One day you are cleaning out your grandmother’s attic and you find several old books. Really old. Like from the early 1900’s. You think to yourself that they must be worth something, so you decide to try to sell them (with grandma’s permission, of course). You check several sources and discover that the antique books you thought was going to get you on the news, isn’t really worth much. Why? They are old and antique looking. They are in sort of good condition except for a few tears here and there, and the yellowing of age. Why aren’t you going to get rich?

I will tell you. Unlike many hobbies, book collecting (this includes comics) is a little strange. Value isn’t just about age and condition. There are a myriad of factors that go into how much that old book will sell for. Most of the conditions for rare, collectible books to be valuable are the same for comics, so if you collect those instead, this can also apply to you.

First, condition is a factor. It usually is with collectible of all types, so hopefully this revelation didn’t surprise you. The better condition it is in the more valuable. With books this usually means that the cover is intact, there is minimal tearing on the pages, no stains, no stickers, if there is handwriting in the book it is from the signature of the author, etc. The same holds true for comics, except that this can also mean that the comic is sealed and graded, no fingerprints or ink smudges, and yes there are people who look for those things.

Second, the edition number (or printing run) is also important. Original first edition copies will go for more. No one really knows how big a book is going to be until after it is published. Unless you are a famous author first printings are usually smaller in number, and they reprint if the book warrants it. All of this adds into…

Number three. Scarcity. The smaller the number of copies, the more valuable your book. It’s all about supply and demand.

Fourth, if you have a signed copy your book is worth more. Even if it is not a particularly valuable book, you can usually get a bit more for it with a signature.

Along those same lines, limited editions are also usually more valuable. That is because of scarcity again. Comics are especially good at this offering collectors different covers and extras by different artists.

Finally, an author’s first book is usually (but not always) the most valuable. Again this is because the author is typically unknown at the time so the printing is usually smaller.

That’s it. These are the most important factors in whether your book is valuable or just a conversation starter. If you plan to start collecting rare books seriously, you should be careful to get appraisals as things change frequently in the collecting communities. One final word of warning for all collectors out there: In the end you collectible is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. No matter how much anyone says it could get you, it won’t help if no one is willing to buy.

Do you have any more tips or anecdotes to share? Leave a comment!