Most collectors are looking for 1st editions, so that is what we specialize in. While the true 1st edition would be the basic starting point when acquiring a book, other significant editions such as the first Hardcover edition, or illustrated or limited editions are sometimes just as desirable. Completist collectors might want later printings for new cover art or textual changes. Occasionally when 1st editions are very expensive or hard to find, we will carry later editions/printings which can be cheaper alternatives for collectors on a budget.
It is often remarked in real estate that the three most important factors in valuing a property are “location, location, location”. For collectible books this can be translated to “condition, condition, condition”. Arguably, edition is a more important factor in book collecting (what collector would turn down a well worn first edition of DUNE in favor of a fine later printing?), but since generally only 1st editions are considered collectible, it is usually assumed that the book in question is already a first edition, which leaves condition as the major factor in determining the value of a book. All collectors should strive to purchase books in the best possible condition. Often, books in less than superior condition can be good placeholders when truly fine copies are too expensive or too scarce. When we do stock less than perfect copies of books, prices are adjusted accordingly.
Scarcity is certainly a factor in determining the value of a book -- supply and demand are always the final the basis for retail value. Do not make the mistake, however, of confusing high prices with scarcity. It is quite common to see sellers hyping their books as “Rare”, when in fact these books are not rare at all, they are merely expensive. For example, you could easily purchase a dozen first edition copies BOOKED TO DIE by John Dunning on any given day if you just wanted to spend a few thousand dollars. What would be rare is a fine copy at your local used bookstore for 5 dollars. Truly rare books are those that cannot be found for sale during an extended search over a length of time. With modern first editions, very few books are this rare, although with antiquarian books many are rare enough that a chance to purchase a copy can come only once or twice in a lifetime.
All of our books are carefully described and graded according to ABAA standards. In general, the bibliographic portion of a listing will be followed by a detailed description of the book’s flaws (if any), and end with a brief overall grade for the book, with separate grades for the dust jacket and slipcase, if applicable. Overall grades are as follows:
Fine is the highest grade. A fine copy is crisp, clean, and as close to new as possible. Anything which detracts from the fine condition must be noted. This should typically be discrete flaws such as a clipped jacket or a bookplate or an owner’s signature. Overall flaws like foxing or spine tilting will result in a lower grade than Fine. A fine copy should be acceptable for even the most demanding collector.
A Near Fine copy is close to fine, but may have some small flaws. Usually, at first glance the book will appear to be a fine copy, but closer examination will reveal some minor signs of use that give the overall effect that the book is a little less crisp than a fine copy. Again, any discrete flaws must be mentioned. A near fine copy should be acceptable for all but the pickiest of collectors.
A Very Good copy will show some typical signs of age or use, but is overall still in collectable condition. Any discrete flaws such as tears, stains, or writing, as well as any overall detractors such as wear or loosening of the binding must be mentioned. A very good copy should be satisfactory for most collectors, particularly for older books where fine copies have become scarce. Usually for more recent “hypermodern” titles, it is best to only purchase near fine or fine copies since they are usually readily available.
A Good copy will have excessive wear and/or enough flaws that it is not really suitable for collectors. Most good copies will serve as reading copies or as placeholders for books which are very scarce or expensive. Major faults must still be listed and the book must be overall a complete and sound copy.