Looking for help with old books

lots2doMarch 13, 2007


I am a regular poster on the quilting forum but am looking for some help with a situation that I'm dealing with. Thanks in advance for any tips or advice that you pass along.

My Mom passed away and left behind a house full of things. She had a lot of old books. We want to try to find out if some are worth something and then find someone wants them. (We do not want to sell them ourselves over Ebay or anything. We are looking for a middleman, I guess). What is the best way to go about this? Is it better to contact a reputable bookseller or go through an auction house? This has become one of my jobs and I want to do it the right way.

Thanks again,


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Condolences on the loss of your mom. I'm sure this is tough to deal with.

Some variables which would help are knowing if these are first edition type books or just years and years of belonging to the DoubleDay Book Club. Are they research books out of print that are currently selling? You could check some of them on Amazon and see if there is a market. Of they are technical or relating to certain field, maybe a university would be interested.

I would just pick up the phone and call the auction house, or called a used bookseller in your area and see what they say. It is really going to depend upon what those books are and the market in your area. A local auction house will probably just sell them in large box lots. A used bookseller will most likely only pick out what they think they can resell.

Hopefully, some others here will have some better ideas for you.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 2:54PM
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I attended a charity book sale a couple of years ago and the books on the "rare books" table each had inserted a printout from an auction (either ebay or an antiquarian site - can't remember it now) website showing the current value of the book. I know you don't want to go the ebay route, but these websites are a source of info.

Separately, when my dad and my uncle each passed on, our family donated lots of books to the local university specialty libraries. My dad studied Greek and Latin and had tons of classics and my uncle was a doctor who read medical books for fun. The libraries sent folks to the respective houses to catalog and identify those books they wanted. The families did get donation receipts for tax purposes.

What types of books did your mom have? If you are dealing with thousands and you want to resolve this in one shot, I agree with calling a local used bookseller in your area. However, if you have specialty books, check local libraries although we found that libraries didn't want much in the way or regular fiction.

I'm sorry for the loss of your mom.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Hi - I am a small-time book collector. How you sell the books depends on how fast you want to get it done. Unfortunately, this in an area where it is very common to get ripped off, and finding a "reputable" bookseller can be difficult.

As quiltgo said, book club books are generally of little value. Same with old textbooks, magazines, Reader's Digest condensed books. Surprisingly, modern first editions can be very valuable - for example, Stephen King's first editions often fetch $5000.

A helpful book in determining value is "The official price guide to collecting books." It may be available at your local library. You can also look for prices of used books at www.alibris.com.

I would do a kind of triage on the books. Ones that are clearly not valuable can go to charity. Books that have clear value you can take to an ebay reseller (they take a percentage, but you can tell them what your minimum price on the book will be.) Ones that are questionable I would take to a bookseller. If you enjoy books yourself, you will get a lot more if you take credit for the books rather than cash - often, twice as much.

My condolences on the loss of your Mother - Amy

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Any books on local history might be desireable to either universities or a local library - especially one that has a geneaology section.

For any non-valuable books or books that universities or booksellers don't want, you could donate them.

Many libraries have a "friends of the library" group that organizes used book sales - in almost all cases, used books donated to libraries DO NOT end up on the shelves, but are sold to raise money.

Local nursing homes or hospitals might like to have some too.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 4:54PM
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Are you in the NYC area? I know a high school that loves old books that students can take home for free. The school and students treat these books lovingly and it is a real pleasure to see kids' who have not so many books at home be able to choose.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 9:48PM
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