Used books and bookstores are a great way to spend an afternoon if you have the time. Both are relaxing and allow your mind to wander while you are making new discoveries. I love to read and find that most topics interest me to some degree. I guess that is why I am especially fond of used bookstores. They allow me to pursue my various interests for minimal outlay of my hard earned cash.
Old books are especially intriguing as they provide portals to other times. My first interest in old books began as a child when my mother procured and read to me the Little Colonel series. It was even more real when I saw the movies starring Shirley Temple. Knowing that I could peer into a time that was not mine left me pondering and observant of my own time.
Rare books also make me catch my breath, those when opened reveal an authors autograph with a note inside. They make the story secondary and the author’s life experience its own story in ways that knowledge of facts alone could never accomplish.
You simply never know what you’ll find in a secondhand bookstore.
Many collect these types of books as investments or for other personal reasons. I have myself acquired almost a complete set of the Little Colonel series with my mother’s help and Grace S. Richmond’s books. They are proudly displayed in my living room behind glass.
When looking for books to collect it’s important to know that their condition is important when evaluating the worth of a book. Below are some typical classifications which book collectors use.
This is somewhat self-explanatory. It means that the book is in the state that it should have been when it left the publisher. Some people also call this mint condition or numismatics.
Fine (sometimes labeled F or FN)
This classification means it is As New but allows for normal effects of time on an unused book which has been very well protected. A fine book shows no damage.
Very Good (sometimes labeled VG)
This describes a book that is worn but untorn. For many book collectors this is the minimum acceptable condition for all but the rarest items.
Good (sometimes labeled G)
Which in reality is not VERY Good). It is used to describe the condition of an average used worn book that is complete with no pages missing.
Fair books show wear and tear but all the text pages and illustrations or maps are present. It may be missing endpapers, half-title, and even the title page.
This describes a book that has the complete text but is so damaged that it is only of interest to a buyer who seeks a copy to read. If the damage renders the text illegible then the book is not even poor.
Once you go below the poor quality there is no classification. You might find that some are broken into sections if there is any value in them at all or simply discarded.
When looking for books to collect, you will do well to keep these classifications in mind before spending a lot of money. You never know what treasure you might unearth while perusing a used bookstore; and it is so much fun even if you don’t find anything but more books to read!