Those are good questions. One way to find out is by carefully reading the higher priced listings, especially listings by dealers who are ABAA members. An ABAA designation still inspires a certain degree of confidence.
Conversely, don’t be misled by sellers who place absurd prices on what your research shows to be more common wares.
Then look how many copies are really listed. Are there over a 100 different copies available? Or, are there really only six copies, but each one listed in a dozen different places? On ADDall you can tell at a glance.
But, ADDall only tells you what’s listed. It doesn’t tell you what sold or the selling price or how recently.
Next go to eBay and do a search of “completed items” using a variety of key words Search for something that’s identical or close to identical to what is in your hand. Search for look-alikes with good clear photos. Don’t just search in “books,” because “books” is not always the best category to either buy or sell. Search “all categories.” EBay completed items only go back a few months, but that’s far enough to determine if there are a lot of other competing items and interest and success generated.
Americana Exchange the Most Reliable
Finally, do you have a hunch it might be worth north of $100? If that happens frequently subscribe to the Americana Exchange data base.
Americana Exchange is the best, most complete and most reliable estimation of current market value in the book world today. Americana Exchange auction records search (a by- subscription feature) will surface prices realized, comparables, frequency and condition. It’s not infallible, but it is reliable. In a world filled with hype and guess work it’s a very good deal, especially if you’re a seller.
The combination of those three searches will usually result in a fair estimate of current market value.
But sellers don’t just want to get the current market value, they want to get more. Not surprisingly, sellers want top dollar.
I was fortunate to be born into the antiquarian book business a long time ago and to learn the trade from my parents who were ABAA dealers for 50 years. From my wise elders I learned it is easier to come down from a high price than to go up from a low one.
So a lot of times - no matter what the research says - I will pick a starting price that is, to put it kindly, “optimistic.”
I also learned from my folks that if it’s yours and you only have one copy, it doesn’t matter what the auction records say, or how many copies are listed, all you really need is one (1) buyer who is willing to pay your price.