Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2005 Issue

Book Valuation Gets a Place at the Table

Money1

AE Current Value converts old prices into today's values


By Bruce McKinney

I've seen the future and can report it's exciting. Well, this isn't exactly Martin Luther King saying "I've seen the promised land" but it is part of the future of book valuation nevertheless and it is easy, fast and thought provoking. This month we introduce automated current pricing in the AED. For those who have wondered how or why a 1923 auction record is relevant to book valuation today I have only one word to say, HELLO.

For every book that makes the front page of the New York Times as "the long lost copy of ...." that is thought to be worth millions there are in fact millions of books that are interesting but whose values are much harder to understand. For all the books that don't make it to the front page of the Times there is now AE's Adjusted Current Valuation.

Wright Howes, the Chicago bookman, successfully created a flexible grading system 51 years ago and applied it to 10,520 titles in the Americana field in his book collector's guide: Howes' USiana. The beauty of his system was that his valuations were relative and so remained useful even as valuations changed. His book could not account for change in relative valuation but such changes became meaningful only over decades.

This month, in the AED, it now becomes possible to search for specific titles and editions and to select records that simply by selecting GET CURRENT ESTIMATE, immediately adjust all selected priced records to current value, and then average them for a composite current valuation, a generally better indicator of value than any single record. Then, if any records seem inappropriately high or low we provide links to each underlying record and the option to delete such records from the group. You can then recalculate composite value a second time.

This is not going to tell you what your book is precisely worth but it is going to give you a reasonable idea of its value. About 80% of all books will fall within 15% of the median prices. For books at both extremes the estimates will be less accurate but nevertheless helpful. Most people want to know if their book is valuable. This will tell you that.

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