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Book Collecting

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Chances are, you are already a book collector. Do you still have all your children's books? A pile of every comic book you've ever read?

You don't have to own many books to be a book collector. The only prerequisite is that you love, adore and cherish books. But beware. Once you've started, you will probably become addicted to collecting all kinds of books.

Different people collect different books. Some people cherish old westerns, while some collect books about a certain subject, like seashells or cooking. Others collect genres such as sci-fi, mystery or children's books.

"I collect books by Virginia Woolf simply because she is my favorite author," says book collector Harriett Logan of Ohio.

Book collectors spend their spare time searching for rare and valuable books. They also look for books that aren't worth much money but have some special meaning or sentimental value.

The quest for a book is almost as enjoyable as having a rare book finally in your hands. Book collectors scour second-hand bookstores, library sales, thrift shops, garage sales, attics and basements for books. They even attend estate sales and auctions to find their books.

Ever since books were invented, people have been collecting them. "When books were first published they were rare and expensive," says Logan. "People collected books as prized possessions, like something we would find very valuable today, like a special piece of art."

The interest in collecting books has never diminished, and Logan doesn't expect that it will in the future.

"Book production today isn't as great as it was, but there will always be old and out-of-print books that people will be looking for." If there was only one book on earth, you can bet that someone would be looking for it.

It's hard to estimate how many people are collecting books today. At least five or six million people worldwide consider themselves book collectors. Ten to 15 million are interested, but aren't serious collectors. Millions more have a bookshelf or two stuffed with favorites they have collected over the years.

The cost of collecting books depends on what kind of books you're collecting. If you're looking to buy something as precious as the Gutenberg Bible, you could spend millions of dollars. Many collectors spend thousands of dollars building up a library of rare books. But that doesn't mean you have to spend more than a few dollars to start a collection of your old favorites.

Any book that interests you is worth collecting, no matter the price. Many people collect Golden Books, which are children's books that are worth anything from 50 cents to a few dollars. "The hope is that in a few years these books might be worth $20," says Logan.

Rare books are beautiful. This 18th-century example features the work of John Baskerville, who created the typeface that bears his name and is used in many books printed today.
Courtesy of: Melbert B. Cary, Jr. Graphic Arts Collection (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Book collectors study up on the books they want to collect so they will recognize a valuable book when they see one. "Sometimes at a library sale you'll pick up a book really cheap, and you know that it's valuable," says Logan. "That's called cherry-picking."

The physical strength needed to collect books depends completely on where you are willing to go to find your books. You could climb up ladders into dusty attics, unload and sort through boxes of books, or squeeze your way through a crowd of people at an estate sale. Or, you could simply sit by your fireside, read through catalogs, find a book that interests you and order it. The physically challenged should have no trouble at all pursuing this hobby.

So, do you love books and wish you could be surrounded by them every day? Many book collectors have chosen to do this very thing by operating rare or second-hand bookstores. Collectors can also find work with book dealers.

Book lovers may want a job managing and collecting books for other people. They can do this by training to become an archivist or a librarian.

Opening a rare bookstore usually won't make you a fortune. "It's not a profitable field," says Harriett Logan. "But we do it because it's fun, and you can be your own boss."

Getting Started

Book collectors are constantly learning about new books or finding out about others that are rare or collectible. Do your homework if you are serious about finding valuable books. You will need to know such things as: What is a rare book? Which authors are collectible? Is the book in good condition? Is this book a first edition?

"Each publisher has a way of indicating on the cover page whether the volume is a first or not," says Michael Harness. "Usually, there will be a string of numbers with '1' either in the first or last position."

Most libraries have a few books on book collecting. "The library is a good place to start your search," advises Michael Tokman. "Also go to the local rare bookshops and talk to the proprietors."

The desired books change with time and depend on the culture as a whole, says Harness. "For example, Michael Crichton's novels were interesting but not really collectible until Jurassic Park came out."


Miniature Book Society, Inc.
620 Clinton Springs Ave.
Cincinnati , OH   45229-1325
E-mail :

The Center for the Book
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington , DC   20540-4920

Zane Grey's West Society
708 Warwick Ave.
Fort Wayne , IN   46825


A group dedicated to collecting fanzines from science-fiction fandom

Repositories of Primary Sources
A directory of links to other rare books pages

Archive of Rare Books
A worldwide listing

Association of College and Research Libraries
Look here for the Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association

Loganberry Books
Harriett Logan's bookstore

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