Dear BiblioBull – fixer uppers

Dear Bibliobull –

Yesterday I found a first edition of a very significant book for a dollar at a flea market. It is supposed to be worth four figures. As an ex-library copy, it has some issues, a cracked hinge, bumped corners, loose page, stickers, etc. How best should I fix it up to realize the most money?

Should I sell it on eBay, or try to find a dealer to make me an offer?

Blind Pig


Dear Pig –

If you have to ask whether you SHOULD work on a book – the answer is no. At home repairs for booksellers should be restricted to books you can afford to screw up.

Even for a 4 figure book, the goal should be to do only limited surface cleaning and stabilizing repairs that keep more damage from occurring. Which limits you to erasing things, removing labels and encasing the dust jacket in a cover. Leave extensive restoration to the end buyer. Unless you have a vested interest in the end product, you probably won’t increase your sale price significantly by putting more money into it. When they can’t afford a ‘best’ copy, a collector will pay a good and fair price for a lesser copy. And then invest in its restoration, adding to the value of their own collection.

As for pricing and sales, do your research, and come up with a price you feel comfortable with BUT you can easily get. If it is a flawed copy you will only get a fraction of the value of a flawless copy. Don’t even try to hold out for ‘best possible price’, you will own the book for a very very long time. Don’t be greedy. Since you don’t have a lot of money into the item, you should just get your money and get out.

You can offer it to a few sellers, and see if they are interested, if they come close to your price, sell the item. They know the market better than you do. Don’t be surprised if a very high end seller isn’t interested in a flawed copy, it’s nothing personal, it just won’t fit their catalog.

You can always throw it on ebay and give the collectors a chance at it, you may do better as collectors who can’t afford a perfect copy may see yours as a great bargain. You can even sit on the item for a while, you only have a dollar into it, why rush?

So think conservatively, give it a face-lift and a little protection then move it for a reasonable price. Then put that money into more books. If you hold out for top dollar you will only frustrate yourself.

Biblio Bull-

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