When trying to place a value on a book, it is important to remember that, like any other second-hand or antiquarian item, it has no absolute value. Its commercial worth, if any, will depend on a number of factors. See 'What makes a book valuable' for a discussion of these.
The State Library has many resources which can help people assess the value of a book, but staff are unable to provide valuations.
Expert advice is available from approved valuers or from secondhand and antiquarian dealers.
Although State Library staff are not qualified or permitted to value books they can assist you to discover more information about the books you are seeking to value.
This guide can assist you to determine things such as how many editions of a work were printed and when, whether copies of a particular edition have appeared on the antiquarian book market, and many other interesting pieces of information which may add to the sentimental attachment to a book.
In the case of valuing for probate or insurance, you will need to check with your insurance company for their policy. It may be desirable to keep a list of books, or a photocopy of title pages, and to separately insure valuable items over $1,000.
As a very general guide, books that may be in high demand include:
Found in the Yellow pages under Secondhand Books and antiquarian.
A dealer will not be able to give a valuation over the telephone, because the actual items and their condition need to be assessed first hand. However, an experienced dealer can often give a negative opinion over the telephone on the basis of a general description of the category of material under discussion.
If required, a list of the books may be provided for the dealer. Information should be taken from the title page, not the cover, and should include the name of the author, the exact title of the book, the name of the publisher, and the place and date of publication. However, a dealer will need to look at the actual copies in order to determine their condition and value. Other lists and information about book dealers can be found in Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers website.
The Cultural Gifts Program (previously known as the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme) encourages gifts of significant cultural items to public art galleries, museums and libraries by offering donors a tax deduction for the market value of their gifts (Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.)
Donations must be accompanied by at least two valuations of the current GST inclusive market value, provided by approved valuers. The website includes a list of approved South Australian valuers. To discuss making a donation to the State Library under the Cultural Gifts Program, please contact us.
The Library has a number of publications which are price guides for books, and there are two different types: the auction record which can be thought of as the wholesale value of the book and the book dealers' price guide which lists the retail price of the book. Auction records are a general guide only, because the book in question must be comparable to the one described in the auction records, particularly with respect to quality of binding, general state of repair and the edition.
There is no such thing as a fixed value of objects such as books, or an established rate of declining value for years of wear as in car insurance. Prices may fluctuate from year to year or within a year depending on whether a particular item was in fine or used condition, or sold at a specialist auction attracting keen competition, or whether there was something interesting about it which was not noted in the auctioneer's catalogue entry. Sometimes variations are simply due to changes in the economic climate, or the market in which the item was offered for sale.
Australian and South Australian publications, even modest-looking items such as pamphlets, may be of value as collector's items. The principle is not to be deceived by an unimpressive appearance. A useful starting point is to check the bibliographic details in standard reference books, such as those website listed above:
Whilst many printed secondhand or antiquarian book dealers' catalogues have become a thing of the past, replaced by online resources, the State Library still holds some of these catalogues, which can be found by searching the subject headings Catalogs, booksellers, Rare books catalogs (and by country eg Rare books Australia catalogs)
Current prices for out-of-print, used books and collectables can be obtained at AbeBooks which is a centralised resource for thousands of professional booksellers worldwide. Older values can be accessed from: