General Knowledge/FAQ About Books

What Classifies a Book as Rare?


by Shakespeare, William

Is This Book Rare?

We at Biblio receive lots of emails about the value and rarity of books. Often, a loved one recently passed and family members happen to find a very old or antique book and are curious about its worth. There are many variables that must be considered when assigning value, and how rare a book is certainly one of them.

A book is considered to be “out of print” when a publisher no longer prints copies of the book in question, but a book simply being out-of-print does not equal rarity. If out of print books can be easily found in the back of bookstores or in boxes hidden in the warehouses of publishers, they may be out of print, but they are not rare, and often not very valuable. It is important to understand that even if a book is scarce, if there is no demand for it, it is not considered rare.

Older books that may not have ISBN information attached to them are usually going to be considered more rare than others simply because they are not as easily tracked, so their availability on the market is more ambiguous.

First edition books are going to be considered much more rare than more recent editions, and the edition information can often be found in the first few pages of the book.  If you are interested in purchasing a first edition book on, you can always check the “First Edition” box in the advanced search page.

Of course, even if a book is indeed rare, it is important that it is in the best condition possible. The passage of time will often cause very old books to lose their luster, and it is important that all books, but particularly old and antique books, be kept in cool and dry locations to prevent environmental damage.

If you wish to have a book appraised for worth or if you are just curious about the strange and beautiful book you happened to find, we highly suggest taking it to a reputable independent bookstore in your area and have an experienced professional take a look.

The books in our rare book room are not necessarily old or expensive, but they are all, to one degree or another, considered rare. Some of the books are signed, some have magnificent artwork and illustrations, and others have unusual and beautiful bindings.

1 Comment

  • I have numerous French books/novels/Collection and would like to sell them. What do you suggest? I live in Kansas City Merci


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