People come into the shop on a fairly regular basis, clutching a single tome wrapped in plastic. They have the hopeful idea that this will purchase their retirement on a small private island.
Sorry, but here are the seven most common reasons we see on why your book might cover lunch at Applebee’s but no more:
7. It’s a paperback. Trust us on this one; by the time a paperback is old enough to be antique, it’s too battered to be pretty. Planned obsolescence in the binding glue, or something like that.
6. You have the book club edition. Jack and I got very excited in the early days, finding we had an old hardback of Laura Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, which goes for $600 in a first edition. We had the sturdy, ubiquitous one instead. It’s like the difference between an Aston Martin and an MGB GT; both are pretty, both are cool, but only one is hard to find.
5. It has worm holes. Yes, even if the worm is dead, even if the cover still has its gilt lettering and hand-sewn edges intact, those holes aren’t adding character, they’re subtracting value. Ask any Science Fiction fan: worm holes are bad news.
4. It has Reader’s Digest in the title. Just stop it, ok? We don’t want to buy it and neither does anyone else on the planet.
3. Something has chewed the corners. Dog-eared, maybe; dog-chewed, nyet. And no, we don’t want to hear what got it, or how. Just leave quietly without touching anything. Thanks.
2. The author is still alive. I once mentioned to my agent Pamela, just before visiting her in NYC, that in the used business, a dead author’s work tends to be worth exponentially more than that of a live one. After a brief pause, she asked in honeyed tones, “Do you like Ferris wheels, dear?”
1. It’s part of an encyclopedia set. Unless it’s pre-1800s (we’ve seen one in six years) make a book angel out of it and be happy.
So your book is probably not valuable in terms of money, but let’s not forget it’s still a wisdom house, a snapshot of words between covers that–barring dogs and old glue–hold them in one place, and through time. It may not be worth money, but it’s still valuable. Enjoy it; display its pretty cover; read it, turning the pages gently (and possibly wearing gloves). It’s yours to discover.