How To Make Money By Selling Your Old Books
If books have been stored properly they will be in good condition and require little or no work. Sadly, many people simply box them up and pop them out of sight and out of mind. Which is exactly what happened to my family's children's books from the 1950s and 1960s. Result? When finally they emerged from the loft more than fifty years later many were a little the worse for the experience — a bit grubby, and foxed around the edges.
Foxing is a term describing the age-related spots and browning seen on vintage paper documents such as books. It is usually caused by too much moisture in the air. Excess humidity (usually relative humidity above 75%) can encourage the growth of fungi and mildew, which can lead to foxing.
A Example of Foxed Pages
The Best Way to Store Books
- Avoid excessive humidity when storing books as this is a primary cause of mold and mildew.
- A book should ideally be stored in an individual book box, which can be adjusted to exactly fit around the book. Boxes are available from specialist packaging suppliers or your favourite online store. If you plan to store your books to pass on to future generations or are saving them in the hope that they will increase in value it's well worth investing a little money and effort to store them this way.
- Stack the boxes upright.
- If you don't want to go to these lengths then carefully wrapping the books in archive paper, available online, will help to prevent discolouration. Then stack the books upright in large archive boxes that have lids.
Absorene is a Great Product for Cleaning Soiled Books
How to Decide if It's Worthwhile to Renovate and Market a Book
Most of my books are children's volumes from the 1950s and 1960s. The method I describe should not be applied to antique books, which are potentially valuable and therefore best assessed and conserved by an expert.
- I tapped the title and author of my books into an internet search engine to find out if similar books were on the market and, if so, how they were priced. A list of sites which sell used books emerged and I spent time interrogating them. If you are hoping to sell, rather than keep your books, the time and cost of the work involved in restoration should be assessed in relation to the achievable income from the sale.
I discovered that:
- Many children's books have become collector's items. In particular, amongst those that I have in my collection the Biggles series by Captain W.E.Johns and books by Richmal Crompton and Enid Blyton were being offered at prices that made the work involved in marketing them worthwhile.
- Books with an intact dust jacket have a higher value. Better still if it is unclipped (the price on the lower inside front cover is still there).
- Good clean copies with a tight binding are a prerequisite in the marketplace. A book with loose bindings is beyond hope. Re-binding is an expensive process best reserved for antique books with a potentially high value.
- Photographs of the book that you want to sell help with marketing.
Example of a Book Worth Cleaning and Marketing
How I Spruced Up Biggles
- The only things I needed to do with this book were to gently shake the pages out and wipe the covers with a piece of paper kitchen towel or a soft cloth. The edges of the pages were slightly foxed, so I gently rubbed them with gum eraser. This method is not 100% successful, though the appearance of the book did improve. Some people recommend gently sanding with fine sandpaper. If you intend to use this method I suggest that you try it out first on a book that is destined for the rubbish bin.
- In July 2015 I auctioned this book online and received £14.50 for it. Not a significant sum but I have quite a few books by the same author and the time involved in advertising and dispatching them is minimal once an online account has been established.
How to Clean Book Edges
Wear Gloves When Handling Valuable Books
- If handling a valuable book always wash your hands and preferably wear gloves. Otherwise the natural acids in you skin will transfer to the paper and eventually cause yellowing.
A Book Not Worth Rescuing
A Book Destined for the Charity Shop
- An internet search revealed that copies of this book are still collected in the United States. The pages of this copy are in reasonably good condition. But there is an owner's nameplate glued into the front cover and the dust jacket is unrepairable. I will simply remove the dust jacket, clean the book up a little, and donate it to a charity shop. Oxfam shops in the UK now specialize is selling used books and will be happy to receive this one.
When Advertising Books for Sale Honesty Is the Best Online Policy
- Be truthful describing your product.
- If a buyer is disappointed your book will either be returned or you will receive feedback that will act as a deterrent to new buyers. Therefore, it's good policy to provide an assessment that it not going to lead to disappointment when the buyer rips open the package.
- It's hard to be accurately objective, in your opinion a book may be in 'very good condition for its age', but in a buyer's opinion it might be simply 'acceptable'. Err on the side of caution.
- If you are marketing a repaired book it's best to provide details of the repair, preferably with a photograph, to the potential buyer.
Meeting Buyer Expectations
- Not everyone is looking for a pre-loved book in 'Fine' condition, so don't be deterred from marketing yours if it doesn't quite come up to the mark. I have purchased a couple of rare old books that were frankly the worse for wear and arrived in a smelly condition. But I wanted them for research purposes so was prepared to accept the condition that they were in. That said, I must admit to slight disappointment, as I had paid quite a high price for the books. It's the best policy to be honest about the condition of a book if you want to maintain a good online reputation — if a book is a 'readers' copy rather than a collectible, be upfront about it.
Find Out More About The Terminology Used By Booksellers
- How to Describe the Condition of a Used Book
Novice book collectors and sellers want to learn the meanings of the jargon antiquarian booksellers use in their quotes and catalogs to describe the physical condition of books. Here is a link to an excellent glossary on a hub writtten by Mr. Bleekle
Visit a Used Book Fair
- Used book fairs are ubiquitous nowadays and for a book lover a lovely way to wile away an hour or so at the weekend. The range from huge events to small fund-raisers in village halls. If the search for that elusive first edition that escaped the radar is unsuccessful then there may be less valuable books that can be renovated and sold on for a profit.
- If you have a large collection of books to sell then consider renting space. If you have just a few then take them along and offer them to a trader.
Final Words: Book Renovation Is a Satisfying Hobby
- I don't know of anyone who made their fortune by renovating and selling old books but, for a lover of books, it's very satisfying to give them a new lease of life. The income that I derive from selling books is modest — I spend it buying new books for my own collection.
- But if you happen to have a first edition copy of Harry Potter make sure to store it properly because one day your grandchildren might find that it is worth a lot of money!