Rare Books

Written by Kathleen Gagne
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What makes a book rare? The easy answer is that a book was printed, usually a long time ago, and that only a few copies remain. The rarest books are the ones that are down to a single copy. Rare books are often very old books, and they can be very fragile. Some books that people call rare, are, however, simply old, and there may be a lot of copies of them around.

In fact, sometimes books are called rare books just because they are valuable. One online book dealer said that he defines a rare book as one he sees every few years. A very rare book would be one his company handles once a decade. In the same manner, an extremely rare book is an incredible find, one that a dealer may only see once in a lifetime.

Antique Books

As you can tell from the paragraph above, a book's age doesn't always mean it's rare. You may find an antique book that is extremely valuable for reasons other than rarity, however, so, if you think you have a find, you should get it appraised. That's the only way to determine if your antique book is more than valuable, and is, in fact, a rare book.

Like fine jewels, rare books are rated according to their condition. Many people go to yard sales and find old books that are in very bad condition and think they may have found books that are valuable. A book that is stained, spotted, or has loose pages is considered to be in "poor" condition. "Fair" condition means that it is a complete book that may be somewhat worn. "Good" condition involves some wear but all pages are there. "Very good" condition books show only a little wear and no tears on the binding or pages. "Fine" books are almost new, with no defects, and a jacket if there was one originally. "As new" books are as close to published condition as possible and have no defects.


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