HELP I Have “Inherited A Collection of Books!! What Can I Do?

Assuming you have been through the collection and gathered up those books you are personally interested in, what do you do next?

The first thing to do is to ask any relatives if there is any book they would like. As a bookseller I have often been asked for a book that has been given away when a family collection has been disposed of. So please ask. Someone may have a favourite of which you are unaware. 

Once you know for sure you are disposing of a collection of unwanted books ask yourself whether you wish to gain any funds from their sale.

Assuming you are not interested in monetary gain there are two options.

Firstly, if you don’t care where the books end up contact your nearest university or branch of Lifeline and ask about pick-ups for one of their fund-raising fairs. Secondly, here are some suggestions for those wishing to see that the books “go to a good home”.

  • Local history societies and genealogical societies would be interested in local and family histories
  • Contact professional and technical societies in your state about obviously technical books in a particular profession 
  • A local library or primary school library may take up to date junior reference books
  • Any primary teacher you know of may take children’s illustrated and chapter books
  • Your local Curves gym may take fiction both paperbacks and hardbacks for a women’s refuge they have contact with
  • Your local hospital may take the more expensive magazines for casualty waiting rooms
  • Your local high school’s art department would probably take art reference books
  • In general local council libraries are not interested in bulk lots of donated books as they have their own culled stock to get rid of

If you are interested in monetary gain there are several options but be prepared you won’t get as much as you think for a general collection. A specialist collection is a different situation. A specialized collection will have books all about the same subject or a few subjects together with some related titles.  Publication dates will range over a number of years. In this case you are best approaching a specialised dealer or auction house.  You can get an idea of prices obtained from similar lots by looking at the past sales section of the relevant website. As a guide the subjects most sort after are exploration, military books, and art references.

 What to do with a general collection where there may be a few items of value.?

 Firstly a book exchange may give you credit on purchases from their own shop. Due to the impact of EBooks ..this will be less that you would expect.

 Secondly, with a large number (2 Boxes Plus), a reputable dealer will make time to visit you and look for themselves.  In doing so they will have one of two approaches: they may offer you a sum for the lot or offer you a sum for the books they want and another additional but smaller amount for the rest.

Authentic internet only dealers and those with a physical shop (and most of these will have online listings) have considerable overheads.  To a certain extent buying books for resale is a gamble and this plus the usual business expenses means a seller cannot expect to get an existing retail or online price for a particular book.

Before inviting a dealer to appraise your books and make you an offer make sure the books they will be examining are books you definitely don’t want. It is very irritating being shown books one could use only to have the seller change their minds.

With just a box it may worth approaching a dealer directly in their shop. However dealers will only buy what they know they can use.  Just because you want the money you cannot expect a dealer to buy books they can’t use.

If you have energy and time it may be worthwhile listing your titles with the author and date of publication and sending the list to several dealers at once asking for offers. Alternatively you could list them yourself on Ebay or Abe Books. However keep in mind descriptions must be accurate and this is not easy without experience.

For all of the above condition is the prime consideration. Even books over 100 years old need to be as close to new condition as possible. Books which originally had jackets are worth only half the value without them and all preliminary pages and endpapers should be present.

Two final points:

Check all books for items of ephemera enclosed. Such items may add to the interest and value of the book or may be valuable just for themselves. Lastly you never know the previous owner may have hidden spare dollar notes between the pages so check carefully.

–Contribued by Margaret Dunstan at Somerset House Books

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