Today I have a special treat. I had the opportunity to interview a book dealer from Miami Beach, Steve Eisenstein, who I "met" through his wife Edie, a loyal reader of my blog. I wanted to gain a little knowledge about vintage books and pass it along to my readers so we all know more when we are out and about. Vintage books seem to be soaring in popularity as decorative elements, but I feel we should expand our knowledge base about their value as collectibles as well.
I asked Steve for four things we should all know about books, and this is what he told me:
Age doesn't always equal value in books. There are very old books that aren't valuable, and there are newer books that are quite valuable. The value lies in the rarity of the book and the collect-ability of the author.
Old books can be so beautiful. But are they valuable?
Don't fall for "first edition-itis". Just because you might have stumbled upon the first edition of a book doesn't mean it's valuable. Once again, it's the rarity of the book and collect-ability of the author that matters.
The collector's definition of "first edition" is the first print run of a book. If it says "revised" on the title page it's not a first edition.
The first edition title page of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe:
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The dust jacket is king. Consider the Great Gatsby. A first edition of The Great Gatsby with the original dust jacket is worth $180,000 (that's what one sold for at a recent auction). Without the dust jacket, it's worth about $2,500. Big difference! So never, ever discard the dust jacket of a book!
The original dust jacket of The Great Gatsby:
Photo Credit: A Modernist
Condition of the book is extremely important, just like with other antiques and collectibles. The only time condition isn't an issue is when an extremely rare book is found, such as Tamerlane, the first work of poems by Edgar Allen Poe, written under a pen name A Bostonian. There are only 12 known existing copies, one of which was purchased in 1988 by a book dealer for only $15 in an antique shop from a dealer that didn't realize what he/she was selling:
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
So there you have it, a few interesting tidbits about book collecting from a book dealer. I hope you learned something today!
Steve and Edie have generously offered to answer questions about books and would love to hear from my blog readers. Here is their contact information: