I have books stacked everywhere…on my work table, in boxes under the table, in storage cases under my bed as well as several book cases. Yes, I read a lot, but that’s not what this is all about. I have OTHER PEOPLE’S books crowding my space. That’s correct, most of them aren’t mine.
No, I’m not a crazy book lady (well maybe). I have a small business where I evaluate the libraries of people who have inherited them in a family estate. It’s a bit of a dream job, however, it means I have to move, review and store a lot of books.
Step one is to cull out anything that has very little value and set aside for a donation. Step two is research the value of the collectible stuff that is left. Step three is put them up for sale on eBay. It’s a lot of work, but I love the hunt for treasures and helping get them into hands of book lovers and collectors who can really appreciate them.
It may sound like every book nerd’s dream, but is it entails a lot of heavy lifting, book dust and dealing with people who are frustrated to learn that most of the boxes of books they moved out of their parent’s home have little to no value. This is the reality of dealing in old/used books. Unless someone’s mom or dad was a SERIOUS collector, a library of hundreds of titles may only have a couple dozen books that requires more research. If you’re curious about how this all works, please check out my previous blog post How to Value Used and Rare Books. I really grok books.
One of the most interesting finds from a recent collection was a book of poetry by Edgar Allen Poe titled The Bells. Published in 1888, is is an odd mix of romantic and macabre. It’s not overly valuable in a collectable sense ($75), but it is an interesting peek into the broad range of poetry produced by this famous author. It doesn’t contain his most famous poem, ‘The Raven.’ If it did, you could probably add a another zero to the value. One of the best part of the book are the illustrations.
I’m currently working on researching a batch of books, memorabilia and art that was inherited from one of Benjamin Franklin’s great (X8) granddaughters. This is a bit different from what I normally do, as I’m researching ephemera as well as several pieces of art. I will not be selling these myself, but am prepping documentation to present to an auction house. It’s been an exciting and fun project.
Going through someone’s lifetime collection of books and other memorabilia is a very intimate experience. I feel like I come to know them through the process and I get to discover some interesting treasures. It’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to do this work.