Ten Tips for a safe Rare Book Purchase

by AndreChevalier on November 14, 2011 · Rare Book Education

If you are looking to invest in a book or books defined as rare, old, used, vintage, unusual, antiquarian and so forth, chances are you will spend some hefty amounts of money. A lot of people become skeptical when buying a rare book for all sorts of reasons:  Is it as described?  Is it going to lose its value? How trustworthy is the seller? Is there a guarantee?  The following set of tips can help when you are in the market for an antiquarian book:

High Standards: Does the individual bookseller belong to an esteemed professional association? Rare and antiquarian book associations accept people with qualifications, experience and high reputation. This is a reassurance for the buyer that the seller has adopted some good business code of conduct.

World’s Expertise: Does the  book seller  have  international exposure and experience? Having such an experience would indicate that (s)he has an in-depth knowledge of the rare book marketplace. If the bookseller has written bibliographies and/or other related scholar compositions it should be considered a plus.

Consumer Protection: The rare book seller should maintain a detailed code of ethics that serves to ensure some level of consumer protection. The various institutions that a seller belongs to, usually have published guidelines through multiple media. Various national or regional laws may also offer additional consumer protection.

Guaranteed Authenticity: The code of ethics requires that the rare, old, vintage and unusual books are properly described. This requires professional descriptions using a set of well-defined standard definitions. Their authenticity and off course genuineness must be ensured and guaranteed by the bookseller. If authenticity for any reason fails to be proven then the buyer should be promptly refunded, no questions asked.

Book Fairs: It would be appropriate for the rare book seller to attend, participate and even sponsor rare book fairs since this would indicate that he is a respected and knowledgeable member of the antiquarian book community.

International Collegiality and Cooperation: It would be a plus for the rare book seller to be well connected and in cooperation with overseas booksellers as this would indicate that (s)he is a recognized individual. If s(he) has transacted internationally this would be an additional plus since this would indicate that your rare book dealer is capable to servicing buyers internationally.

Directory: If the rare book sellers are listed in a local, national or international directory of rare and antiquarian book dealers, you would be able to search these directories and be able to find their specialties, another factor that would inspire trust.

Education: The more educated the bookseller is the better it is for all. Rare book sellers should pursue improvement and deepening of the knowledge on rare books by attending courses, lectures and other educational events. Continuing education increases their proper and correct understanding of antiquarian books.

Appraisals and consultation: Usually rare book sellers and dealers provide appraisals and consultation to rare book collectors and other institutions as part of their services, whether for pay or complementary. This implies that they have the expertise and experience to help you in all aspects and provide you with professional advice.

Rare Books Online Sales: If the bookseller has an online site please make sure that the site provides all the details that will enable you to buy with confidence and that your purchase is guaranteed.

Finally, one should expect to pay a premium price through a seller that has adopted a number of the above listed tips/guidelines. It is the cost of the assurance that a buyer is willing to pay in order to be more comfortable with a purchase. Ideally a win-win situation develops when your purchase is made through a dealer that adopted the guidelines, at a discounted price, for a rare book that is very scarce. After all, antiquarian, collectible books are usually of limited seller availability.

About the author

Article by Andre Chevalier. You can connect with Andre Chevalier on Andre+

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara Shaner July 31, 2016 at 7:26 pm

I have a suede a Christmas Carol by charles dickens 1902 good condition any idea on appraisal price


Linda McGurk June 18, 2018 at 7:29 pm

I have a red suede copy Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 1920 published by The Atlanta Monthly Press, on the inside page it reads: This is a genuine copy of my fac-simile edition of the excessively rare and almost unobtainable earliest issue of the original edition, to which have been prefixed an introduction and biographical data..
I do not know if this is worth anything, but I’m curious. Please get back to me.



Sherry Sears February 24, 2012 at 2:19 am

I was given a set of 15 Charles Dickens Books Published by Hurst & Co. New York 122 Nassau St.
I have no knowledge of old books. Can someone advise me of their value or where I might sell them if they have value.

Thank You;
Sherry Sears Key Largo, Fl. PH# 305-451-4197


Terri Vesser April 5, 2016 at 3:51 am

I have a small (6 x 4) book titled A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The book cover is brown paper. Pretty worn. It was published by Dodge Publishing Co. in New York, 53-55 Fifth Avenue. It does not have an edition number to it. I did find on one of the end blank pages a N/44. It is written in pencil though. Is there anyway to find the value of this book. It was passed down from grandparents.

Please advise and Thank you.


Gerard Castellion November 19, 2011 at 6:37 am

Thanks for your article! Frankly speaking I have never read anything that great.


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