For both amateur and professional booksellers, good reference guides are still a must have. While the majority of pricing research can be done quickly on either AbeBooks (works best for non-ISBN books) or Amazon (my first stop for ISBN books), there is still something to be said for owning printed reference material.
Having been a professional bookseller for just over ten years now, my library of Books about Books is always expanding. However, aside from using the Internet for pricing information, there has only been one resource that I have used on a daily basis, and that book is Ahearn’s Collected Books: The Guide to Values 2002 Edition. What I like most about this guide is that it only includes the cream of the bookselling crop, and also includes essential points of issue, which help me to determine if the book in hand is a true 1st, or simply a reading copy. By no means is it a comprehensive guide to points of issue, just a good starting point for your research. Ahearn’s Collected is most helpful for fiction high spots and author’s early works (but not books in the $25-100 range), and there is a respectable selection of non-fiction, specifically History and Americana, as well.
Ahearn’s biggest omission would have to be the lack of photographs, which is understandable considering the already massive size of the still handy reference volume. This is where Antique Trader Book Collector’s Price Guide excels. It is full of color photographs of books with and without their dustjackets. It can almost fit in your back pocket (but not quite). There are over 8,000 1st Editions identified, and while this is less than Ahearn’s (which still contains only a fraction of the collectible books in existence), it does include many of the books one is more likely to encounter in the field. It is divided into 13 categories including Vintage Fiction, Art/Illustrated Books, Modern First Editions, and even more esoteric ones like Paranormal and Banned Books. Each section begins with 10 High Spots in the category, the “Holy Grails” of that genre, complete with sometimes humorous sidenotes like this entry:
Bannerman, Helen. The Story of Little Black Sambo.
London: Grant Richards, 1899. Find this and forsake politically correct behavior forever.
NF/F: $14,000 G/VG: $6,500
While Ahearn’s only includes prices for books in pristine condition, Russell tries to make a distinction between a Fine Copy and a Very Good/Good copy, although like all price guides in the Internet Age (and during a slow economy), the numbers can be a bit on the optimistic side more often than not.
More established booksellers who have already familiarized themselves with many of the books included may scoff at the Book Collector’s Price Guide as a book for beginners or simpletons, but even after ten years in the business, I would still consider myself a beginner in many ways. One must always be learning to succeed in bookselling.
It should be noted that the 3rd Edition does not include the Pseudonyms and Signature Guide sections that the 2nd Edition included, which makes it about 50 pages shorter. The amount of color photographs included in the 3rd Edition is enough to make up for this difference, and I honestly cannot remember using the Pseudonym or Signature Guide in this reference guide before, so I am not mourning the omission.
The strength of this book is in its compact size, simple format (although which category a book falls into can sometimes be difficult to decipher; many of the books in the Vanity and Small Press section could be more logically consolidated into other sections) and multitude of color photographs. It is the type of book you can take with you anywhere: on a plane, waiting for the doctor, using the…ahem…facilities, hanging out at a coffee shop or sitting at home on your end table for when you are fed up with television.
At the affordable price of $16.50 for a brand new copy in paperback, it should pay for itself within days. Happy Hunting…
Official Rating: 4.75/5.0
Pros: Color Photographs, Compact Size, Realistic Availability of Books Included, Variety of Genres
Cons: Rudimentary 1st Edition Identification Section, Crossover of Categories
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