In every issue of The Avid Collector, our Expert Booksellers answer your questions on rare and collectible books.

[See the Previous Issue's Questions & Answers]

Q. I have a large number of books that I want to get valued and have no idea how to start. Any suggestions? - Janis

A. It depends on why you want them "valued." If it's because you want to sell them, then you need to have several dealers look at them and make you offers. Because dealers pay between 20% and 35% of what they can realize from selling your books, the books, in this case, are worth the highest offer you can get. If you need them valued for insurance or estate purposes, you will need to have them appraised. Unless you have a very valuable collection, a written appraisal can be costly and possibly not worth your money. And if you just want to "know", then you can do the research yourself: just make a list of your books, look them up on AbeBooks (making sure you have correctly noted the edition and condition) and see how much booksellers are asking. It all adds up!
-- Books on High/Tri Village Book Company, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

Q. I have a book that is author signed. What steps can I take to verify the authenticity of the signature? - Gloria

A. In my experience most signatures are genuine. This may be because most signatures have no great value. Unless you have a signature by someone very famous, I don't think you have to worry. The exception seems to be with sports figures, an area where fakes seem abundant. If the signer is very famous, you can always ask a professional book dealer for an opinion. There are also several Web sites that list facsimiles of signatures - a Google search should guide you to them.
-- Neil Cournoyer - Bookseller (ABAC, ILAB), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Q. I enjoyed your previous Ask the Expert answer about why pages in some books are uncut. I'd like to know how to properly cut these pages so the book is readable. I don't want to destroy my book but I want to be able to enjoy it. - Fran

A. We would suggest using a playing card (preferably coated, for strength). Carefully start at the top of the fold and press against the fold and move the card down to the bottom.
-- Books on High/Tri Village Book Company, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

Q. I live in Queensland, Australia, and it is very hot and humid, so my books are prone to foxing. How can I prevent this? Should I buy a de-humidifier to attach to a bookcase or for the whole room? - Mitch

A. I've never seen an adequate explanation for the causes of foxing. Imperfections in the paper might be a likely cause and humidity could be a factor. I use a de-humidfier for my books at home. They come in various sizes to suit the area of your rooms. You can also buy inexpensive gauges to help track the relative humidity. Books seem happiest around 60% humidity.
-- Neil Cournoyer - Bookseller (ABAC, ILAB), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Q. I see many books listed as First Edition/Later Printing. These books have number lines beginning with 2 and up. Is this correct? I didn't think they could be called First Editions. - Gail

A. I think these kinds of descriptions are misleading to folks who want to have collectible first editions, but aren't clear what the printing line means. The most desirable book to a collector is a first edition, first printing. Anything after that is simply a later printing, not a "true first." I find that most folks who describe books like this are new to the business and haven't taken the time to learn how to accurately describe a book.
-- Books on High/Tri Village Book Company, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

Q. I am interested in learning more about antique book collecting but am not sure what to look for. Could you refer me to a source where I can gain at least some basic knowledge to get me started? - Dannielle

A. As a bookperson, I always think there is a book that will tell me what I want to know. "Antique book collecting" covers a wide range of times and types of books, but there will be many books useful to you in acquiring start-up information. Check your local library and the librarian there - a booklover by definition - will be glad to help you select what references you need. Of course, the Internet is an endless source of information, so a Google search for "antique book collecting" should lead you onto any number of paths for information. And why not try a search on AbeBooks? Enter the keywords "book collecting" in the Advanced Search feature and see what you find. Also, attend local book fairs and talk with booksellers who are offering the kinds of books you have an interest in. They love to discuss book collecting and you will probably hear interesting stories of how they began their collecting, stories that will help you learn what to do and what to avoid as you set out on this lifelong endeavor of collecting. Good luck!
-- Revere Books, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

For more resources about collecting rare and antiquarian books, see this list of books, as recommended by AbeBooks booksellers.


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