Free Book Appraisals: Guide & Resources

Updated November 2, 2020
Senior man looking at antique books

Free book appraisals can help the book collector get an idea of how much a particular book is worth. These appraisals are often based on what similar books have sold for on auction sites like eBay. Because of this, the actual value of the book may differ.

Finding Low Cost and Free Book Appraisals

If you would like to get a free appraisal and you realize that it may not be the most accurate appraisal ever, then there are a few places you can try:

  • Beattie Book Company - For about five dollars per book, Beattie Book Company will give you a value estimate for your rare book. Simply send the details about the book to the company, and they can give you an estimate about value. If you wish, they also perform professional antique book appraisals online with proper documentation of a book's value.
  • Value My Stuff - Although this valuation isn't completely free, it's very low cost. You can send a photo of your item and answer a few questions, and within 48 hours, you receive a complete valuation by auction house experts. Valuation starts at about $40 and becomes cheaper the more items you have evaluated.
  • Rare Book Buyer - A free valuation done by rare book specialists, this is a good option if you need a totally free book appraisal. On the don side, the value may be lower than buyers might pay, since the site also specializes in selling books and will likely make an offer if your book is of interest to them. The entire communication is conducted over email.

Do Your Own Research on Book Values

You can often do your own informal old book appraisals and get as accurate an evaluation as when you try to get free book appraisals. You will just need to take some time and do a little research. You will quite likely be using the same venues of information as the appraiser.

Antique copy of William Shakespeare book

1. Examine the Condition of Your Book

Take a look at your book. Be honest about the condition of it. Make note of the copyright date if there is one. Is there anything unique about it? Make a note of that, too. How does the cover look? Are pages worn, bent, or missing? Are there stains or water damage? Is the binding tight or in bad shape? Note damage to your book as honestly as you can.

2. Understand the Factors That Affect Book Value

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association offers a very helpful free publication called Your Old Books. Reading this will help you familiarize yourself with factors that can affect old book appraisals and values. Book values do not follow the same pattern of value that other antiques do.

  • A book from the mid 1800s is not considered "old." Furthermore, just because a book is old does not make it valuable. For example, old family Bibles from the 1700s really are quite common and lower priced than you might think.
  • Know what makes a book rare or important. If it has been censored or banned, for instance, it may be hard to find. First editions are usually more valuable as well.
  • Understand what gives a book provenance, or a valuable sense of history. A book may be marked up by a previous owner, but if the owner was famous or important in some way, the "damage" can add to the value. Provenance is important to rare book collectors.

2. Compare Your Book to Recent Sales of the Same Title

Search eBay for similar sold titles. It is a great way to see what items are selling for on a national level. You should search the completed auctions as well as the current auctions to get an idea of the price the book sold for. It is best if you take notes and keep track of the prices the book sold for over a period of time. Even if you can't find your exact copy, you should be able to get an idea of the desirability of the book.

3. Look for Your Book at Specialty Retailers

Next, do a rare book search on several sites that specialize in locating antique, collectible, and hard to find books such as Amazon, AbeBooks, and Vintage Books. This should give you an idea of whether your book is common or very rare and what the books are being sold for.

4. Establish a Value Range for Your Book

Hopefully you will now have a low price and a high price. For instance, if your book sells on eBay in rough condition for $40 and on AbeBooks in excellent condition for $500, you know your book should fit somewhere in this range. This is where your notes about the condition of your book will come in. Is it in near perfect condition? Then it should fall on the high end of the scale. If it is in tattered condition, then it will be on the low end.

Antique copy of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

You Might Not Want a Free Book Appraisal

The old saying that you get what you pay for holds true in appraisals as well. While it is very possible to get a ballpark figure, a free appraisal should not be taken too seriously. Here is why:

  • A local book dealer may have an interest in your book. It would benefit him to buy cheaply.
  • On the internet, the person appraising the item can't see important details like condition of the pages or cover. The appraiser can't tell you whether or not the author's autograph is a forgery or not.
  • Free valuations may come from a site with a vested interest, such as one that sells rare books. It is in their best interest to suggest a low value and ask to buy your book at that price. The value may not be accurate.
  • If you do get a free appraisal, make sure that you know why you are getting it for free and make your decisions accordingly. If the appraiser seems overly interested in your book, you may want to rethink your level of trust.

Tips for Getting a Reputable Old Book Appraisal

If you suspect you have a valuable old book, a professional book appraisal may be worth your investment. Many appraisers charge between $30 and $150 per hour, and they may have a minimum fee. How do you get a book appraised by a professional you can trust? These tips can help:

  • The National Association of Professional Appraisers has a code of ethics that its members hold to. By using appraisers that are members of a reputable organization, you can help ensure that you are not dealing with someone that is unscrupulous or lacks credibility.
  • The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America maintains of a list of reputable booksellers who offer appraisals. These businesses are proud of their reputations and can give you a fair antique book appraisal.
  • Look for an appraiser who specializes in the specific type of book you have, since there are many sub-genres of rare books. For instance, if you have a rare medical book, you need a book appraisal from someone with a background in medical texts. An appraiser with knowledge of your book type can give you a more accurate value.
  • If you need to have a book appraisal online, choose an appraiser who can conduct a remote appraisal. They should ask for lots of photos of your book, not just conduct the appraisal based on your assessment of it.

Learn More About Your Book's Value

Free book appraisals can be helpful if you just want a general idea of what your book is worth. Since it isn't difficult to do your own research, it may be in your best interest to find the value of your book yourself. If you need an accurate appraisal for insurance or other important purposes, then you should go to a certified appraiser for the most accurate appraisal. Either way, you will learn a lot more about your book's value and history.

Free Book Appraisals: Guide & Resources