Avid readers and fans of vintage products enjoy adding 1st edition hardback books to their collections, but they need to know how to identify books that are first editions. In many cases, first editions are rare or valuable. Regardless, it is important to learn the characteristics of 1st edition books and how to value them before shopping.
Understand the Terminology
Many sellers and collectors misuse and misunderstand the terminology associated with first editions. When it comes to books, first editions are all copies printed before any significant changes occur. A change could be as simple as a new cover or a different publisher, which earns a '1st edition, 2nd printing' type of designation. However, if substantial changes, such as the addition of new content, take place, the book then becomes a 2nd edition book.
How to Identify 1st Edition Hardback Books
The difficulty in some cases is that all publishers label their first edition prints in different ways or not at all. Of course, the easiest books to identify are the ones that actually state 'first edition' or '1st edition' on the copyright page. If that is not present, the numbers on the page are sometimes an indicator. Many publishers include the number '1' as the first or last number in the book's number sequence. For example, '1 3 3 4 9 6 7 2 9 8' could indicate a first edition, while '2 6 4 9 8 4 7 1 4 4' could indicate a second edition.
Scarcity of 1st Edition Hardback Books
A first edition is not automatically valuable. A high level of demand has to exist for the book, and it cannot have too many copies available. In some cases, only one printing of a first edition exists or maybe only a handful of copies in total. In other cases, thousands of 1st edition books are readily available and very easy to find. For example, the Harry Potter books are very popular, but a lot of 1st edition Harry Potter books are available, and the books are not rare. The same is true of the Terry Pratchett 1st edition books. In general, vintage books between 20 and 100 years old are good books for collectors because their age often makes them rare, especially in good condition.
Hardback Book Condition
Obviously the condition of the book has an impact on its value, but many collectors do not realise the dust cover actually makes up 80 per cent of the value of hardback books. That means a book without the dust cover is only worth 20 per cent of its potential value. Collectors should look for vintage books with intact covers that are not musty, stained, or torn.