The OF Blog: Valuing a book collection

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Valuing a book collection

Over the past three months, I have purged my collection of somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 books.  Those 200 books brought me nearly $1000 in store credit at McKay's, a Nashville used bookstore and I have used the majority of that credit to purchase class sets of books I plan on using in class in the next several months.  Thinking about that got me to dwell on the various valuations I place on my book collection.

Obviously, the first type of valuation that occurs is seeing how much I've had to spend in order to amass a collection.  In the first photo above, of my Easton Press (and unseen are my 12 Franklin Library leatherbound volumes) collection, I believe I've spent somewhere between $1500 and $2000 since September on collecting nearly 70 used limited-edition, leatherbound editions of classic works of literature.  Since this is only a small part of my collection (I haven't bothered cataloging everything due to plans to shift hundreds of MMPB editions to the treatment center's school library), I would guesstimate based on what I own and what I have received in store credit for middle-of-the-road items, that my entire book collection is worth somewhere between $3000 and $10,000.

But monetary value is only part of the equation when it comes to valuing books in a collection.  In the second and third pictures, there are some extremely limited-editions of works from some of my favorite authors.  Look some of them up on ABEbooks or e-bay and you might see some trying to sell the same edition for upwards of several hundred dollars.  But it's not so much the dollar figure as it is the owning of something special from authors one enjoys most that adds a sort of sentimental value to the equation.

Sometimes, it is books received from authors who send these to you not to get you to review them (although that might be nice and desirable),  but because they are generous people.  In the second through fourth pictures, there are some books, many of them rare and hard to find, that were sent to me because the authors knew I'd love to acquire them because I am a vocal fan of their writings.  That sort of generosity is priceless; the books serve only as a physical reminder of friendships forged around the love of literature and not necessarily over being a fan of that particular author's work (although that too is the case).

It is nice receiving works from those who just think you'll enjoy these.  I blogged about this months ago, but several books in this picture above were sent to me just because he thought I'd be able to do justice for them in reviews.  In the near future, I hope this proves to be true.  The expectations placed on particular books can certainly add value to the collection that cannot be measured by anything tangible.

Collections ought to be intensely personal and idiosyncratic.  Here is a look into a collection-within-a-collection that deals with more spiritual matters.  Collecting translations of one of the most important literary works in human existence can be a sign of placing a value on personal spiritual and meditative development.

But perhaps the most important value that comes from a book collection is how the collector utilizes the books at his/her disposal.  I could have easily shrink-wrapped several of these books; virtually all have been read.  It isn't so much the maintenance of monetary value (it would pain me greatly to sell any of these for whatever reason) as it is the potential for personal growth and change that makes my personal book collection such a valuable thing to consider. 


Ian Sales said...

I see you have a copy of Postscripts 20/21 Edison's Frankenstein, which contains one of my stories. So clearly it's the most valuable book in your collection :-)

Paul said...

Show off.

I still can't believe Jeff destroyed a copy of The Tain, gutted.

Lsrry said...

Maybe so, Ian, maybe so ;)

Paul, that act alone should have earned him eternal derision or at least a genuine French taunt :D

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