Valuable Old Romances

I have a sad email from Pam, who writes:

I am in need of some help.  My mother recently passed away and had a collection of romance novels.

She told me once to make sure I sorted through them to remove the valuable or rare books from her collection.

However, I have no idea at all of what books or authors that would be considered important. I would like to do as she requested but I don’t know how.

I searched your web site for some ideas and noticed one paperback book by Laura London that was purchased for $27. 

Is there somewhere I could obtain a list of desired books?

First, Pam, I am so sorry for your loss.

But I personally don’t know if there’s a definitive list of used romances that are worth a lot, aside from that one Nora Roberts novel she won’t reprint, original Windflowers, and The Christina Dodd With Two Arms, “Castles in the Air.” Do you know of any resource? Or is this sort of like the idea that your old baseball card collection is worth a lot, when unfortunately it’s not?

ETA: I can bet some would be most welcome at your local library donation box.

 

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Dusty says:

    You could probably at least start with Amazon and see if the titles are still in print.  If they are, then the chances of being valuable are probably somewhat diminished, unless you’ve got an edition that has some cache to it.  Like a print run with an error or a signed copy from an author that rarely gives out an autograph or a pristine first edition or something.  But checking the status of the title is probably an easy place to start.

    But that’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  2. 2
    phyllis says:

    I agree with the amazon idea.

    There’s an early Jennifer Crusie, Sizzle, that has never been reprinted (and won’t, if she has anything to say about it) and sells for $20-ish all the time. Her Cinderella Deal, before it was reprinted last year, went for a pretty good price, though nothing like millions.

    And if you have nice, old, editions of Heyer or Rogers (is that the name I mean?) and so on, they are worth more than a trip to the used bookstore will give you.

    (and that’s THREE armed Christina Dodd cover ;))

  3. 3
    Dusty says:

    One nice thing with Amazon is it has that used marketplace attached, so you’d want to check that out to see what things are generally going for.  Now, again, you might have a peculiarly valuable edition of a title, but it should give you a guide.

  4. 4
    julie g. says:

    A couple of years ago I was cleaning out my bookshelves and ended up with a mass of paperback romances I was ready to be rid of. I was about to take the whole pile to Goodwill, when I decided to do a tiny bit of research first. 

    I checked eBay’s completed sales (important to do this—you don’t care what people listed the books for, you need to see if they actually sold).  Most of my books were pretty worthless—selling for around 99c, which wasn’t worth it for me to deal with.  But I happened to have a bunch of old Mary Balogh books that hadn’t been reprinted.  I ended up listing about 8-10 and made over $200. 

    A lot of that hinged on simple luck—most of those books have now been reprinted and don’t command anything more than 99c now.  But it’s certainly worth an hour of checking.

  5. 5
    darlynne says:

    I would look at dealer sites, too, such as abebooks.com, alibris.com and biblio.com. Search results can be sorted by lowest to highest price, giving an idea of value and any particular notes as Dusty mentioned above concerning condition, signatures, desirability, etc.

    This is book-by-book work, which is both time-consuming and interesting. A list of authors the Bitchery knows have collectible titles might be a start. For example, Nora Roberts’ first book Irish Thoroughbred; Marlys Millhiser’s The Mirror. I’m sure others could come up with more.

    I don’t know what books your mom had, Pam, but here’s what I do know: hang on to them for awhile, if you can. My mom died in 2004 and the things of hers I kept are the things that loosen the constriction around my heart when I think of her, and I think of her every day.

  6. 6
    Cheryl Pangolin says:

    Sorry for your loss, Pam.

    I’d suggest starting at bookfinder.com as they search amazon listings along with many many other new&used; book sellers (like Abebooks, Powells, Bibliofind, etc).  That site will give a better overall picture as to potential value ( as sometimes the only copies for sale through amazon are vastly overpriced, in my experience).

    This will be time-consuming if her collection was sizable, though if you sort books by author and then publication date, you can probably get a quick picture of which authors’ works are not valuable as collectibles after searching just a few titles.

  7. 7
    Niocle says:

    I’m also sorry for your loss. I would like to add that Judy Cuevas (aka Judith Ivory) has two books that sell from around $20 and up on ebay and Amazon. (This frustrates me because I have been trying to get my hands on them for years.) Anyways, the titles are Dance and Bliss.

  8. 8
    Nicole says:

    Oh some more now that I’m thinking about it.

    Laura Lee Guhrke’s Conor’s way can fetch around $20

    Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden is listed for $22 at amazon

    Finally Diana Brown’s Emerald Necklace is listed at around $17 at Amazon.

    Also some of Carla Kelly’s back list is difficult to track down and can be valuable.

    Hope this helped some.

  9. 9
    Lynnd says:

    Pam, I’m sorry for your loss.

    I am sort of in the same boat with respect to my mom’s old books.  She recently had to go to a nursing home and when I was cleaning out her house, I found a whole box of paperback romances and mysteries from the late 40s and early 50s.  I haven’t had a chance to look through them to see if they are valuable, but I too would appreciate any suggestions of where I might look to find out what, if any, monetary value these books might have (their sentimental value is priceless).

  10. 10
    TracyP says:

    I’d like to lobby against donating them to the library.  If they’re older romances, they’ll end up in recycling or in a used book sale; if there’s anything of value there, they won’t know it.  Though if you find that many of them are lacking in collectible value, a nursing home might appreciate them.

    I agree with the suggestion of checking Amazon.  I also did a search and found this article that may be of interest.  (I found it interesting anyway, as I have a few of the ones mentioned!  Woot!) 

    If I come across any other articles, I’ll add it to the list.

  11. 11
    TracyP says:

    I’m sorry.  Apparently the link didn’t show up in my last post.  Let’s try this again.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    Pam, my sincere sympathies.  I lost my own mother a few months ago, and dealing with her possessions is a very difficult and emotional task.  There are so many things that one does not need oneself, nor have room to house, but which nevertheless have sentimental associations that make it hard to dispose of them.

    Darlynne has already made the suggestion that came at once to my mind:  abebooks.  It does mean a lot of searching, but as Darlynne said, it is interesting, and also gives a good picture of the range of values even for a single title.  Early (1970s -80s) category romances by writers who have later become NYT bestsellings authors are often very sought-after, so I think it really is worth checking.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Colonel Angus says:

    Pam,
    You can also check to see if the books are a first edition/first printing of a copy. A lot of people will collect first editions of their favorite books (myself included)

    Check the to see if you have a sequence of numbers
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10   or
    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    There are additional ways to check but that’s my usual go-to.

  15. 15
    megalith says:

    My condolences and good luck with your search, Pam.

    Can someone think of the address for one of those online used book exchange sites where you can enter ISBN codes to get a purchase price for your books? I think that might give her a starting point on relative values, at least.

  16. 16
    Linda B. says:

    I’ve gone onto Ebay and tried to find old Phillippa Carr books, and they were costing a fortune!

  17. 17
    Bri says:

    if the is a local veteran’s hospital or Veterna’s home they too are always looking for donations.  esp since there are residents of all ages

  18. 18
    Diva says:

    I’m with everyBitch about amazon and alibris…good place to check on individual titles.

    Sympathies and love.

  19. 19
    Kristi says:

    Annndddd, you just sent me to The Google to go find which of Nora Roberts it was… and now I will have an eye out on Promise Me Tomorrow.  WHY? Now I wanna READ IT!

  20. 20
    Jean C. says:

    Lynnd, If you find any books from the 50s by Elsie Lee, they might be rare and worth some money. I’ve been looking for a couple of the titles for years. She also wrote as Elsie Cromwell and Jane Gordon.

  21. 21
    vic says:

    I loved Elsie Lee, I am sure I still have a few of her books from the 70’s in a box somewhere, including a cookbook.

    I am curious, what was the book that Nora Roberts won’t allow to be reprinted?

  22. 22
    vic says:

    Apologies for the questions on Nora Roberts, I see it was already answered.

  23. 23
    Gwynnyd says:

    Some cataloging software goes out and does Amazon searches for “current value” of the edition you own.  I use Delicious Library (yes, that’s the name of the software) – http://www.delicious-monster.com/ – but it is Mac based.

  24. 24
    JenD says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It was such an odd mixture of sorrow and relief when we went through my Dad’s things. Even some happy thrown in just to keep it mixed up, emotionally.

    Smart Bitches- is there some way we could all lend a hand in helping her sort the books? Maybe if she can list the title, author, ISBN etc? It would take some time to write them up (excel maybe?) but then we could help as we are able; taking a possibly herculean task down a few notches. Thoughts?

    There’s not a mention of the size of her Mother’s collection. I know the size of mine- and it’s not a small collection by any means.

  25. 25
    Jennie says:

    http://isbn.nu/ searchs across many sources and lists current prices at each.  Search by title, author, isbn or even subject.  For example, searching the isbn for Jennifer Echol’s “Forget You” lists over a dozen sources with prices ranging from $5.21 – $10.85 including several Amazons, eBay, Half.com, Abebooks and others.

  26. 26
    Carrie S says:

    Re donating them to the library, I both agree and disagree with Tracy P.  Here’s where I agree – if you are donating the books en mass to the library, they will probably not assess them according rarity or collector’s status.  Also, usually, donated books don’t end up on the actual library shelves.  So, since your mom thought some of the books might be collectible, I do recommend evaluating them yourself before you donate them to anyone.

    Having said that, I’m on the board of the Friends of the Sacramento Library, and we rely almost completely on donated books to raise money for Library programs.  “Used Book Sales” are what make our library’s summer reading program possible and fund many other library programs, including a new project to increase ebook use and access, and programs to increase literacy in disadvantaged communities.  We do use romances, including old ones, as long as they are in decent condition.  So, AFTER you sort through your collection, keep all the books that help you feel connected to your mom, and sell any books of higher monetary value than one or two dollars at whatever place savvier people than I suggest, please do keep your library in mind.  You might ask them if they have a similar program as the Sacramento library since of course every city and county has a different system.  I’m so sorry for your loss and I hope you have good luck in finding happy homes for the books!

  27. 27
    Judy says:

    If there is a good used book store in her area, especially one that has a large romance section, she could give them a call for possible evaluation.  I know the one near me does this all the time – they keep want lists for their regular patrons and track the trends, etc.  They have done estate sales, etc. as well.

  28. 28
    Camilla says:

    If you enter the ISBN to sell it at half.com, they will give you pricing info. It will apply to your edition..tho some older books may not be in their data base.
    You have to go into sell my item, not a regular search, to get that info.
    I do it with older romances before trading them.
    If they are older but not valuable (categories that you local UBS is not willing to trade) I joined paperback swap. You get credits you can use on books you want, and its a really great idea.

  29. 29

    Hi Pam,

    Definitely use some of the resources many have mentioned before, however Ebay searches are somewhat cumbersome.

    I might also suggest checking out Better World Books.  They sell used books.  They will give you a quote for your books, they will pay for shipping and any books that aren’t really worth anything will be donated for world literary programs as well as a % of any sales.  I think they are a great company.

    You probably won’t make as much money for some of the books, but you also won’t have the hassle of trying to sell them individually, shipping, tracking…

  30. 30
    Lynn S. says:

    Here are some that I didn’t see listed already:

    Most of Madeleine Brent
    All Dinah Dean (Tatya’s Story is very valuable)
    Jane Hunt’s The Green Gallant
    Elsie Lee’s The Nabob’s Widow
    Most of Patricia Veryan (some are very valuable)
    Jan Cox Speas’s My Lord Monleigh (first edition hardcover is especially valuable)
    Jan Cox Speas’s The Growing Season
    Most of Mary Balogh’s older titles
    Anne Stuart’s Candelight titles and At the Edge of the Sun
    Jayne Castle’s Guinevere Jones series
    Some of Joan Wolf’s traditional regencies
    Some of Barbara Metzger’s traditional regencies
    Some of Emma Jensen’s traditional regencies
    Marjorie Farrell’s Miss Ware’s Refusal
    Marion Chesney’s The Westerby Sisters (and a few of her traditional regencies also)

    If you decide to go the library donation route, research them to make sure they have a good program in place.

    Hope this helps.  I know how overwhelming it can be to deal with the passing of a loved one.

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