Book Collecting 101: An Introduction and Some Links

I’ve really got it bad folks. Nicholas Basbanes’ books have always touched me somewhere deep down inside, but Among the Gently Mad has really pushed me over the edge. Not that this was such a feat. Where collecting is concerned, one could say that I live on the edge. And, the stacks of books balanced precariously in every corner and crevice of my house where my wife has not out-right prohibited them (and a couple even where she has), not to mention the bankers boxes in the storage unit, all bare witness to my life-long love affair with the written word.

This is different, however. Possessing is not collecting – and this massive gathering of paper and ink is about to form the core of a real collection. To do this right I have a lot to learn, and that is where you come in. As I learn the ins and outs of becoming a serious book collector, I will bring you along for the ride, and share what I learn along the way. Hopefully you will pick up some useful tips, and by writing about the process I will surely profit as well.

Fear not if books are not your thing. The focus of the blog will continue to be general. In fact later today I hope to post on several very high end chips that went unsold this weekend. But as I learn about the rare book trade, you will too.

First things first. One of Basbanes’ first pieces of advice to a new collector is to find an old collector. He puts it more delicately of course, but that’s the gist. Ideally one needs a mentor, or at the very least a local rare book dealer who can offer advice and help the newbie through the early transactions. Even choosing a focus or direction for your collection is something worth talking over with an experienced collector. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America website is a great place to start. By pressing the “our booksellers” button you can search for members in your area, and there are several great articles under “for collectors.” If you are serious about collecting books, read through the glosser of terms. This hobby, like any other, has a language of its own that we must learn.

One more pointer then I’ll close this long post. Casino chips are bought and sold on eBay. Collectible books are not. is where book people go to trade moderately priced collectible books. By “moderately priced” I am referring to the books that Southebys won’t take. That is another game entirely. A fascinating game, no doubt, but one I shall never be big enough to play, so the rules at that level don’t really apply to my/our humble beginnings. So study the terms, get comfy with AbeBooks, and watch for lesson 2.