What is my old book worth?
The Mennonite Historical Library frequently gets questions regarding old books and especially old Bibles. These questions fall into several categories:
- Is anyone interested in this book?
- How much is this book worth?
- How can I best preserve this book?
The answers to these questions can be simple or very complex depending on the items in hand. Many factors go into determining the value of old books, including condition and rarity. Old books can remain in extremely good condition if they have been stored carefully. If a book has spent several generations in hot attics or damp basements it may be in poor condition. The value of old Mennonite books more often tends to be historical or sentimental rather than monetary.
The MHL can offer an assessment of the condition and significance of books as they relate to Anabaptist-Mennonite groups . Accurate assessments require on-site examination of the items. (Check with us in advance to make sure the proper staff members will be available. We cannot provide formal monetary appraisals. Although we are not professional conservators, we can provide some basic information on what steps may be beneficial or detrimental in preserving historical items.
The MHL continues to add both new and old items to our collection. Sometimes the tattered little booklet you have is one we need. We are happy to look at twenty books we do not need in order to find one which may be important to us. We are also glad to suggest other collections which may be able to use the items we already have represented in ours. A helpful web site answering many common questions is Your Old Books, prepared by The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. The late Peter VanWingen (a Mennonite) authored an earlier version of the text.
Another helpful article, What Is That Old Bible Worth?, appeared in The Bible Collector, the journal of the International Society of Bible Collectors, No. 54, April-June 1978. Written by the late Arnold Ehlert, we post it on our website with the permission of the Society’s current president, Mennonite pastor Gerald C. Studer.