Describing and Grading the Condition of A Collectible Book
> The value of a first edition book is extremely dependent upon its condition. The difference in value between a particular first edition book in "Fine" versus "Very Good" condition can be as much as 50%. Because of this, an accurate description of a book's condition is vitally important to collectors and booksellers.
Many bookselling and book collecting associations include a statement in their charter or creed related to providing accurate descriptions of books. Because of this, buying a book from an association, such as an ABAA member, carries a greater degree of confidence.
Due to the importance of condition, a fairly uniform approach toward book grading has been adopted by the book collecting industry. AB Bookman's Weekly, a now defunct book collecting periodical, created and endorsed a set of book grading terms which over the years have come to be accepted as an industry standard.
Most books on book collecting provide good information on how to properly assess the condition of a book - the roots can generally be traced back to AB Bookman's Weekly. The same can be said for the reference material available on many of the book collecting or book association's internet sites, although many do not give due credit to AB Bookman's Weekly.
Commonly Used Book Condition Terminology
The following are grading terms based upon the AB Bookman's Weekly:
Variations Of Terminology
Virtually all professional bookselling associations and reputable booksellers use the above book grading terminology, most with some minor variation or another. Some practices are becoming more common:
For instance "VG+" or "VG-." To our knowledge, a standard has not yet been wholly agreed upon within the industry regarding the clear meaning of these gradient descriptions, therefore one should come to know the individual bookseller to understand completely the application to the particular book.
Books that have been circulated in public libraries, "Ex-library" or "Ex-lib" books, as they are generally referred to within the hobby, have very little collectible value, even if they are first editions. These books will often have a library card pocket inside the book, and a card catalog identifier glued to the outside of the dust jacket at the spine. Sometimes the pocket has been removed or the page containing the pocket has been sliced from the book, but in either case the collectibility of the book is not positively affected by the removal.
We will not put forth an estimate as to the value of first edition books with library markings, since they only have value when a buyer (demand-side) can be found. There are very few collectors who pursue "Ex-Lib" first edition books. Because of this, the demand for such books is extremely low, and given such a thin marketplace, it's fruitless to make an extrapolation for the book's marketplace value. First edition ex-library books are not considered collectible within the hobby.
Dust Jackets Required
First edition books without dust jackets, when one was originally issued, have a greatly reduced market value, however they do have some collectible interest. Our experience indicates that the value for a first edition book, without its dust jacket, is about 10%-to-20% of the value of the same book, in similar condition, with the dust jacket intact. Even worn or damaged dust jackets add significant value to first edition picturebooks.
The dust jacket's presence has more importance within the children's picturebook hobby than for book collecting in general. This is because the artwork selected for the dust jacket cover is one of the most important marketing decisions made by the book's creators and publisher. In many cases, the initial retail purchase decision of a picturebook is made entirely due to attractive or interesting cover artwork. The old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover!," does not necessarily apply to children's picturebooks. The same cannot be said for books in general.
The lives of picturebook collectors' are complicated by the fact that many dust jackets of picturebooks are discarded almost immediately upon purchase, since they often interfere with the child opening and reading the book, or are torn asunder through the enthusiastic enjoyment of the book by the child. This general trend only increases the value of the first edition books with intact dust jackets, since the existing supply-side quantity is diminished.
In many instances, the dust jackets serve to fully identify the book as a genuine first edition. This
is especially true on Dr. Seuss books and other Random House offerings, but is also true of other picturebooks.
The dust jacket often has the price on the top right or bottom right of the front flap, information
which could be vital to identification as a true first edition. Sometimes the front or back flap might
contain a listing of previously published titles by the author or illustrator that are essential to
proper identification as a true first edition book.
© Stan Zielinski
© Stan Zielinski. Author of the Children's Picturebook Price Guide
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