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Collecting history

by Frank and Esther Crance

Upon opening Pandora's Books, we virtually had no Modern Fiction, Science Fiction, paperbacks, Metaphysical and New Age, Self-Help, or other categories of books. Our emphasis was on Art, Politics, History, Native American and Ethnic Studies, Western Americana, Cooking, and Sports. We had a moderate number of Antiquarian books on various subjects. We have acquired, through time and demand, the categories we originally did not have. However, our preferred emphasis is still on the nonfiction subjects of History and Politics. We have greatly embellished our History sections by fortunately acquiring a collection of original World War I and World War II posters. We have these displayed throughout our store. The posters poignantly emphasize through graphics the importance of understanding our historical past.

In our almost ten years of buying and selling books, we have found the criteria for buying, selling, and collecting history books differs somewhat from collecting first editions, which is popular in other subject areas. What appears to be most important to the historian or history buff is the content, field of expertise, interest or chronological addition to a library, not the fact that the book is a first edition, although that would still be desirable. The value of any book is merely based on age, condition, and supply and demand. These factors must be kept in mind when buying or selling any collectible book, including history books. The following are basic guidelines that one can use when buying or selling used history books.

Factors not affecting the value of history books are:
1. Bookplate placed discriminately on verso of cover
2. Minor soiling and wear of cover
3. Minor wear of dust jacket—minor wear is expected
4. Books without dust jacket, as issued, before 1940—books printed before 1940 are generally accepted as being old enough to warrant a dust jacket as unnecessary

Factors that do affect the value of history books are:
l. Previous owner's name or inscription on front fly leaf
2. Underlining
3. Lack of dust jacket after 1940, as issued
4. Missing pages or text

Factors adding value to history books:
l. A unique copy—rareness
2. New condition
3. Signature or presentation by the author
4. Notations by author

If a book is in poor condition, no matter what the subject or age, there is little or no value.

Since we value history, we are often depressed by the lack of historical knowledge of today's youth. It seems that history is not emphasized or sometimes neglected in our schools today, or if taught, soon forgotten. History tells us who we are, where we have been, and hopefully shed some light on where we are going. Henry W. Longfellow said it best—

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the Sands of Time.

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Learn more about dust jackets, fine condition, and other book qualities in the Alibris Glossary of Book Terms.

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