A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Old Books

There is a transporting romance about an old book. It feels heavy in your hand, worn to the touch, and smells of dust and neglect and love all at once. Of all the collector's items readily accessible to those on a modest budget, antique books are some of the most intriguing and satisfying. They also look terrific on your shelf! If you are a beginner looking to expand your collection, here are some tips to help you get started.

The first question is where to shop. Your obvious options for finding old treasures are used bookstores, online stores, special event book sales and antique shops. While these booksellers could keep you occupied for months, it would be a mistake to stop there! There are also garage sales, public and university library sales, flea markets and estate auctions for picking up gorgeous old volumes. These other venues often have much lower prices than the sophisticated old bookshops that first enchanted you.

Next, consider if you have something in particular that you are looking for. You may have an advantage if your area is linked to your topic of interest. For example, if you live in a historically Catholic city, you have a great opportunity to turn up tons of old religious books. Keep track of church book sales or even sales disposing of the belongings of retiring or deceased clergy; these types of sales often have quality volumes for under a €1!

This brings up the question of how much you should pay for an old book. The answer is entirely up to you. If you are beginning your collection as a serious investment with the hopes of reselling, you need to do your research and consider factors such as demand, condition, special bindings, signed copies and first editions. All these factors will help determine how much a book is actually worth. However, if you are collecting simply for the fun of it, then the question 'how much should I pay?' is going to be directly related to how much you love the book in your hands and what your budget is. Set a maximum amount that you would pay for a single title (try €20 to start) and stick to it. Smart shoppers with a trained eye can find great books in good condition for as little as €5-€10. Eventually, you will gain the experience to recognize when you have found a collectable or rare book marked at a bargain price of €50 or more.

Most of all have fun with your collection! Whether you get your thrills from finding a 1906 Oxford Complete Edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Burns for only €60 or from discovering a particularly tender inscription in the cover of your latest purchase, enjoy your books. Display them proudly and be sure to open them up to breathe in that delicious aroma of narratives and ideas!

author: Sarah Pelicano

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