Next Project: Judging Condition?

Scot Kamins kamins at
Wed Feb 6 18:38:42 EST 2002

[This discussion will have far more importance to new collectors than 
to dealers  or experienced collectors, but it would be great if 
everybody would chip in.]


With the DJ Project well underway and an established part of 
Dogeared, I've been thinking about the next project. A question that 
constantly arises has to do with condition and its impact on prices.

One of the regulars on the Usenet newsgroup rec.collecting.books 
suggests these ratios for book values in terms of their condition:

Fine = 4
Vey Good = 2
Good = 1

That is, if a book in VG condition is worth $2.00, then the same book 
in F condition is worth $4.00

Arguable you say? Indeed. As Joe Hill has often pointed out, a book 
is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. And we all know that 
even in a world as odd as collecting, the laws of supply and demand 
still hold sway. But the real question is: How do we assign a 
condition label (F/VG/G/Fair/P) to a book? And what do those labels 

The problem is that the definitions are vague and given to subjective 
interpretation. The standard used for a number of years is the one 
created by the now-defunct AB Bookman's Weekly, found at:
but in actual practice I've always found those defintions to be too 
subjective to be much good.

One solution is for there to be no condition summary statement at all 
- rather, to describe all faults and to have pictures, and to let the 
collector decide whether the book described is worth the price. But 
many dealers won't provide scans because they don't have digital 
cameras or scanners (which now cost all of $75 for a perfectly usable 
one) or don't want to take the time to do it for inexpensive books 
(an argument which I find pretty valid).

The issue then becomes: What do the terms used to describe faults 
mean? What does 'DJ spine top chipped' mean? How is that different 
from  'DJ spine top rubbed?'

Anyway, the real question I have is this: Would a tutorial section on 
Dogeared called "Judging Condition" have value, especially if 
extensive graphics were used? Or is this a duplication of efforts for 
work already available elsewhere on the Internet?

And if it were to be of value, what would it include?

Scot Kamins
Maintaining the Modern Library Collecting Website at
which (in turn) is supported by The Pavilion City Mall at

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