Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Holy Bible by Gay Bros & Co. 1884

Often, we get people who ask us for appraisal of their books. It seems a bit strange to us as we are bookbinders, not booksellers - "A different kind of book experts". :-) Recently, someone left a comment on this blog, and asked me how much an antique Bible would cost in the current market. (His was 1733 Bible in Swedish.)Well, this, I sort of knew how to answer. (Bibles R Us!) The following is a part of my response:
Based on my experience, the "value" of Bibles, old or new, is normally relative to its own sentimental value, meaning, it doesn't have much importance to anyone but to the family who owns it, (unless you are a Bible collector(!??) or trying to convert someone else's "homeless Family Bible" to your family's.) And just like today, since Bibles were also "mass-produced" back then and most households had them, 1700's Bibles aren't as rare as most modern people might think. Many of the immigrants from various parts of Europe brought their Bibles with them when they migrated to the New World. By saying this, antique Bibles on the market, in English or otherwise, aren't usually sold at a high price that you might expect, UNLESS it's something that is associated with significant histories of the world, or the binding style is extraordinary and rare, or printed with woodcut or was bound /printed by famous craftsmen in limited numbers, etc. I have briefly talked to one of my bookseller acquaintances about your Bible today, and as I thought, based on the information you gave me, he said he wouldn't be interested in purchasing it at all because he won't be able to find a buyer, let alone the fact that "common Bibles" in foreign languages aren't so popular in the US to begin with. Basically, just because a book is 300 years old doesn't make it rare and valued in a materialistic sense. 
I believe there must be others who are wondering about the "price" of antique Bibles as there are so many existing, so I decided to write about it here. For example, this Bible featured here that I just finished restoring, is very typical style of a large Family Bible of mid-late 1800's. (Published in 1884 by Gay Brothers & Company, New York) You must have seen one like this in your grandma's basement. This looks so beautiful with deep molded boards, covered with rich gold gilding and a complete set of clasps. The client is paying more than a few hundred dollars for the restoration, which basically involved a straightforward re-hinge inside and outside. You might be thinking, "So, if I were to sell this Bible, selling price must be more than a few hundred dollars to make $ out of it!!" Well, that's IF you find someone who's willing to pay that much money directly to you while similar Bibles are sold much less on the market. Finding the "someone" isn't an easy thing to do. So the easiest and quickest way to sell your Bible is to go to booksellers. As they normally pay you about one-third of their selling price, which based on my bookseller acquaintance, is normally about $100~200 for a Bible like this, they only pay you $30~60. (Basically, nothing... Go get drunk at a bar with a couple of appetizers! Money Well Spent!?? humm, you tell me!) But this also means, IF they are willing to buy it, which is often not in an economy like today's (2012, by the way..). So that's it. The conclusion is, unfortunately, a beautiful Bible like this ain't worth much in Benjamins!(An information for people from abroad, The United States' $100 bill has a Benjamin Franklin portrait printed on it . :-) BUT Please Do talk to appraisers/booksellers about your Bible if you are thinking of selling one. It might turn out to be one of those rare "lost treasures" that might make your retirement earlier!!!  

1 comment:

  1. This is super-useful, thank you (five-and-a-half years later). These beautiful old Bibles feel like they much be worth a fortune, but most people don't have an appropriate place to display one - and then what? And shouldn't it be sold to help pay bills? It is good to know that if someone wants to keep it for sentiment, they're not sacrificing a month of Mom's nursing home costs - or that if they decide to tear out the family history pages and burn the rest, it's not a terrible deed.