How to Find Collectible Books – On Your Own Terms

Two things I particularly love about book collecting:

  1. It is a game, and
  2. I get to make up (some of) the rules.
Edward Stratemeyer's Under Dewey at Manila, part of the Old Glory series and one of the few books Stratemeyer wrote under his own name. Also, the newest addition to my personal collection, at $3.50.

Not all the rules are free for interpretation.  The ones that aren’t are mostly dictated by market forces – scarce books are worth more than common ones, books in good condition are worth more than beat-up ones, and so on.

But the beauty of scouting books, especially for your own collection, is that you really can do it on any budget and at any price point.  I make approximately $30,000 per year as a freelance writer, and I pay hefty medical bills – yet I can also support my book-collecting habit easily on less than $50.00 per month.

Here are my personal rules for finding and buying collectible books:

1.  If I spend more than $30.00 in any one shop, I’m doing it wrong.
2.  I shall never pay more than $1.00 for a paperback or $2.00 for a hardcover unless I am absolutely certain the book will sell for at least three times (3x) the asking price, or it’s a fair market price for a book I plan to add to my personal collection.

3.  If it’s not a first edition, I can’t afford it.  Not even if it’s free.

4.  I may only buy as many books as I am physically able to carry to the register in one trip.

5.  I will let go of my mistakes.

Your rules, of course, may vary.  But these are the rules by which I play the game.  Here’s why:


How to Ruin Perfectly Good Books

If you keep mangling your book, it’ll stick like that forever. (Via Wikimedia Commons; click to re-bigulate)

There are enough books in the world to keep my bibliophilia happy forever – and probably yours, too. Unfortunately, waaaay too many of those books are what the bookselling industry generously calls “reading copies” – because reading is all they are good for.

It doesn’t much matter what you do to your books if you only want to read them once, but if you want to re-read them, give them to friends, sell them at a garage sale, or ignore them while you become a superstar and then watch from Heaven as the unwashed masses fight over them along with your other now-famous possessions after you die, it’s a good idea to take care of them.   Not doing any of the following is a great way to start.