Friday, 13 November 2009

Book Collecting 101 - Part 1 - Choosing What to Collect

Book collecting is genuinely one of the most interesting and rewarding hobbies a person can enjoy. Not only is there the challenge of the search and the adrenaline rush of the find, but there’s also the pure exhilaration of the read and the satisfaction in a completed collection at your fingertips for ever more. More importantly, book collecting is something anyone can do because you are only restricted by your imagination. So, how does one take the plunge into the book collecting world?

This new series of blogs will introduce you to the art of book collecting. It’s aimed at the beginner and is full of practical hints and tips on how to get started. Let’s start at the very beginning with choosing what to collect. This may seem like an easy task, but there is much to consider and without careful research you could find yourself trying to collect the uncollectible.

Step 1: Refine your book collecting idea. Trust someone who has been at this point before and put some real thought into what type of books you want to collect. Most people think too broadly and end up endlessly collecting. The most fun in book collecting is achieved when you manage to collect a full-set of something. So make sure you have an end game. After all, you can always move onto another set once you’ve completed the first.

Let’s look at an example. Deciding to collect books on travelling through Australia might seem like a good idea, but there are thousands of them and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever collect them all. So be more specific. For instance, narrow your search to one prolific author, like Ion L. Idriess. You can even narrow your search further to first edition, hard covers with dust jackets.

Another popular collectible genre is military history books. There is a plethora of books written on this topic and no one collector could even hope to own them all. So, once again, be more specific. Where does your particular interest lay? Is it World War I or World War II? Is it Australian military history or European military history? If you decide it’s World War I and Australian military history then you might want to collect all the hardcover first edition volumes of C.E.W. Bean’s Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918.

Whatever your interest there is something for everyone to collect and if you need help refining your target collection then give your friendly second hand bookstore owner a call. They generally have a wealth of information to share and you will need their help to source books in the future, so it’s good to start a relationship early on.

Tip: Resale value is also important when deciding on what to collect. A full-set of something will always hold more value than an incomplete set. Whilst most people collect to keep, there may come a day when you must part with your collection – so make sure it’s worth it!!

Step 2: Research the Cost Involved. It’s all fine and well to want to collect a full set of first edition, signed Jane Austen novels, but can you actually afford them? Before you rush into collecting make sure you spend some time finding out how much the books you want to collect are likely to cost you. This is not a difficult task. There are a number of global second hand book sites that will allow you to search on current prices for nearly any second hand book. We particularly recommend Abe Books (, Alibris (, and Biblio ( It’s good to familiarise yourself with these sites early on as you will more than likely source some or all of your books through such search facilities later on.

Tip: Be ruthless on the cost involved. If there is even a doubt in your mind about whether you can afford to complete a collection then don’t even start collecting them. Choose something else to collect because you will only be disappointed and frustrated collecting something you can’t afford.

Part 2 of this post is coming soon and will focus on Starting Your Search!!

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