Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rare Books - Just What the Doctor Ordered

Page from a Rare 17th Century German Midwivery Book.

How often have you visited a garage or house sale and seen shelves stuffed with books you never took the time to look through? Probably, more times than you can count. I know I have. Books have always been a very secret collectible that few knew the value of. By not taking a look at the books at these sales, we might be making one of the biggest mistakes we can make in the antique business, and we just might be passing up some good solid money.

You won’t find the book dealers very talkative at house sales and estate sales, and for good reason. They can quietly enter a sale like a shadow, walk out with a fortune, and no one will be the wiser.

Granted, most books are worth very little, but not if you find medical books. Certain kinds of medical books. If you should find an old medical book, know that many of these can bring you huge profits, and you should know which ones. There are books listed on eBay for $5,000 and more, and I’m sure if you check AbesBooks, you will find many more, perhaps more expensive than this. There may have been a medical book at that last sale you attended, just sitting there, but you were in a big hurry to get into another room with all the overpriced items, while that book dealer who was standing in line behind you, breezed in and out in no time flat.

The seller of the book, “Primer of Hygiene,” listed on eBay, is asking $5,000 for his copy. I wonder what it will sell for. “Beck’s Medical Jurisprudence,” 1823, sold for $547 on eBay, and a 17th Century German Obstetrics/Midwifery book, sold on eBay for $750 early this month. “Medical Essay on Drunkenness” by Trotter, 1813, is listed for $1,250 on eBay. Given the topic, it will be interesting to see what this one sells for as well. These are they the types of books we could be keeping our eyes opened for.

It seems that the most valuable medical books are those from the early 1800’s or before, so this will give you a starting point. Interesting subject matter is usually a requirement, if we expect the books we find to have the values we’re looking for. When I realized the amount of money I could make if I found the right books, my interest in reading picked up noticeably. And that’s not all bad, is it?

By sheer chance, I had been watching an episode of the Antique Road Show, and they happened to have a woman looking for an appraisal of a very old religious book. She seemed like she would have been satisfied if they told her it was worth $100. When they gave her a price of $45,000 to $55,000 she seemed to pass into a trance. Wouldn’t you like to have that happen to you some day? Why couldn’t it?

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