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Rare & Vintage Books: A Guide to Estate Sale Treasures

Avid readers unite! Take a turn through the pages of a good read and transport yourself into a new world. Action, mystery, horror, love stories, and more, books have a way of helping us escape from reality. There are over 155 million books in circulation across the globe—that’s a lot of stories to listen to, adventures to go on, and words to be read. Whether you’re new to the reading world or have an extensive collection on your shelves, finding a rare or vintage book can be one of the most exciting experiences. 

At Blue Moon Estate Sales, discovering a rare read is more than possible, but knowing when you’ve struck gold could be tricky. Our team of estate sale experts has put together a guide to better understand the world of rare books and when you should make a purchase at your next Blue Moon Estate Sale. 

What Makes a Book Rare?

Many books are old, antique, or unusual, but that doesn’t make them rare. In order for a book to be classified as rare, the book must meet a certain set of criteria. However, the list of criteria for a rare book has been debated for centuries and is not always definitive. Typically, a book is rare depending on its printing date, number of copies issued, or historical interest. Additional factors include first editions and signed copies.

Books today are printed using a technique called offset printing. This involves using a computer to digitally print illustrations and words directly onto the paper. Rare books, depending on their age, were printed on a Gutenberg printing press. When searching for books of this rarity, you can usually find a unique watermark on some of the pages, or the book itself will have a notable binding that differs from books published in the 21st century.

Finding a First Edition Book

There is nothing more frustrating to a book collector than finding out the first edition they purchased is in fact not a first edition. First edition books are not rare—every book ever printed has a first edition. A first edition is classified as the first time a book is printed by a publishing company and distributed commercially. But, if your book meets other criteria, it can be classified as a rare first edition and therefore worth a lot of money (depending on the demand).

In order to spot a rare first edition at a Blue Moon Estate Sale, it’s important to know what to look out for. There are four major criteria your book must meet in order to be considered a true first edition. In some cases, “first edition” will be printed on the copyright page, but you should also double-check the publisher, date, edition number, and print run to be sure.

  • Publisher - Make sure the original publishing house is listed somewhere on the copyright page.
  • Copyright Date - You’re on the right track to finding a rare first edition if the copyright date is the same as the publishing year.
  • Edition Numbers - Depending on the publisher, they will have the edition number listed on the copyright page, but if it’s not clear, you’ll need to check the print run number.
  • Print Run Number - The print run number is usually the lowest number on the copyright page. This sequence of numbers can help you determine if the book is a first edition or not. If there is a “1” in the print run, it means the book is a first edition. If the lowest number you can find is a “2” then it’s a second edition, and so on and so forth.

For a better understanding of print run numbers, take a look at this guide from AbeBooks.

Price Points

Like all book pricings, rare book values differ as the years go on. At the beginning of 2023, Reader’s Digest published an article outlining rare books that are currently worth a fortune. This list relates to rare books based on the current supply and demand. Though you may be able to stumble upon a rare or unique book at a Blue Moon Estate Sale, you do have to consider the condition and age of the book as well. The older the book, the more valuable it may be, but the condition of the book can drastically change that number.

When shopping at a Blue Moon Estate Sale, our professionals take the time to sift through the endless amounts of books on a shelf to determine if any of them are of increased value. Before you ask—no you won’t have to pay astronomical prices for a rare book like you would online, but you can expect to pay a higher price than you would for books published in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Caring for Your Vintage Book

Congratulations, you did your homework, attended a Blue Moon Estate Sale, and found the vintage book you’ve been searching for! Now, please handle it with care. Vintage, rare, and antique books come at a price, especially if not maintained properly. The Smithsonian Library offers information about preserving and handling your rare and vintage books, as well as guidance on appraisals and current market values.

Find Rare Books at a Blue Moon Estate Sale Near You

Whether you’re in search of a new book for your book club or have been on the hunt for the final piece to your collection, Blue Moon Estate Sales can help you find popular and unique titles. Browse through endless bookshelves and discover a new adventure on every page. With our on-point pricing strategies and exceptional level of organization, you’ll surely find exactly what you’ve been looking for, and more.

Blue Moon Estate Sales is a nationally recognized estate sale company, providing you with ample opportunities to explore incredible books, as well as other antique items your home may need. Find an estate sale in your area today and start the hunt for your next read.

Unique Items at Every Blue Moon Estate Sale

Blue Moon Estate Sales provides residential and commercial liquidation services throughout the country. We are committed to meeting all our clients’ needs, whether you’re hosting an estate sale or attending one. Shop one of our Blue Moon Estate Sales today to discover captivating books and so much more—we guarantee you’ll find something unique every time.