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It seems that in these economic conditions people are trying to find other ways to invest their money. We are no different from anyone else and although we are not wealthy and don’t have a big portfolio, we have started looking for other ways invest. In our quest, we have discovered that one thing that people still have an interest in and can relate to is books and in particular old and vintage first edition books. So when we were offered some books for sale recently we started doing a little research because we didn’t know the first thing about how to collect books and how to tell edition book from another. One thing we found out for certain, is that we are not alone.
Our research indicates that collecting first edition books can be a bit frustrating because it is not easy to identify them. Although the Library of Congress and the copyright laws require that publishers list certain information on the books copyright page, different publishers have different ways of including that information. What makes this even more difficult is the date in which the book was first published, because depending on the age, it may have been previous to the existing copyright laws. In these cases, you must consult the author’s bibliography, some of which you may find on the Internet. The first place to look however is on the copyright page of the book.
The first thing you want to look at on the history page is for copyright date. This date should pretty much coincide with the year that the book was published. In some cases the dates may be slightly off because there is no guarantee that the book was published on the same date as the year it was copyrighted. Next, look for the words, “first edition” or “first printing.” Books that say first printing however may not necessarily be first edition books; it may be the first printing with a second publisher.
Some publishers identify first edition books with a number line, usually 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 or 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. The number 1 in a number line indicates that it is the first printing of the book. When it is in its second printing, the number line will no longer contain the number 1. If it is the third printing of the book, the number 2 will be missing and so on. Some European publishers also use letters instead of numbers. Keep in mind that not all books have this number line and some publishers, particularly European publishers may use letters instead of numbers.
Other things that you should look for when collecting first edition books are the actual cover or dust jacket and whether the book was at one time a library copy or from a book club. The dust jacket should be the originally dust jacket, with the original artwork that came with the first edition book. The dust jacket normally has the price and in subsequent editions of a book, the dust jacket may have changed. If the book was an ex-library book, there may be a cardholder on the back flap and in the case of book club edition, there might be stickers indicating this, including on the dust jacket. Not having the correct dust jacket or being an ex-library book or book club book will diminish the value of the book.