February 9, 2015
I sometimes recommend major auction houses to clients that are considering selling books (especially if they are important) so they can receive an additional and independent evaluation. However, one must keep in mind that auction houses have their own commercial interests in getting material for consignment and sometimes their ambitious estimates are designed to encourage consignment (they don’t have risk after all in selling consigned material). Also, on occasion, the wait to hear back from a specialist can be frustrating as naturally their departments are quite busy and focus on very valuable estates and individual works. (Incidentally, if you go the auction route, I am happy to provide tips on which auction house you should use, where, and what estimates to encourage bidding)
An alternative for independent evaluations is the Rare Book Hub (formerly Americana Exchange, but recently changed as their focus is no longer strictly just Americana). It is in fact one of the best and most comprehensive Rare Book Evaluation sites on the web. To access the increasingly comprehensive records, there is a paid subscriber database, which has (along with the American Book Prices Current database) become an indispensable tool to evaluate books. It is quite different than sites such as Abebooks and other book search engines online that provide retail values or asking prices (which are often unobtainable for most sellers of old books). Instead, the Rare Book Hub provides many actual auction records of books, old dealer catalogues, as well as a great deal of informative bibliographical and descriptive information. Anyone can subscribe and check values themselves, albeit it is still wise to consult a professional as comparing books and prices is an art and not a science as sometimes small and not readily apparent differences can greatly affect the value of a work. When you have me evaluate your books, I certainly check databases such as these and can provide the records for individual works. This transparency is very helpful when dealing with clients that do not necessarily know the value of what they have. It allows for sellers to see what the books should reasonably sell for at auction if they went that route. Dealers can even sometimes pay more than the likely auction values if a book is particularly rare. As in the art market, there is an added value for works that are fresh to market and privately sold and for which they may have specific clients.
As always, I am happy to provide free evaluations for old and rare books, and you can contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not hear from me within 2 days, please write “Attn. Adam” in the subject as this prevents email from accidentally falling into spam and delaying a reply. Sending photos of the bindings and title pages are an excellent start.