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Is Collecting Books This Hard?
Just popping in
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I have spent hours looking through eBay and Abebooks.com, looking for books in "fine" pristine condition.

I have purchased half-dozen books in a period of two weeks and of the four that I have received till today, two of their conditions were subpar with "tear" present on dust jacket.

It just makes me furious that the sellers posted these books' conditions as "fine" or in "pristine" conditions. (Beren and Luthien signed copy and 1st Edition 1st Impression the Silmarillion) when even through novice's eyes, they are hardly in "fine" condition.

I suppose I can leave negative feedback and ask for returns, but since these books are of mediocre value, I am too lazy to spend another $50 dollars to ship these books back and start the claim process which will deprive me of another significant chunk of my time and brain cells.

I have collected artworks, Star Wars action figures, and movie prop replicas. When these items were shipped, they always came with the condition as described, all mint and beautiful. Also, as for rare sports memorabilia cards or action figures, I collect "graded" figures as in, they come in hardcase plastics provided by the grading authorities, making these items nearly impossible to be damaged (maybe except the UV sun damage) during the shipment.

But as for collecting books, there are so many variables that factor into books' conditions, starting from fragile dust jacket to slight bump or scratches, molding, and etc.

I am a perfectionist and I nearly cringed my eyes and feinted upon seeing these "scratches" and indentations on the dust jacket that was described as "excellent."

Am I suppose to buy at least a dozen First Edition Silmarillion that are described by sellers as "fine" in condition, in order to find a SINGLE decent "fine" condition copy?

At this point, I feel like I am playing a lottery. As a newcomer to this noble hobby, this is very disheartening and frustrating.

Posted on: 9/12 3:12:09

(edited)


Re: Is Collecting Books This Hard?
Shirrif
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Glad you're having fun!

I would avoid anyone who uses words like "new", "mint", "pristine", "excellent", "unread", etc; particularly without qualification. To me these betray the seller's (likely) poor understanding (or deliberate obfuscation) of book grading & sounds like someone "talking up" condition. These terms are almost meaningless to me e.g. how does "unread" describe condition? It doesn't. To some sellers "new" probably describes a book that has not had a previous owner (i.e. has been book seller stock only). How does this describe condition? It doesn't.

In addition to this: you're collecting books, not (and sorry if this comes across as dismissive) "memorabilia". Most books are in used condition, because, well, they've been read; the condition is unlikely to be shrinkwrap-new. Sure, people buy to collect & do sell on (later) copies which are essentiall brand-new copies; but any purchase from Amazon or SpeedyHen or Waterstones should easily illustrate to you that new books are still liable to turn up with damage, scuffs, etc. It's pretty hard to keep a dustjacket entirely unmarked, even for a bookseller.

So tread with caution. If you want pristine copies of any books that are more than ten years old, then good luck. I think you're going to be disappointed more often than not.

BH

Posted on: 9/12 3:59:42

(edited)
_________________
You drive a hard bargain – you can have it for £10 all-in – one consolation (for you) is that you do not have to hear the cries of my children, for bread...


Re: Is Collecting Books This Hard?
Shirrif
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As Khamûl says, finding pristine (i.e. actually fine) copies isn't that easy. That said, it can be done for most books, but it can take a LONG time to find that perfect copy of a book, and it is likely to cost more than the imperfect copies (this isn't always the case, though).

I personally purchase a handful of books a year, and the main reason is that it is rare for me to see that combination of quality and price that works for me. Book collecting needs to be slow and steady or you will likely end up with a collection that you will be unhappy with. It is very satisfying when you fo find tht 50 year old book that looks better than a new copy, but don't expect that satisfaction to come along particularly regularly, especially if you are only looking for a fairly narrow range of titles, editions and impressions.

There are books where you have to sacrifice condition significantly just to get a copy -- these are few and far between in the world of Tolkien, though.

Posted on: 9/12 12:57:47

(edited)


Re: Is Collecting Books This Hard?
Just popping in
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I am extremely grateful for all the help, Mr. Stu and Khamûl!

What I forgot to mention is that prior to my purchase, I sent several emails/messages to the sellers, asking if their definition of "fine" and "pristine" condition are equivalent to the ones commonly used by the book collectors and they adamantly said yes.

Now I am left with two of the books that are subpar in quality and as a "perfectionist" when it comes to collecting, it's like having two tumors dangling on my bookshelf. I might as well give them to my baby son to use em as scrap paper...

I will keep purchasing 1st Edition 1st Impression copies of the Silmarillion until I find several of the actual "fine" condition books. What a quest....

Posted on: 9/12 21:10:13


Re: Is Collecting Books This Hard?
Shirrif
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The_Antiquarian wrote:
I am extremely grateful for all the help, Mr. Stu and Khamûl!

What I forgot to mention is that prior to my purchase, I sent several emails/messages to the sellers, asking if their definition of "fine" and "pristine" condition are equivalent to the ones commonly used by the book collectors and they adamantly said yes.

Now I am left with two of the books that are subpar in quality and as a "perfectionist" when it comes to collecting, it's like having two tumors dangling on my bookshelf. I might as well give them to my baby son to use em as scrap paper...

I will keep purchasing 1st Edition 1st Impression copies of the Silmarillion until I find several of the actual "fine" condition books. What a quest....



You really just need to get plenty of photos before making your purchase decision. Of course, this isn't always possible and sometimes it is worth taking a punt. The Sil can be a hard one to find in true fine condition because as well as scuffing, bumping and all the other hazards that any book faces, the red dye is particularly vulnerable to fading (as is often the case with red). The dark blue top stain is also prone to damage from settled dust.

They do exist, though (I have one, which was boxed with other GA&U books until I purchased it a decade ago, and which I keep in a dark drawer, rather than on the shelf), but we are now talking about a 40 year old book, and there can't be THAT many copies kept essentially in a box / out of light for their entire life.

Your search for that perfect copy may take a little while. Just get photos and pass by the copies that don't meet your requirements. If finding great copies was as simple as firing up Abe and spending money, it would a pretty dull hobby*.

(Also remember that "Good" condition in book collecting circles means that it is only useful as a firelighter. Unless you *aren't* a professional seller, in which good condition can mean anything from firelighter to perfection).

[*As my wife is happy to remind me, it IS a dull hobby]

Posted on: 9/12 23:37:45



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