How Much Are Your Vintage Cookbooks Worth?
We get many requests at Cookbook Village from collectors asking about the value of one of their cookbooks or entire collection. There is no fast or simple way to derive the values of collectible cookbooks, but we are happy to share the methods we use to help you evaluate your own collection.
Does Age Really Matter?
Many people have sent us messages requesting the value of a found or inherited vintage cookbook. Some of our audience has assumed that if a book is old, it's valuable. This is not always the case. We have had books in stock that copyrighted in the late 1800's that we can't even sell for the price of a contemporary mass market cookbook. The true finds are generally the unassuming, Plain Jane formatted cookbooks that get thrown out in a garage sale. Take two of our top sales -- LeRuth's Restaurant Front Door Back Door Cookbook and Johnny Mathis Cooking for Your Alone. These are both simple community style spiral bound books ... no fancy artwork, no big name publishing house … yet each sold in the $100-$300 range, and were printed in the 70's and 80's. So you may wonder, why did these two books fetch such high prices? The answer takes into account several factors, none of which are their age. Size of the print run, notoriety of the author, condition, online buzz and reviews, and past sale prices all account for the value of these books.
Don't Be Fooled by Inflation
Let us explain. You have an antique book that appears very rare. You look it up on Amazon, eBay or Abebooks. You see just one or two copies available. Wow, the prices are noted as $250. Great … you think to yourself you must have a winner. Wrong. You need to do your homework. Some book dealers list a book at an incredibly high price and others follow. A book's value is the market value -- not the listing price, but the sales price. You need to ensure you understand what your book has sold for in the past. Do eBay searches for Completed Listings. If you can't find past sales, check for the average listing prices on a book comparison site (discussed in the next section).
Find Out Your Book's Average Selling Price
BookFinder.com is a great resource and not as well known as it's parent company AbeBooks. This website includes cookbook listings from a variety of online resources. You may be overwhelmed by the number of results returned from a search, but can generally view books in similar condition to your own and take notice of the average pricing. Some dealers (both brick-and-mortar and online) will "park" their books online in the off chance of a sale. Be sure to look at the average listing prices and value your own book in the same price range, factoring in condition. Look for books in a similar state as your own. Also, research your cookbook's copyright information, noting edition and printing. Make sure you match your own book's copyright to the same edition and printing. For many rare and collectible cookbooks, a first edition, first printing makes the difference. Betty Crocker vintage cookbooks are a good example of this. Early printings are far more valuable than later printings of the same edition.
What If Your Book Isn't Listed Online?
If you are lucky enough to have a truly rare cookbook, you may not find it on any of the book sites noted above. We have been fortunate to carry several such cookbooks in our store over the years and believe us, these don't come along often. Many sellers list their items as rare when indeed with some searching, you'll see that the book is more readily available then what's been indicated. A scarce or rare cookbook is generally in the antique category and even then, you may run into it elsewhere. If you see nothing like your own book, you may wish to take it to a professional book appraiser. Many antiquarian booksellers offer appraisal services. We should add that Cookbook Village does not offer an appraisal service.
Though we specialize in vintage and collectible cookbooks, we are not appraisers and don't have the operational capacity to appraise books that come our way. We instead offer information on specific collectible cookbooks through our blog articles. Check the Cookbook Collectibility Reviews section of our Cookbook Collecting blog to see if we have information on your book listed.
Effective April, 2015, we are no longer able to answer questions below on the value of a cookbook or collection.