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Rare Book Collecting 101

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Rare books - no matter what genre - can prove to be a valuable keepsake, something that can be passed on from generation to generation. But just how to do you go about building a collection? Where do you look? How much can you expect to pay? This article will attempt to answer some of those burning questions about rare book collections.

How to Start

The first thing you should do to get started with your rare book collection is to determine what types of books you want to chase and how much you're budgeting for each of them. Here's a look at the different varieties of rare books that are of special interest to collectors and investors:

  • First print editions
  • Limited editions
  • Signed book copies
  • Advance copies
  • Illustrated books

After you've determined the genres and titles you want to chase, the second thing you should do is come up with a rough budget of how much you are willing to spend on each title that you're chasing. That's because building your rare book collection is unlikely to be cheap - certain titles can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if they're in good condition.

Where to Look

The most challenging aspect of building a rare book collection is knowing where to find rare books. Bookstores and Internet retail sites can be a valuable resource, but buying from the book collectors who often operate bookstores tends to be very expensive and buying from an online site can be unreliable if not from a trusted seller or brand.

The best bet to finding rare books is by checking out a book fair. Book fairs are held all over the country and aim to link sellers with buyers. There's typically a lot of wiggle room for negotiations at these fairs, and buyers have the opportunity to really inspect books and make sure they are in good condition before purchase.

While independent book stores and book fairs are one avenue, there are other ways to find hidden gems to add to your collection. These include flea markets, estate sales and even thrift stores. If you pursue the aforementioned avenues regularly enough, you're likely to find some valuable books to add to your collection. And the best part about buying a book at a flea market, estate sale or thrift store is that it can be done very inexpensively compared with the other purchasing avenues.

Caring for Your Collection

After you've begun your collection, properly caring for your books is something that cannot be emphasized enough. Although books are designed to be sturdy and stand the test of time, here are some tips to keep in mind when caring for your collection:

  • Don't shelve books too tightly, as they have the tendency to warp or damage during removal and replacement. Also, make sure similarly sized books are placed on the shelf together.
  • Don't store books where they're in a path of sunlight. This can fade the colors, jackets and leather.
  • Store your books in a cool environment that's not humid. Excessive humidity can lead to mold growth and even a bug or insect infestation. If you live in a humid environment, consider purchasing a dehumidifier for the room where you store your books.
  • Make sure that your books are a few inches off the floor, in case of unexpected flooding.
  • Dust and clean the bookshelf regularly.

Book collecting can be a lot of fun - if you know what you're doing. So make sure you do your homework to determine the genres and titles you're looking for, their condition, and where to purchase them to have the best success with your rare book collection.

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