Unconventional Investment Series: Antique Book Buying

This week begins the “Unconventional Investment Series” here on Earn More and Save, and we couldn’t be more excited! With this series, we intend to review a string of less-than-known ways to invest your hard-earned dollars, and we’re kicking things off with an analysis of antique book-buying.

Buying Rare Books: A Primer

Yes, it’s true. People really do make a pretty penny buying and selling old books. However, it’s not as simple as trotting down to your local book fair and picking out a few raggedy novels in hopes of cashing in big. First, you’ll need to know what you’re doing.

There are a few rules to consider when delving into the world of antique book buying. For example, in most cases, first editions of books are the most valuable. But that’s not the only thing to consider. You need to know your way around literature – if you’re not familiar with various periods and genres, then this investment avenue may not be the best investment route for you to take.

If you are fairly well-versed in the literary greats, then begin by educating yourself in the terminology of the book-buying industry. If you don’t know the difference between an “edition” and a “limited edition”, for instance, then you need to do some homework before you being hunting. Check out Your Old Books for a fantastic primer.

Once you’ve researched what makes old books valuable, you can begin tracking down gems for your new collection.

A Few Warnings

As with all investments, you’re not buying old books with the intention of selling them right away. This technique utilizes the old-fashioned “buy and hold” philosophy. Books tend to increase in value in seven year cycles, so when you buy a book, be prepared to hold it for at least fourteen years.


Simple. A dealer will likely only be willing to pay half of a book’s perceived worth (which can vary wildly from appraisal to appraisal), so you’ll need to hold your finds for at least seven years in order to break even. To turn a profit, you should wait at least two cycles before you sell. That’s where the real money will be made.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are certain kinds of books that are not considered “rare” in most cases. Bibles fall under this classification simply because most versions were widely distributed and printed as inexpensively as possible. Textbooks, encyclopedias, and compilations are generally not very rare, either, for the same reasons.

Honing in on the right books to look for is the hardest part of breaking into antique book collecting. Once you have the knack, however, you will be unstoppable at garage sales and a force to be reckoned with at book fairs. It’s a great investment avenue to take because books will continue to increase in value as long as you keep them in pristine condition. Think about it – there are only a set amount of first edition books floating around out there, and no more copies can be produced – ever. This means that once you get your hands on some of these gems, you’ll have assets that will steadily increase your bottom line as the years go on.