One big stumbling block in buying and selling books in the age of the internet is the dependence upon websites like AbeBooks and Amazon for evaluating worth.

This is a scenario we run into often with many of our customers. More often than not, Average Joe will inherit a collection of books from his parents or grandparents and decide that he wants to sell them.

The first thing Joe does – naturally – is hop onto Google to do a little research in an attempt to gauge the value of the antique books. This inevitably leads him to AbeBooks where he very likely will find one or more copies of his book.

“Look honey,” he’ll say to his wife in excitement, “it says here that this book is worth $100!”

What Joe and so many folks like him unfortunately don’t understand is that the prices listed on AbeBooks are, in fact, the sellers’ asking prices, and are therefore not a true reflection of the book’s actual worth.

Why book-selling sites often can’t determine authentic values

AbeBooks is one of the first sites people are normally directed to when they want to find the value of an antique or rare book.

While AbeBooks a terrific resource for buying and collecting a vast number of books of all sorts, the trouble is that it’s not ideal for showing true value. The same goes for Amazon. Great resource, not such a great evaluator.

Asking price vs real market value

Someone may have a perfectly good book that they’ve listed on AbeBooks with a price tag of $500. Does that price tag make the book worth $500? No, of course not – it’s just what the seller WANTS for the book.

The book is still only worth the amount that it or a similar one would have realized during a retail sale or at auction. 

So, how do you find out the true value of an antique book?

The way to find an accurate evaluation of a book’s worth is by sifting through past auction results. 

Auctions are wonderful evaluators because items sold in this way are an excellent reflection of fair market value.

While online auction sites like eBay do offer a better idea of value than asking-price sites like Amazon and AbeBooks, the very best method is to examine results from real-world auction houses.

These auction results are actual lists of what various books sold for after being offered at market.

Seller’s Tip: If you’re going to search eBay to get a range of value, make sure you search completed items, and items that are marked as “sold listings.”

Make allowance for the condition of the book

The next step is for you to ascertain whether your book is in better or worse condition than the auctioned copy; in some cases yours may be worth more (or less) than copies sold in the past.

Whether you’re selling or buying a book, it’s always worth seeking professional help for guidance.


If you’re interested in selling or consigning an antique book with us, we’ll be able to research the book with our access to thousands of auction house search results.

With that information combined with our experience in the antiquarian book field, we can determine the current valuation for your book.