How to Tell if Your Book is Valuable

Did you find that $25,000 book? Is that book you found in your grandfather’s attic valuable? How will you know?

HINT: Old does not equal valuable.

Now you should have a pile of books to research. Remember research in the front end will save you both time and money and there is way to have the data available while you are out scouting. We’ll discuss that later.

Here are some ways to determine value after you have your books or if you have access to a computer with an internet connection before you buy your books:

1. If there is an ISBN (International Standard Book Number – a 10 digit number found near the barcode or on the copyright page), enter it into the search box at

You don’t need the hyphens. By analyzing the data at Amazon it will tell you how popular the book is (look at sales rank in Product Details lower on the left side of the page) and what current asking prices are for used copies. The lower the number is in rank the better likelihood of the item selling quicker. Additionally, you can gauge the popularity of the item by looking at the sales rank. That’s not to say the book is not in demand. It can have over a million sales rank and be in demand as a highly collectible children’s book. That book may sell rather quickly because there are fewer available to list so the rank is naturally going to be high.

2. Do a Completed Item search at eBay. (Search in the usual way, then check off “Completed listings” in the right hand column of search options.) This will tell you what prices this book has sold for on eBay over the last two weeks and will give you an idea as to how common it is.

3. Search at Go to the used book tab then enter ISBN, title, +/- author.

HINT: Make sure that you are comparing the exact same editions and like conditions. Remember, the prices that you see are ASKING prices – they do not mean that the book is actually selling for that amount! But it will give you a range, and just as important, tell you how many copies are available online. You can determine value by looking at that price range and picking a median price of the listed books.

You may have learned that your books are not worth much. Think creatively – can they be sold as a lot? Typical lots are several books by a single author, or a specific genre (mystery, Western, romance, etc.), or from a series. Can you bundle a book with something else as a gift set? Can you swap them at a book exchange for titles that will sell?

But what about first editions? Good question. In general, you should check to see if collectible books are first editions. Broadly described for the purposes of first edition identification, collectible books are usually modern (20th century+) fiction, including children’s picture books. In non-fiction, it is usually more important to have the current edition of a book. There are some exceptions. Identifying first editions is very tricky. If you plan to sell many books, you should acquire a copy of a very handy guide: Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions by Bill McBride, which lists over 3700 publishers from 1850 to the present and the manner in which they have identified the first printings of their books. You can order it for $20.00 at Amazon: McBride guide at amazon link

Until you receive your McBride book, there is an excellent introduction to the subject here: 

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About Julie Schultz

My name is Julie Anna Schultz. I live in rural upstate NY. I have eleven children, one husband, three chickens, a bunny and a dog. Not acquired in that order. :) Since 2002, I’ve been teaching people how to buy and sell children’s collectible books online. Learn More

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