What to do when estate liquidations uncover antique book libraries

So you’ve walked into an estate liquidation situation, ready to evaluate and catalog the properties when you come upon a collection of old books – maybe even a full library.

With an entire house to deal with during the estate liquidation process, your areas of expertise may sometimes have to stretch beyond the knowledge of typical household merchandise you regularly encounter.

How do you handle a niche market like antique books?

Evaluating the worth of a client’s antique book collection or library is unfortunately not as easy as doing a quick bit of research online at popular sites such as AbeBooks.

As with any area of antiquities, antique books can best be evaluated by someone who has experience and understands how the antique book market works – that’s why we’re here to help!

By having a grasp on what to look for (and what not to look for), you can better equip yourself to assess the sales potential of an estate library, whether large or small.

We’re here to help with three quick tips to keep in mind should you encounter antique books during an estate liquidation:

#1 Condition, condition, condition!

Many may be surprised to know that above almost any other aspect, the condition of an antique book is everything – there is very seldom an exception to this rule.

Antique books command top prices when they are nicely bound (meaning no loose covers or pages), clean, and unmarked by damage such as tears, worm holes or staining.

With early to mid-20th century books and first editions, original dust jackets (in good condition with no rips or tears) often add another layer of value. The only time condition is not so reflective of price is when a book is exceptionally rare or exceptionally old.

#2 Rarity

So what’s ‘exceptionally rare’? Spotting a rare book without some previous experience is extremely difficult. We all naturally tend to think that if a book is very old, it probably is also very rare – that isn’t the case either.

Crazy as it may seem, it is possible to stumble upon a book from the 1980’s that could be rarer than an antique book from the 1800’s.

#3 Age doesn’t always equal value

When people come across an old book during an estate liquidation they tend to think: “This is really old! It’s got to be worth some good money!”

Dealers and collectors have always followed the general rule of thumb that an antique is a piece that is at least 100 years old.

Understandably, you’d think this would also apply to antique books. However, in a great many cases, this rule is untrue.

Age has little to do with value unless the book is considerably old, and in the world of antique books, old means OLD.

When we use the term “old”, we’re usually referring to a book that is hundreds of years old. Yes, hundreds.

Need advice selling antique books found in estate libraries?

We’re here to help.

Here at Regency Antique Books, we cross reference our antique book finds with extensive research. This involves a careful study of archived auction sales/prices coupled with an understanding of a book’s individual rarity.

Only then do we get a realistic valuation that we can provide the customer and then in many cases, make an offer to purchase.

We’re based in Phoenix, Arizona but our business is solely online which allows us to work with customers all over the globe – sometimes even taking advantage of today’s technology to get a peek at various books or collections through FaceTime or Skype.

We provide upfront and honest antique book evaluations and often work with estate liquidators, helping them achieve the best prices for their client’s library. 


Hey, estate liquidators! Need help selling antique books from an estate?

We can help evaluate books found in estate collections, as well as manuscripts and ephemera. We buy single volumes and complete libraries.

Ask us about antique books