How to identify first editions or a first printing of a book? (2023)

How much is my old bookworth?Beforesellingorgivingawayoldbooks,checkouttheirvaluefirst.Somebooksmaybeof wortha lot!Witha little research and utilizing links to rare book websites, you canget an idea of your old book's value. The information below can helpyou in that direction ...

AddAllused books
One of my favorite sites for gauging marketabilityof a book.
Supports a huge marketplace of used book dealers ontheir site.
Buy books from the world'slargestonline marketplace for books.
eBay closed auctions is a great to find out whatyour title has soldfor.

What'sthedifferencebetweenaFirstEditionand a First Printing?

When a book is sold forthe first time, that is called the book's "first edition." Quitesimply, it is the initial printing of a book(after the book proof/advance copy).

Technically the phrase "First Edition"consists of the first printing plus anyadditionalprintings ofthesamefirstedition.When there is enough new information to warrant updating the book, arevised Second Edition may bepublished. This is often the case withnon-fiction books such astext-books.

To a book collector the phrase "First Edition" refers toa book that was released during the firstprinting of the "FirstEdition" (they call this book a "1st/1st").A1st/1stiswhatcollectors are lookingfor. A popular book may have had dozens ofadditional printings causing its firstprinting to be the most valuable. For example Harry Potter books arephenomenally popular and each have beenreprinted dozens of times to meet demand. The first printing of eachHarry Potter novel is the most sought after and valuable.

Here are sites to research the market of a book.These links willgive you a sense of what sellers are asking and how many copies areavailable. Keep in mind the condition of your book and itsedition (Firstprinting, later printing, etc.)

AddAllused books. No-frills. Oneof my favorite sites for investigating the marketability of a book.This siteallows you tosort your results in several different ways by Author, byTitle, byValue, etc.

Amazon supportsahugemarketplaceofusedbookdealersontheirsite. searching eBayclosedauctions is a great to find outhowmuch your editionhas sold for.'slargeselectionof priceguidesforrareandcollectiblebookshere.

HowcanItellifabookis a first printing?

How to identify first editions or a first printing of a book? (1)ThepictureatleftshowsaportionoftheCopyrightPageinabookthatwaspublishedin1988.The ISBNis at the top, under that is the location of printing, (United Statesand Canada), under the location is the Date of printing "October1988". On the bottom is the number line that counts down from 10 to 1.The presence of "1" on the low end of the number line indicatesthat this book is a first printing.

Whattolookfor:Formanyyearsbookssimplystated"FirstEdition"ontheirCopyrightPage.OnolderbooksprintedbeforetheadventofISBNs(about1968),checkwhetheryourcopywasprintedthesameyearthebookwasfirstpublished.(ForexamplesinceTheOldManandtheSeawasfirstpublishedin1952,acopyfrom1965cannotbethefirst edition). Newer books, thoseprintedafter 1968 or so, may also have a numbersequence printed on the Copyright Page thatdetermines its printing history. A numbersequence that has a "1" at theend such as "10987654321"indicates a firstprinting. But, if the lowest number showing is 2, such as"10 9 8 7 6 5 43 2" then the book is a second printing ..and so on. Be aware that there are a few publishers in the habit ofprinting later printings withoutremoving the “First Edition”statement (yikes!). In books printedafter 1968, look at the number line for the actual printinghistory. To a collector, books that state “First Edition”ontheir Copyright Page but have numberlines missing the number "1"are not first printings.


Beforeanythingelseyoushouldchecktoseeifthebookhas'FirstEdition,FirstPrinting'writteninsidethecover.Ifso,you'vegotprettyirrefutableevidence.Ifnot,takealookatthedatesinthebook.Ifthedateoffirstpublicationdoesn'tmatchthatofyoureditionthenyou'reoutof luck. If it does match then it might be a first edition -but bear in mind that successful books will have more than one printrun a year.


Thereare a few exceptionsto the above guidelines plus manyunconventional ways different publishers may indicate first edition.For instance in the book First Editions: A Guide to Identification byEdward N. Zempel more than 1,700 different publishers and their ways ofdesignating a First Edition are listed - most follow the aboveguidelines, but there are many that have a unique way of designating afirst edition. For further help indiscovering and deciphering the various ways publishers may indicatea first edition, see the list of reference books at the bottomof this page.

What is thevalue of a first edition in top condition? Many firsteditions of collectible books have value. Read more about it here.

What is the value of second or laterprinting of a hard-coverbook in top condition? To a collector ordealer probably very little - there is not muchof a buyers market for later printings of current authors. On the otherhand, if you have acopy in top condition of a current bestseller - it may havevalueas a reading copy - perhaps 10% to 50% of its cover price. Also, somesecond printings may have value simply because the first edition is sovery expensive - for instance, second printings of earlyHarry Potter novels may hold 5% to 25% of thefirst printing's value.

How can I tell if my book is a BookClubEdition?

Book of the MonthClub (BOMC)books and other editions released by book clubsarenot usually candidates for a first edition. Except for a fewexceptions, you can be fairly certain that if you have a Book ClubEdition it is not a first edition.

What tolook for:Openthebookandlookattheinsideflapofthedustjacket;if you're lucky, your book mayidentify itself there as a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection or a bookclub edition Also, most book-club editions do not have a price printedonthe inside front flap of the dust jacket. Nowlook at dust jacket at the back of the book ... if you see a smallwhite rectangle box with five numbers instead of a bar-code andten-digit ISBN number you have a book-club edition. Now takeoff the dust jacket and look at the back board on the lower rightcornerby the spine; many Book-of-the-Month Club editions have a very smallindented mark there.

Here isa quickrun-down of how to identify book-club editions: No price inside frontflap and/orno ten-digit ISBN number on the back of the dust jacket and/or there isa smallindented spot on the back of the book. If your book has one or moreof these clues, you can be fairly certain you have abook-club edition. Exception Alert! Some booksproduced by Universities and small presses have no price on the jacket.

What is the value of a bookclubedition in top condition? Asa collectible probably very little - there is not much desire fromcollectorsor dealers for club editions. On the other hand, if you have a bookclub edition in topconditionof a current top-tenbestseller - it may have value as areading copy -perhaps 10% to 50% of the trade edition's cover price.

ReprintsFrom the mid-1800sthrough the mid-1900s books by popular authorssuch asEdgar RiceBurroughs, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare or CharlesDickenswere often reprinted by the boat load. Grosset & Dunlap publishedmountains ofreprints in the early 1900s. Some other publishersthat printed reprints are A.L. Burt, Cupples & Goldsmith, Sun Dial,Saalfield, and Triangle.

What tolook for: Comparethepublisher's name printed on the Title Page and to the publisher's namelistedon the Copyright Page - if the book lists two different publishers, thebook is probably a reprint. For example: a reprinted copy of Edgar RiceBurroughs "The Beasts ofTarzan" states "Grosset & Dunlap,Pub." on the Title Page,but states "Copyright A. C. McClurg& Co, 1916" on the the Copyright Page.

Yes, I have a reprintcopy hard-cover book in top condition, what is it worth? A collector ofthe author or someone who wants a readingcopy of aclassic work may pay, if in in top condition, perhaps 5%to 10% of the value of itsnon-reprint cousin.
Howcan I tell if I have a firstUSAprinting of Harry Potter and theDeathly Hallows?
All USA first printings ofDeathly Hallows have a numberline on theCopyright page that looks something like "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1". Ifthenumber line goes down all the way to 1, youhave a first printing.If the line stops at a higher number you do not have a first printingeven if the phrase First Edition is still present. If you wish to buy afirst printing be surethatthenumberlineontheCopyrightpagegoesallthewaydownto 1. If youare selling a Harry Potter book as a first edition, please list thenumbers you see on the Copyright page so the buyer will know whatprinting they are getting. Collectors are looking for a first printingthough they may refer to it as a "First Edition". See picture below:

How to identify first editions or a first printing of a book? (2)

Youwill also notice in the above picture a number line "07 08 09 10 11"
Thisnumberlinerefersto the year of the printing

ABitAboutZaneGreyFirstEditions Most first editions ZaneGrey books were published by Harper's. Whilethere were a few books first printed by other companies, mostwere from Harper's. If you have a Zane Grey book printed by someoneelse, chances are that it is not a first edition.
What does Condition ofBooks mean?

Condition is very important tothe value of a book. Here is a brieflist from the A. B. Bookmans Grading guide developed in 1949 andin general use by booksellers today.

AsNew: Nodefects, no markings, no library stamps, etc. Dust jacket if one wasissued must be immaculate.

Fine: ApproachesAs New but not crisp.Again no defects, markings, etc.Ifdustjackethasanyminordamageitmustbenoted.

Very Good: A used bookthat shows small signsof wear, but no tears in binding,pages or dust jacket. Any defects must be noted.

Good: The average usedand worn book, with allpages and leaves present. Any defects must be noted.

Fair: A worn book thathas complete text pages including any mapsor plates, but may lack end papers, half title, etc.

What Makes a Book Valuable?


  • Condition- obviously, books in good condition are more valuable than their tattycounterparts. That doesn't mean that a battered book is worthless, justnot as valuable as a pristine one.
  • Rarity - if thereare thousands of first editions inexistence, they'll each be worth less than if there were a mere handful.
  • Signed Editions -signatures of the author or theillustrator usually make the book more valuable.
  • Hardback - ahardback book with a dust cover is morevaluable than a paperback.
  • Book Clubs -special prints for book clubs, librariesor the like aren't usually very sought after.
  • Known Books - ifpeople haven't heard of the book orthe author they aren't likely to pay much for it.

  • BookstoIdentifyFirstEditionsandHelptheBookSeller
    In the bookcollectingworld, there are exceptions to theexceptions,and many publishers indicated "First Edition" in their own unique way.The following books will arm you with years of knowledge found nowhereelse. Ifyou buy, sell or collect books, these should be your firstinvestment.

    PocketGuide to the Identification of First Editions - Sixth EditionBillMcBride. Paperback 2000 Very useful little book. Book publishers eachhavetheirown way of identifying the first edition (or more correctly - firstprinting) of any book they produce. This book uses a simplified code systembased onthe author's experience handling actual firsteditions.

    Pointsof Issue : A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19th-20thCenturyAuthors. Bill McBride. Paperback 1996. Another pocket-sizedcompanionto the Guide listed above, it's also very useful. This is a list ofspecificbooks which have details (points of issue) that determine a firstedition .

    FirstEditions : A Guide to Identification- Edward N Zempel (Editor).Hardcover 4th Edition (November 2001). More expensive but much easiertoread than the McBride books, this is a compilation of publishers'actual statementsabout their methods of identifying first editions. Covers nearly 1,700tradeand academic publishers in the US, the UK, Ireland, Canada, AustraliaandNew Zealand. For all bibliophiles.

    BookFinds,3rdEdition:HowtoFind,Buy,andSellUsedandRareBooks IanC.Ellis.Paperback 2006. A good first hand account of book buying and bookscouting. The author drops a lot of names, but the book is an enjoyableread. "The used and collectible book market divides into threerelativelyneat categories: reading copy, antiquarian, and modern first edition..."

    TheHome-BasedBookstore:StartYourOwnBusinessSellingUsedBooksonAmazon,eBayorYourOwnWebSite Steve Weber. Paperback 2005.A super book, one of the best rated books by Amazonreaders regarding selling books on-line. A "must have". " ... Sellingused books on the Internet is one of the greatestopportunities available to small entrepreneurs today ..."

    OfficialPriceGuidetoBooks,5thEdition MarieTedford&PatGoudey.Paperback2005.Althoughusedbookpricesfluctuate,sometimesits goodto have a book you can refer to when the computer's not turned on :) "... This guide prices everything from rare signedfirst editions of The Wizard of Oz to today's Harry Potterblockbusters. Contains information on popular genres, care and repair,research resources, Internet sites, dealers, and auction houses... "

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