Hemswell Antique Centres

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How to value antique books for buying or selling


There's something beautiful about antique books, particularly in the age of the internet. They don’t just contain stories within their pages - it’s also the travelling they’ve done, the people they’ve been gifted to, the wars they’ve survived and the lives they’ve changed that make them a little bit magic. And somehow, despite it all - found their way into your hands. Now that’s poetry. Discovering the stories behind these treasures includes learning how to value antique books, which, incidentally, is something we’re incredibly passionate about. Want to dive a bit deeper? Read on...

How much are antique books worth?

Anyone who buys antique books will tell you that value all depends on how much joy they bring you. The world’s oldest booksellers, Maggs Bros, set a new record in 1998 when it bought the first book ever printed in England - Caxton’s Chaucer - for £4.2m. But not all books generate figures in the millions - bookworms on a budget can also be catered to. Sites like Biblio and BookGilt are brilliant resources when you’re figuring out how to find the value of antique books, but some key factors to look out for include:

● Condition. What to do with antique books that are all beaten-up, with crumbling spines and torn pages? Very little. Most antique books from the 20th century onwards were sold with dust jackets - a beautiful yet delicate coat that can double the value of an antique book.

● First editions. Book collectors adore first editions. There are a number of marks used to identify editions of books, recognising them will help you figure out how to price antique books, making sure they’re not reprint editions or later printings.

● Scarcity. Is the antique book easy to find? Too many copies of a particular title will decrease a book’s value and make it harder to sell it.

● Desirability. Is your book from a famous author? How old is it? Certain antique books are sought-after simply for their cultural significance.

Where can I sell antique books?

Once you’ve solved the puzzle of value, you might be wondering how to sell antique books for cash. Our advice would be to go to a reputable book dealer, either at and independent antiques shop, or a specialist bookseller. Dealers who know how to sell antique books well are passionate, knowledgeable and genuinely excited about the history of the treasures they’re working with: landing on a first edition, decoding an inscription, selling items they love.

How to preserve antique books

Generations of eager fingers, scrambling from page-to-page, will inevitably deteriorate the quality of a book. Covers can fade and warp due to sunlight and bending, so knowing how to preserve antique books can increase their value. Care for them by keeping them out of direct sunlight, pipes and leaky old windows. Wrapping them in an acid-free, UV-resistant plastic book cover is the best way to keep them in quality condition.

How to clean antique books

If your treasures are already damaged, knowing how to clean antique books may help boost their value. Be gentle when cleaning - use a soft dry cloth or brush and never use chemical cleaners. Regularly dusting can prevent mould or mildew or bugs wrecking the pages.

Where can I buy antique books?

Oscar Wilde once described a cynic as someone who “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. At Hemswell Antiques Centres, history is at the heart of everything we sell. From extremely early volumes to later 20th-century first editions, book collectors will delight in our selection of Wordsworths, Tolkiens and Dickens. Browse our antique books online or visit our collection of treasures to view volumes in all their bound glory.

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