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Your Old Books Are Could Be Worth Serious Cash — Here’s How to Tell

If you have a ton of old books collecting dust on your shelves, you might be wondering if they’re worth anything these days. You’ve probably heard stories of people who were able to sell rare editions for thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars. Unless they hold sentimental value, who wouldn’t want to cash in on an opportunity like that — especially if you’re not getting much use out the book anyway? 

If you want to find out if your old books are actually worth anything, you’ll have to evaluate them very closely first. After all, you don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s. So here are a few questions you should ask yourself before putting your book on the market.

Is it rare?

If you’re thinking about trying to sell your old Bible or encyclopedia, think again. These hefty texts are passed down in countless families, so they’re a dime a dozen these days. Instead, Forbes suggests look for books that have an extremely limited amount of copies available. For instance, consider a complete copy of the book First Folio, which contains Shakespeare’s most important plays. Only 40 of these books are known to still exist today. No wonder one sold for $5.2 million at an auction in 2006.

Is it first edition?

It’s no secret that first-edition books are in high demand, especially when it comes to collectors who are huge fans of a certain series, according to Reader’s Digest. For example, first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can snag a whopping $40,000 to $55,000 at auctions. And Harry Potter is a relatively recent series. First editions of older books like Pride and Prejudice and Casino Royale can fetch more than $100,000, especially if they’re in impeccable condition.

Is it really that old?

The phrase “old book” means different things to different people. But according to Forbes, as a general rule, you probably want to be on the lookout for books published before 1970 (unless it’s a first edition text by a super-famous author, of course). Additionally, keep an eye out for texts that capture a snapshot of history. They don’t necessarily need to be a “story” book in order to do so. Abe Books, an online marketplace for rare books, says ones that include vintage recipes or cocktail instructions are in especially high demand.

Is it in good condition?

Like any other item, condition is key to whether something will sell. Think about it: Would you want to purchase an old, beat-up book with missing pages and unsightly stains? Ideally, your old book will be complete and clean overall, free of any blemishes or discoloration. Abe Books gives bonus points if it has an original dust jacket that is in equally stellar condition.

Is it signed by the author?

An author’s signature can definitely bump up the value of an old book. Depending on how famous the person is, the book might not even need to be that old to sell. After all, modern-day celebrity signatures are in high demand when it comes to super-fans in search of an autograph. But beware of forged signatures — they’re a lot more common than you think — especially if you originally bought the books in a secondhand store or got them from a donation pile.

If you’ve asked yourself all these questions and most if not all of them apply to your book, congrats! It’s time to explore your options to make money. While some folks choose to auction their books off on websites like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, others prefer to take them to brick-and-mortar locations like pawn shops or bookstores. If you’re lucky enough to own a super-rare, super-pristine old book, you might even consider submitting it to a rare book auction to get maximum buck for your bang.

Good luck!

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