Used books and bookstores are a great way to spend an afternoon if you have the time. Both are relaxing and allow your mind to wander as you make new discoveries. I like to read and find that most subjects interest me to some degree. I think that’s why I’m particularly fond of used bookstores. They allow me to pursue my various interests for a minimal outlay of my hard-earned money.
Ancient books are especially intriguing because they provide portals to other times. My first interest in old books started as a child when my mother bought and read to me the Little Colonel series. However, it was still when I saw the movies starring Shirley Temple. Knowing I could see into a time that wasn’t my own allowed me to contemplate and observe my own time.
Rare books also make me catch my breath, when opened reveal an autograph of the author with a note inside. They make the story secondary and the author’s life experiences his own story in ways that knowledge of facts alone could never achieve.
You just never know what you’ll find in a used bookstore.
Many collect these types of books as an investment or for other personal reasons. I have acquired almost a complete set of the Little Colonel series myself with the help of my mother and the Grace S. Richmond books. They are proudly displayed in my living room behind glass.
When looking for books to collect, it’s important to know that their condition is important when judging a book’s value. Below are some typical classifications used by book collectors.
This is somewhat self-explanatory. It means the book is in the condition it should have been when it left the publisher. Some people also call this mint condition or numismatics.
Fine (sometimes labeled F or FN)
This rating means it is like new, but takes into account the normal effects of time on an unused book that is very well protected. A fine book shows no damage.
Very good (sometimes labeled VG)
This describes a book that is worn but untouched. For many book collectors, this is the minimum acceptable condition for all but the rarest items.
Good (sometimes labeled G)
Which in reality is not VERY good). It is used to describe the condition of an averagely used, worn book that is complete and not missing any pages.
Honest books show signs of use, but all text pages and illustrations or maps are present. Endpapers, a half title and even the title page may be missing.
This describes a book that has the full text, but is so damaged that it is of interest only to a buyer seeking a copy to read. If the damage makes the text illegible, the book is not even bad.
Once you go below the poor quality there is no rating. Some may be sectioned if there is any value in them, or simply discarded.
When looking for collectible books, keep these classifications in mind before spending a lot of money. You never know what treasure you might unearth while browsing a used bookstore; and it’s so much fun, even if you find nothing but more books to read!