudonym and/or in a genre other than the one they’ve become known for, may be collectible.

Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts and Brenda Jackson are among those who started that way, and their earlier works may have some value. Mystery author Janet Evanovich wrote romance under her own name and as Steffie Hall.

Well into the 1980s, popular horror writer Dean Koontz wrote romance, adult novels, thrillers and other fiction under a variety of pseudonyms, including Brian Coffey, K R Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Owen West, Deanna Dwyer (!) and others. Many of these are hard to find and collectible, most often in paperback

Science/technical/business

Business and science books that are 40 years old or more can be surprisingly valuable. It may seem counterintuitive these would be of interest—and most aren’t. But some are considered classics in their narrow fields, and are still sought after, if only by a small number of readers. As far as science and technical books go, the higher the level and more specific the topic, the better.

A few examples: Beat the Market (1967), by Edward Thorp Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies, Seth A Klarman Reality in Advertising (1961), Rosser Reeves Mathematical Theory of Evidence, Glenn Shafer Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art (1976), ed. Russett, Starr Handbook of Electron Tube and Vacuum Techniques (1965), Fred Rosebury How to Build a Working Digital Computer (1968), Edward Alcosser Introduction to Structural Dynamics (1964), John Biggs

Esoteric subjects

If a book’s topic is something you don’t see often, or it’s just plain weird, there’s a chance it’s something someone is dying to find. Here are a few examples of books that may have more value than you would expect.

Performing arts: Carnival Strippers, Susan Meiselas Social sciences: Seduction Of The Innocent, Fredric Wertham (comic books and society) Paranormal: The Catchers of Heaven: A Trilogy, Michael Wolf (about UFOs) Horse racing: Authentic Arabian Bloodstock (1990), Judith Forbis Martial arts: Dynamic Judo Throwing Techniques (1967), Kazuzo Kudo Coal (1978), Jason Grant Lifestyle: Fact and Fancy about Cigars and Tobacco (1967), Morton L. Annis (a 56-page booklet) Fishing: Rivers of Memory (1993), Harry Middleton Fortune telling: The Mystic Grimoire of Mighty Spells and Rituals, Frater Malak Music biography: Billion Dollar Baby, Bob Greene (a bio of Alice Cooper)

A lot of odd and niche books are not much more than that: they’re unusual and stay in their niche, unsought and unappreciated. But there are indeed quite a few books out there that you can’t judge by looking at their covers.

Is my First Edition valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Which came first? A guide to identifying first edition books

Making sure you have a true first edition isn't always as easy as it seems, but we're here to help. A book that says it’s a first edition isn’t always the first printing of the first edition, and the first printing is usually the one everyone wants. Read on to figure out whether your book is worth more than just the enjoyment of reading.

First edition

The edition of a book changes when its content changes or illustrations are added, or when a different publisher reprints it. Textbooks regularly go through several editions, but novels usually do not. However, the first edition of a novel may go through several printings. The collector of modern first editions is looking for first printings of a book’s first edition. The value of any later printings drops off tremendously (although rare first editions’ later printings may still have great value).

Even if it's a first printing, it may not be the first state (or first issue). Sometimes, a collectible book will have changes made after the first printing is issued (known as points ), including text changes or corrections, price changes on the dust jacket, or changes to the book’s design. The most collectible version is the first issue of a first printing of a first edition.

Sometimes, a limited edition (often numbered) is issued by the publisher. When this edition truly has some special feature—special illustrations, binding—it may have value as a collectible. When a limited edition is issued mainly because the author is so popular that there will be a large print run of the first edition, the value is often more dubious. The first edition that follows this type of limited edition is often called the first trade edition. Most books only have a first trade edition.

Book club edition

Book club editions are generally more cheaply made than publishers’ editions. Most book club editions, especially older ones, are smaller than publishers’ versions, and are easy to distinguish. More recent Book-of-the-Month Club editions are often about the same size as their publisher-edition counterparts. There are several signs to look for when determining whether or not a book is the book club edition:

  • Smaller size
  • No price on the dust jacket’s front flap
  • Cheaper binding material, often not cloth-covered
  • A blank space where a price would be in the upper right corner of the ISBN area in the right-rear corner of the dust jacket
  • For books from the 70s and earlier, an indented or inked symbol (circle, square, or other design) on the lower right-rear corner of the back board of the book
  • A reference to “BOMC” or other book club on the copyright page
  • The words “Book Club Edition” at the bottom of the front flap of the jacket

None of these points is consistent, so you may need to use combinations of clues to be sure.

Some book clubs produce higher-end classics in literary bindings. These include

  • Easton Press, Franklin Library, Folio Society — leather binding, hubbed or ribbed spine, moire endpapers; often become collectible when they're no longer available to order
  • Heritage Press—popular editions of Limited Editions Club books
  • Limited Editions Club—high-end, collectible, limited editions, often signed by an illustrator, sometimes by the author
  • First Edition Library—facsimiles of great works’ first editions, issued in slipcases (a cardboard case into which the book fits, leaving the spine exposed)
  • International Collector’s Library, Harvard Classics — high- and low-end classics bound in imitation leather or cloth and on the low end, value-wise

Book club edition

Some publishing houses specialize in reprints of other publishers’ originals. Although they’re rarely true first editions, some early ones have decorative dust jackets and are collectible. Most, however, aren’t of much value. Look for a statement on the book’s copyright page indicating that the book has been previously published.

Publishers who primarily issued reprints:

  • Grosset & Dunlap (but they also published all editions of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and other children’s series, many of which are collectible in early versions)
  • Saalfield
  • Triangle
  • Tower
  • A.L. Burt
  • Sun Dial
  • Collier

Modern Library is a reprint publisher whose editions many collect, especially earlier First Modern Library editions and those with decorative dust jackets.

What's the Condition of My Book?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Condition is key when it comes to determining a book's value. Whether you’re selling books or buying them, it’s important to be familiar with the book grading scale and condition definitions. Here’s a list to help you understand the major grading scale of hardback editions used by brick-and-mortar and online booksellers.

Mint (M) or As New.

This is the top grading, reserved for unread books that are still in the same condition as when they were first printed.

Fine (F).

A book in this condition may have been read, but looks new and has no defects thanks to the owner practicing good book care rules and guidelines.

Near Fine (NF).

Near Fine refers to books that are clean and have no defects, but may show slight wear at the edges or on the dust jacket. This comes from good handling, protection and storage of the book.

Very Good (VG).

These books show minor signs of wear, and may have minor defects, all of which should be noted. A dust jacket in Very Good condition is almost a must for modern firsts, accounting for up to 80% of a book’s value. Books in this category can be more specifically classified as VG+ or VG-, depending on the number and extent of flaws. Such defects might include:

  • clipped dust jacket
  • slightly torn or chipped dust jacket
  • small owner’s inscription
  • bookplate
  • remainder mark
  • minor foxing, bumping, spotting or rubbing

Good (G)

Your typical reading copy, complete, but with more obvious defects, including:

  • any of the defects listed above, to a major degree
  • torn, rolled, or slanted binding
  • cracked hinges
  • very minor water stains
  • writing or tape on dust jacket
  • highlighting

Good (G)

These books have suffered damage and are therefore not collectible. Problems may include:

  • water damage
  • mildew or mold, which can result from humid climates
  • library markings
  • book barely holding together

Poor.

This category represents books that aren't salable due to severe damage or missing parts

What it all means

Modern firsts from the last twenty years should be VG+ or NF. These guidelines become more or less strict depending on the age and scarcity of the book. Books from the 19th century and earlier are allowed more foxing and other defects. In general, pricing lists in guides are for books in Fine condition, with a Fine dust jacket (F/F).

  • A book in Very Good condition may only be worth about half of the Fine value.
  • Books in Good condition may only be worth one-sixth to one-tenth of the Fine value.
  • A minor flaw in a hard-to-find book won’t affect the value nearly as much as in a more common or recent book.

Read more about conditions of books, music and movies in our Condition Guide

Does HPB buy LPs?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Many businesses are now getting into selling vinyl LPs. We never got out!

For a while, a lot of people thought LPs were a thing of the past. At HPB, we may have had a little doubt, but we've always believed in records. Even at their lowest point, we kept space for them in our stores, because we always had customers who appreciated them.

LPs were introduced around 1948, and became the dominant recorded medium through the mid-Eighties. Then came the compact disc, and interest in the LP format waned. After that, digital music came along and threatened all hard-copy formats of music.

But now, the record is on the rise, even if its market share is still relatively small. Sales of new and used LPs—as well as turntables—are increasing by double digits every year as vinyl has become popular among both the young and old.

There is still a big market for the LP, both as a type of collectible and as a listening medium. Why the renewed interest in LPs? Well, in many ways it never really went away.

  • Sound quality.There are many audiophiles who swear that the sound quality is better. The argument is that a digital recording compresses the sound down to the binary elements of zeroes and ones, while old analog recordings capture the sound in its purest state, or at least the way a human ear hears music live. With the rise of the MP3, the sound quality issue is more pronounced, due to the fact that the sound is compressedeven further.
  • Collectability. Vinyl is a hot collector category. It reminds older music lovers of their past, and it gives younger music lovers an opportunity to have records that influenced their own music heroes. The sterile, over-available nature of digital music has increased the interest in and the value of older, classic vinyl in all genres.
  • New vinyl. Throughout the CD era, there were always niche markets like Punk, Hip Hop and independent labels pressing new vinyl. In recent years, these niche markets have become bigger business, and they have brought the LP aesthetic along with them. Younger listeners can now buy vinyl versions of almost any new album, and often get a digital download along with it.
  • Hard-to-find music. Another reason LPs continue to sell is that not every record made its way onto CD or into the iTunes store. For a music lover, this is the great unknown.
  • Packaging. The LP cover has much more visual appeal than other formats’ packaging. Many of our customers frame favorite LP covers. There are quite a few coffee-table books that celebrate LP cover art and photography.
  • New turntables. The new turntables that allow easy analog-to-digital conversion mean that music lovers can have the nice sound and packaging of the LP and the convenience of a digital format. Turntables are now much easier to find in stores. (We’ve got ‘em!)
  • Great supply & price. Over the past couple decades, many record owners have converted to the CD format and sold their LPs. At HPB, our quantity and quality of records has increased, but the price has not.

Popular vinyl genres

Of course, some types of records tend to be of more interest than others. Generally, the more pop the artists are, the easier their records are to find. But there is still greater demand than supply for some of the classic rock bands, especially from the Sixties, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s also a lot of demand for vinyl soul from the ‘70s, country & western from the ‘60s, punk, metal, classic blues and reggae. No matter the genre, middle-of-the-road artists tend not to garner much interest, but there are exceptions.

Condition

Keep in mind that an LP’s condition is very important. Bad pops and scratches can intrude on your listening experience, and a warped record isn’t even playable. But you can give the really cool and old ones some leeway, like Muddy Waters at Newport or The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Sometimes it's worth it to own a classic piece of music history.

Learn more about condition of LPs in our Condition Guide

How to Care for Your Books

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

The elements

  • Keep books out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause the colors of the dust jacket to fade.
  • Keep your books dry. Humidity and dampness produce mold, which pretty much can't be cured.
  • Exposure to water will also ripple pages and deform the book.
  • Extreme cold isn't good, but extreme heat is worse, especially in a humid climate

Creatures

  • Keep bugs away from your books. Some bugs like to eat books; others will leave their mark.
  • Keep cats away from your books. They have a habit of leaving their mark, and it's hard to get rid of the damage. (You may be able to deodorize cat- or tobacco-befouled books by putting them in an airtight container with an air freshener for a day or two; of course, they may then smell like apple cinnamon.)
  • Keep kids and other free spirits away from your books. Books should be handled carefully, with clean hands.

Storage

  • Ideally, your books should be stored upright on your shelves. You want to be able to see them, maybe even read them occasionally.
  • Don't lay other books on top of them.
  • If you have to store your books in a garage or attic, be aware of heat. Store them in airtight, acid-free containers.

Protection

  • Make sure your hands are clean when you read your books, clean hands, preferably not while you're eating spaghetti or chocolate ice cream.
  • Use bookmarks. Don't fold the pages down, mark your place with your sunglasses or leave the book open and upside-down.
  • Don't write your name (or anything else) in your books. If you have to use bookplates, use nice, custom-made ones.
  • Put your dust jackets in protective dust jacket covers. Dust jackets protect and improve the look (and value) of books.
  • Occasionally use a feather duster to get the dust off your books.
  • If you loan your books, loan them to people who care about them as much as you do.
So you want to start a collection?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Think you might like to collect books?

The fun part of being an avid reader and book collector is handling and keeping up with a lot of books, some of which may be pretty valuable. We get a lot of questions about how to make a book last and maintain its value over the years, so we put together some book care tips to help you.

You don't have to spend a lot of money.

You’ll probably never get rich buying selling collectible books, so just look for those of interest that are in the best condition, have the nicest binding and are the earliest edition you can find and afford. Keep in mind that the dust jacket of a collectible modern edition accounts for up to 80% of its value.

Learn how to identify collectibles.

A book doesn't have to be a first edition to be collectible. Look for signed editions of authors' works; limited, numbered editions; finely bound or illustrated editions; original paperback editions; or books containing maps or diagrams. If you want to collect first editions, find out how different publishers identify them. They don't all print "First Edition" on the copyright page. Some use number series starting with "1" or letter series starting with "A," while others simply don't list any later printings. You also need to make sure the book isn't a reprint, a book club edition or a facsimile of the first edition.

Keep your books stored safely.

Control the temperature and limit the humidity in the spaces where you keep your books. Protect dust jackets with Mylar protectors, and keep them out of direct sunlight so they won't fade. Shelve your books so that their spines don't bend or break and their covers don't get scuffed. And if you notice evidence of little critters around your books, take measures to eliminate them.

Don't write your name in your collectible books.

If you really want to identify a book as yours, you may use a nice bookplate. It will still devalue the book, but not quite as much.

If you have questions about collectibles you can email the Buy Guy
Cash for Textbooks

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Schools out! Unload all your used textbooks and classroom required reading at Half Price Books. We'll make you a competitive cash offer on everything you bring in to sell. Learn more about selling textbooks here.

How to Spot a First Edition

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Do you have a first edition?

If you'd like to collect first editions of your favorite books, there are a few basic steps that can help you build a nice collection.

Book club editions

Before you look up a book in a price guide or on the Internet, make sure it's not a book club edition. Here are some characteristics of many book club editions:

  • Smaller, lighter, noticeably cheaply made
  • Embossed or painted shape on the lower right rear corner
  • Plastic or paper cover rather than cloth
  • The acronym "BOMC" on the copyright page
  • No price on the front flap of the dust jacket
  • The words "Book Club Edition" on the front flap of dust jacket
  • No bar code (or there is a space at the upper right edge of the bar code where a price would normally be)

Reprint editions

You'll also want to make sure the book isn't a reprint edition, which is a print edition of a bookpreviously published by another publisher. Reprint publishers include Grosset & Dunlap, Tower and A.L. Burt. The copyright page of reprints will usually list the original publisher and publication date. Some reprints in dust jackets are collectible, including Modern Library and Grosset & Dunlap's Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tarzan series.

First edition indicators

If you think you may have a first edition, you must understand that publishers use different means of denoting their first editions. Look on the copyright page (the other side of the title page) for the following first edition indications:

  • The words "First Edition" or "First Printing"
  • The words "First Published" with a month and/or year
  • Number or letter series, usually beginning with "1" or "A"
  • Same date on the title page and the copyright page
  • No additional printings listed

There are many other ways to tell if you have a first edition. McBride's Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions is a nice, compact reference for various publishers' first edition styles.

How desirable is the book?

If the book appears to be a first edition, distinguish between desirable and common first editions. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If the author is well-known, make sure the title is one of the earliest by that author.
  • If it's signed and/or limited, it may have extra value.
  • If you haven't heard of the author, but the book looks unusual and old, it may be worth looking up. (But it may just be unusual and old. Or just old.)
  • Literary authors are often more collectible than popular authors.
  • Books that have won a literary prize are generally collectible.

Assessing your book's condition

If your book is a collectible first edition, determine its condition. All of these flaws may decrease the value of a book or keep it from being collectible:

  • No dust jacket.
  • Faded, torn or chipped dust jacket.
  • Water stains or mold (these are especially devaluing flaws)
  • Loose binding
  • Highlighting, underlining, bookplate, owner inscription or other markings
  • Foxing (brown "age spots")

To learn more about determining a book's condition, read our article on Book Grading Scales

Special features

Whether or not it's a first edition, if you have an old, interesting book whose value you're wondering about, check for special features that may make it collectible:

  • Does the book have a fine or leather binding?
  • Does it have illustrations, maps or charts?
  • Is it signed by the author? (And is the author well-known?)
  • Is it a limited or numbered edition?
  • Are there special interest groups—fan clubs, hobbyists, cult groups—that are interested in this book?

Is all this book talk a little much? The Buy Guy breaks down all the book terminology for you!

Is this old book valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

You can’t judge a book…

We all know a first edition by Hemingway is likely to be worth some money. Students know how expensive a current textbook can be. But what about a nondescript book called Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham, published in 1940? How can that be worth hundreds of dollars? Or Ricky Jay’s Cards as Weapons, from 1977?

In the old days, when an odd or very niche book would come in, we’d use our gut instinct to put a price on it, then put it on the shelf and hope the right person would come along seeking a book on, say, training and showing mules, or beating the stock market through astrology. More often than not, those books sat unbothered on the shelf.

Over the last two decades, the Internet has exposed a great mass of books to a great mass of people, causing the prices of most used books to drop, often precipitously. At the same time, though, it has caused a sharp increase in prices for a lot of extremely unusual books. There may be great demand for a John Grisham novel, but there are so many out there that the price is low. On the other hand, there may only be five people in the world looking for a book on Dental Gold Structures, but now they don’t have to be in your neighborhood to buy it from you

I thought it would be interesting to share a sample of titles that may not seem to be treasures, but that have sold for a lot of money, sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Crafts & hobbies

A lot of the craft books we get at Half Price Books look pretty mundane, pretty insubstantial. Most are indeed very affordable. But there are groups of crafters out there who are always looking for certain well-thought-of guides in the areas of knitting and crocheting, woodworking, and many other crafts.

For gamer hobbyists, Dungeons & Dragons and a lot of other role-playing material from the Seventies may be in demand. Early videogame players’ guides may be sought-after as well. Other unexpectedly coveted hobby books cover glassblowing, rocketry, trains (both model trains and the real ones), poker, and puppetry.

Some examples: Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford Ashley Book of Spinning Wheels (1993), by Joan Whittaker Cummer Denim Design Lab (2005), by Brian Robbins Modular Crochet (1978), Judith Copeland Canes and Walking Sticks (1974), Kurt Stein Advanced Speaker Designs for the Hobbyist & Technician, Roy Alden Flexible Shaft Machine Jewelry Techniques (1983), Harold O'Connor Greenberg's Guide to Gilbert Erector Sets, 1933-62 (1998), Wm. Bean Marble's Knives and Axes (1978), Konrad F. Schreier, Jr. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials, Vol. 2 (1997), Paul Schmookler

Early fiction by well-known authors

An early book by a popular author, sometimes written under a pseudonym and/or in a genre other than the one they’ve become known for, may be collectible.

Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts and Brenda Jackson are among those who started that way, and their earlier works may have some value. Mystery author Janet Evanovich wrote romance under her own name and as Steffie Hall.

Well into the 1980s, popular horror writer Dean Koontz wrote romance, adult novels, thrillers and other fiction under a variety of pseudonyms, including Brian Coffey, K R Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Owen West, Deanna Dwyer (!) and others. Many of these are hard to find and collectible, most often in paperback

Science/technical/business

Business and science books that are 40 years old or more can be surprisingly valuable. It may seem counterintuitive these would be of interest—and most aren’t. But some are considered classics in their narrow fields, and are still sought after, if only by a small number of readers. As far as science and technical books go, the higher the level and more specific the topic, the better.

A few examples: Beat the Market (1967), by Edward Thorp Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies, Seth A Klarman Reality in Advertising (1961), Rosser Reeves Mathematical Theory of Evidence, Glenn Shafer Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art (1976), ed. Russett, Starr Handbook of Electron Tube and Vacuum Techniques (1965), Fred Rosebury How to Build a Working Digital Computer (1968), Edward Alcosser Introduction to Structural Dynamics (1964), John Biggs

Esoteric subjects

If a book’s topic is something you don’t see often, or it’s just plain weird, there’s a chance it’s something someone is dying to find. Here are a few examples of books that may have more value than you would expect.

Performing arts: Carnival Strippers, Susan Meiselas Social sciences: Seduction Of The Innocent, Fredric Wertham (comic books and society) Paranormal: The Catchers of Heaven: A Trilogy, Michael Wolf (about UFOs) Horse racing: Authentic Arabian Bloodstock (1990), Judith Forbis Martial arts: Dynamic Judo Throwing Techniques (1967), Kazuzo Kudo Coal (1978), Jason Grant Lifestyle: Fact and Fancy about Cigars and Tobacco (1967), Morton L. Annis (a 56-page booklet) Fishing: Rivers of Memory (1993), Harry Middleton Fortune telling: The Mystic Grimoire of Mighty Spells and Rituals, Frater Malak Music biography: Billion Dollar Baby, Bob Greene (a bio of Alice Cooper)

A lot of odd and niche books are not much more than that: they’re unusual and stay in their niche, unsought and unappreciated. But there are indeed quite a few books out there that you can’t judge by looking at their covers.

Is my First Edition valuable?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Which came first? A guide to identifying first edition books

Making sure you have a true first edition isn't always as easy as it seems, but we're here to help. A book that says it’s a first edition isn’t always the first printing of the first edition, and the first printing is usually the one everyone wants. Read on to figure out whether your book is worth more than just the enjoyment of reading.

First edition

The edition of a book changes when its content changes or illustrations are added, or when a different publisher reprints it. Textbooks regularly go through several editions, but novels usually do not. However, the first edition of a novel may go through several printings. The collector of modern first editions is looking for first printings of a book’s first edition. The value of any later printings drops off tremendously (although rare first editions’ later printings may still have great value).

Even if it's a first printing, it may not be the first state (or first issue). Sometimes, a collectible book will have changes made after the first printing is issued (known as points ), including text changes or corrections, price changes on the dust jacket, or changes to the book’s design. The most collectible version is the first issue of a first printing of a first edition.

Sometimes, a limited edition (often numbered) is issued by the publisher. When this edition truly has some special feature—special illustrations, binding—it may have value as a collectible. When a limited edition is issued mainly because the author is so popular that there will be a large print run of the first edition, the value is often more dubious. The first edition that follows this type of limited edition is often called the first trade edition. Most books only have a first trade edition.

Book club edition

Book club editions are generally more cheaply made than publishers’ editions. Most book club editions, especially older ones, are smaller than publishers’ versions, and are easy to distinguish. More recent Book-of-the-Month Club editions are often about the same size as their publisher-edition counterparts. There are several signs to look for when determining whether or not a book is the book club edition:

  • Smaller size
  • No price on the dust jacket’s front flap
  • Cheaper binding material, often not cloth-covered
  • A blank space where a price would be in the upper right corner of the ISBN area in the right-rear corner of the dust jacket
  • For books from the 70s and earlier, an indented or inked symbol (circle, square, or other design) on the lower right-rear corner of the back board of the book
  • A reference to “BOMC” or other book club on the copyright page
  • The words “Book Club Edition” at the bottom of the front flap of the jacket

None of these points is consistent, so you may need to use combinations of clues to be sure.

Some book clubs produce higher-end classics in literary bindings. These include

  • Easton Press, Franklin Library, Folio Society — leather binding, hubbed or ribbed spine, moire endpapers; often become collectible when they're no longer available to order
  • Heritage Press—popular editions of Limited Editions Club books
  • Limited Editions Club—high-end, collectible, limited editions, often signed by an illustrator, sometimes by the author
  • First Edition Library—facsimiles of great works’ first editions, issued in slipcases (a cardboard case into which the book fits, leaving the spine exposed)
  • International Collector’s Library, Harvard Classics — high- and low-end classics bound in imitation leather or cloth and on the low end, value-wise

Book club edition

Some publishing houses specialize in reprints of other publishers’ originals. Although they’re rarely true first editions, some early ones have decorative dust jackets and are collectible. Most, however, aren’t of much value. Look for a statement on the book’s copyright page indicating that the book has been previously published.

Publishers who primarily issued reprints:

  • Grosset & Dunlap (but they also published all editions of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and other children’s series, many of which are collectible in early versions)
  • Saalfield
  • Triangle
  • Tower
  • A.L. Burt
  • Sun Dial
  • Collier

Modern Library is a reprint publisher whose editions many collect, especially earlier First Modern Library editions and those with decorative dust jackets.

What's the Condition of My Book?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Condition is key when it comes to determining a book's value. Whether you’re selling books or buying them, it’s important to be familiar with the book grading scale and condition definitions. Here’s a list to help you understand the major grading scale of hardback editions used by brick-and-mortar and online booksellers.

Mint (M) or As New.

This is the top grading, reserved for unread books that are still in the same condition as when they were first printed.

Fine (F).

A book in this condition may have been read, but looks new and has no defects thanks to the owner practicing good book care rules and guidelines.

Near Fine (NF).

Near Fine refers to books that are clean and have no defects, but may show slight wear at the edges or on the dust jacket. This comes from good handling, protection and storage of the book.

Very Good (VG).

These books show minor signs of wear, and may have minor defects, all of which should be noted. A dust jacket in Very Good condition is almost a must for modern firsts, accounting for up to 80% of a book’s value. Books in this category can be more specifically classified as VG+ or VG-, depending on the number and extent of flaws. Such defects might include:

  • clipped dust jacket
  • slightly torn or chipped dust jacket
  • small owner’s inscription
  • bookplate
  • remainder mark
  • minor foxing, bumping, spotting or rubbing

Good (G)

Your typical reading copy, complete, but with more obvious defects, including:

  • any of the defects listed above, to a major degree
  • torn, rolled, or slanted binding
  • cracked hinges
  • very minor water stains
  • writing or tape on dust jacket
  • highlighting

Good (G)

These books have suffered damage and are therefore not collectible. Problems may include:

  • water damage
  • mildew or mold, which can result from humid climates
  • library markings
  • book barely holding together

Poor.

This category represents books that aren't salable due to severe damage or missing parts

What it all means

Modern firsts from the last twenty years should be VG+ or NF. These guidelines become more or less strict depending on the age and scarcity of the book. Books from the 19th century and earlier are allowed more foxing and other defects. In general, pricing lists in guides are for books in Fine condition, with a Fine dust jacket (F/F).

  • A book in Very Good condition may only be worth about half of the Fine value.
  • Books in Good condition may only be worth one-sixth to one-tenth of the Fine value.
  • A minor flaw in a hard-to-find book won’t affect the value nearly as much as in a more common or recent book.

Read more about conditions of books, music and movies in our Condition Guide

Does HPB buy LPs?

by Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy

Many businesses are now getting into selling vinyl LPs. We never got out!

For a while, a lot of people thought LPs were a thing of the past. At HPB, we may have had a little doubt, but we've always believed in records. Even at their lowest point, we kept space for them in our stores, because we always had customers who appreciated them.

LPs were introduced around 1948, and became the dominant recorded medium through the mid-Eighties. Then came the compact disc, and interest in the LP format waned. After that, digital music came along and threatened all hard-copy formats of music.

But now, the record is on the rise, even if its market share is still relatively small. Sales of new and used LPs—as well as turntables—are increasing by double digits every year as vinyl has become popular among both the young and old.

There is still a big market for the LP, both as a type of collectible and as a listening medium. Why the renewed interest in LPs? Well, in many ways it never really went away.

  • Sound quality.There are many audiophiles who swear that the sound quality is better. The argument is that a digital recording compresses the sound down to the binary elements of zeroes and ones, while old analog recordings capture the sound in its purest state, or at least the way a human ear hears music live. With the rise of the MP3, the sound quality issue is more pronounced, due to the fact that the sound is compressedeven further.
  • Collectability. Vinyl is a hot collector category. It reminds older music lovers of their past, and it gives younger music lovers an opportunity to have records that influenced their own music heroes. The sterile, over-available nature of digital music has increased the interest in and the value of older, classic vinyl in all genres.
  • New vinyl. Throughout the CD era, there were always niche markets like Punk, Hip Hop and independent labels pressing new vinyl. In recent years, these niche markets have become bigger business, and they have brought the LP aesthetic along with them. Younger listeners can now buy vinyl versions of almost any new album, and often get a digital download along with it.
  • Hard-to-find music. Another reason LPs continue to sell is that not every record made its way onto CD or into the iTunes store. For a music lover, this is the great unknown.
  • Packaging. The LP cover has much more visual appeal than other formats’ packaging. Many of our customers frame favorite LP covers. There are quite a few coffee-table books that celebrate LP cover art and photography.
  • New turntables. The new turntables that allow easy analog-to-digital conversion mean that music lovers can have the nice sound and packaging of the LP and the convenience of a digital format. Turntables are now much easier to find in stores. (We’ve got ‘em!)
  • Great supply & price. Over the past couple decades, many record owners have converted to the CD format and sold their LPs. At HPB, our quantity and quality of records has increased, but the price has not.

Popular vinyl genres

Of course, some types of records tend to be of more interest than others. Generally, the more pop the artists are, the easier their records are to find. But there is still greater demand than supply for some of the classic rock bands, especially from the Sixties, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s also a lot of demand for vinyl soul from the ‘70s, country & western from the ‘60s, punk, metal, classic blues and reggae. No matter the genre, middle-of-the-road artists tend not to garner much interest, but there are exceptions.

Condition

Keep in mind that an LP’s condition is very important. Bad pops and scratches can intrude on your listening experience, and a warped record isn’t even playable. But you can give the really cool and old ones some leeway, like Muddy Waters at Newport or The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Sometimes it's worth it to own a classic piece of music history.

Learn more about condition of LPs in our Condition Guide


 
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The real deal: tips on spotting an authentic signed book

By Steve Leach, HPB Buy Guy

You’re browsing at a library sale. You’ve wanted to read a little Agatha Christie and you spot a hardback copy of Death on the Nile. You realize you may have found a treasure when you open it up and see Ms. Christie has signed the book! Or has she? Well, it’s certainly worth a buck, signed or not. And it may be worth a bunch of bucks.

Or let's say you're a big Kurt Vonnegut fan, and you have all of his books. But you see a signed copy of Breakfast of Champions being offered by an online dealer. It’s going to cost you more than you’ve ever paid for a book, but it’s worth it to get a book Vonnegut actually signed. Or did he? How can you be sure this dealer knows the signature is authentic?

How do you know?

You may have come across signed books and wondered whether the signatures are real. How can you be sure? Well, it’s not easy. Each Half Price Books location has well-trained buyers, and while they can’t all be autograph experts, they do diligent research. Honest sellers, like Half Price Books, offer refunds to purchasers who question the authenticity of a signature they’ve bought.

When our buyers encounter signed merchandise, particularly when the authentic signature is valuable, the buying situation may be more perilous and subject to costly error than any other. For example, a customer recently came to one of our stores with an old paperback copy of Brave New World. Value no more than $3. But there on the title page was the handwritten name: “Aldous Huxley.” Buyers did online research and talked to the customer about the book. In the end, it came down to making a decision between putting a value of three bucks on the item or more than $1,000. Quite a difference!

Our guidelines

Here are some guidelines, along a continuum of safest bet to iffiest, that our buyers follow when buying signed merchandise. Hopefully, they can help you feel a bit more confident about buying a signed book.

Safest bet

  • The ideal situation, of course, is when you actually see the book being signed.Some people take a photo of the author signing the book for them. We do have book signings in our stores, and sometimes authors just happen by a store and offer to sign some of their books. (Unfortunately, the signatures of authors who do this aren’t likely to be very valuable.)
  • When a book states in its text that it’s a signed, numbered edition, it is a surefire signed item; after all, it’s supposed to be signed.
  • A certificate of authenticityaccompanying a book can be a nice supporting piece of documentation; it at least indicates that a professed expert attests to the signature’s validity. Some autograph authentication services are better than others, however, and even the best of them occasionally make mistakes. And, alas, some certificates of authenticity are themselves not authentic – sad but true!
  • If you buy a signed item from a reputable business, they will stand behind what they sell and refund your money if you aren’t satisfied it’s genuine.

Odds are pretty good

  • When an author has done book-signing appearances in the area,or is known to do lots of book-signing events, there’s a better chance of the signature being authentic. But, again, books signed by these frequent signers will often be of less value, so the risk and reward are lower. A running joke at our Dallas locations was that we’d seen so many signed copies of Stanley Marcus’s Minding the Store that it was the unsigned copies that were worth money.
  • Contextmay support the signature’s authenticity. If you’re at a yard sale and see a signed first edition of East of Eden amidst a heap of book club novels, you may be a bit skeptical (or incredibly lucky). But if you’re at the estate sale of a book collector, you may not be so surprised to find signed gems.

Do you feel lucky?

  • If it looks like the author’s signature,that’s a start. Our buyers take advantage of online resources to compare a book’s signature with other examples. While comparisons are helpful, there are some pitfalls:
    • 1) Author signatures vary over time. The more examples to compare, the better, particularly contemporaneous ones.
    • 2) Some online examples may not be genuine.
    • 3) The scofflaws use those same resources to forge signatures.
  • Look carefully at the signature to make sure it’s natural and human-made.
    • 1) Is it handwritten or machine-printed? Look for ink bleed and impressions on both sides of the paper. Examine crossed t’s and dotted i’s for shading and effect on the paper.
    • 2) Does it have the careful, practiced look of a copier, or was it freely and quickly written?

Dust jacket condition descriptions

  • chipped—small pieces missing at the edge of the jacket
  • creased
  • closed tear—small tear with none of the jacket missing
  • fading—used to describe loss of color due to sun exposure
  • price-clipped—used when the price has been cut from the jacket flap
  • soiled, worn—general descriptions of jacket wear-and-tear

May be time to fold

  • may be too good to be true. If anauthor rarely signs books,or if the signature is exceedingly scarce, ask for any documentation that may support its authenticity.
  • If the signature doesn’t look genuine,the author may be an erratic signer, like JFK—or it may be a fake. Even autograph dealers often operate on gut instinct. If something doesn’t look right or even feel right, they may pass on it. You may not know it’s bogus, but you’re just not convinced it’s good.
  • And worst of all, sometimes it’s just wrong.A customer offered one of our stores a signed book that was published posthumously. Another customer tried to sell us a signed Hillary Clinton book with her first named misspelled.

When you buy sought-after signed items, sometimes you're taking a chance. But it’s a worthwhile hobby because it’s so thrilling to have something one of your literary heroes held and signed. Just be careful!

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