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GRADING
CONDITION
Including
books, comic books,
magazines, folios and so on

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Grading condition is a necessity with paper products. 
Accurate and honest grading is the hallmark of a good seller.  When purchasing, always look for or ask about the experiences of previous purchasers.  Positive experiences are indicators that your item will really be what the seller says it is. 

GRADING CONDITIONS INCLUDE
POOR
FAIR
GOOD
VERY GOOD
FINE
VERY FINE
NEAR MINT
MINT
MISCELLANEOUS CONDITIONS/TYPES OF PUBLICATIONS
See below for details about what these mean

Please note that this system is based very loosely on the old grading system for comic books, with a nod to Bookman.  It is not clear that Bookman's use of "AS NEW" is really preferable to "MINT", (MINT, in this case, generally means "As if directly from the manufacturer in absolutely perfect condition".  This difference is mostly a matter of opinion, but, the disagreement can be easily based on the fact that a brand new ("As New") book could have major flaws which would still be accurately described "as new", but would not be "Mint" or perfect.  Other than this, the systems are quite similar.) 
 

A note about "FIRST EDITIONS"
First Editions are their own nightmare. 
In order to understand what a First Edition is, it is important to start with a general definition of the phrase and the terms in the definition.

FIRST EDITION:  The First Publication, First Printing, First State edition of a publication.  Basically, this is the FIRST TIME the completed final volume has ever been released. 

And the terms in the phrase:

  • Publication: release of a book in a "consumable" form (this can include print and  electronic media such as the Web, CDs and so on)
  • Printing: impression on paper by some form of transference (this would logically include dot matrix, ink jet, laser, printing press and so on)
  • State: the first ever release of the book, prior to any changes, alterations of text/format/etc, revisions or prior to changes due to typeset differences.  Any release after this with any change whatsoever is NOT the First State, but would be called Second State, Third State and so on.
  • The most desirable edition of a book is USUALLY (but not always) the First Edition.  Exceptions to desirability of a First Edition include:
     
  • The rarity of a publication (such as the 2nd Printing was limited to X copies)
  • The unusual nature of a publication (such as the 3rd State had a desirable or particularly interesting printing or editing error)
  • The item was signed by the author
  • The item was inscribed by the author
  • The item was inscribed by the owner, establishing a noteworthy date or location
  • The item was inscribed by or had the bookplate of a noteworthy owner
  • Any of these can alter the desirability of the First Edition.  Even so, most of the time, the First Edition IS the most desirable volume.  Rarity, unusual nature and/or various forms of inscription usually add to a First Edition's value. 

    There is NO real "rule of thumb" regarding determining whether or not a book is a First Edition, but some general concepts seem to exist:

    1.  The phrase "FIRST EDITION"  is commonly used in the industry to denote a book, magazine or other publication in its First Publication, First Printing and First State.  This phrase often assumes all of the former (but not always.  Sometimes the phrase is included in ALL printings and/or states.).
    2.  Number or Letter sequences are common in the industry to denote printings, generally with lower numbers indicating earlier printings (ie;  1 = first printing, 2 = second or a = first printing, b = second, and so on).

    Every publisher has their own "way" of denoting First Edition.  Although the above are common, not all publishers follow them.  It is appropriate to review this information and the information contained in the links below to assist in determining which edition a particular book is.

    A NOTE ABOUT AGE, CONDITION and PRICE

    Older printed materials price differently than newer ones.  The reasoning behind this is really pretty obvious and includes the fact that older publications have seen more years, handling and beatings than their newer counterparts.  It is VERY unusual for book published much before the 1900's to be in what would be considered VF to MINT condition.  Such a find is rare, indeed, and often accounts for very high value.  Newer books are commonly found in FINE to MINT condition, hence lower value given for a newer book in merely GOOD condition.  Such books are reasonably expected to be in NEAR MINT or MINT condition to command top dollar.  Another important thing to remember is that pulp books, cheaply-printed hardbacks, paperback books, comic books, newspapers and the like are printed on very low grade paper ("pulp" paper or newsprint).  It is very common for this paper to brown with age and eventually become brittle due to acid content.  As such, older books which are intact and show minimal signs of brittleness and browning are very, very, very unusual (almost impossible to find)... and command high prices, accordingly. 

    A NOTE ABOUT BOOK SIZE

    4to (Quarto): A book that is up to 12" tall.
    8vo (Octavo): A book that is up to 9 3/4" tall.
    12mo (Duodecimo): A book that is up to 7 3/4" tall.
    16mo (Sextodecimo): A book that is up to 6 3/4" tall.
    24mo: A book that is up to 5 3/4" tall.
    32mo: A book that is up to 5" tall.
    48mo: A book that is up to 4" tall. 
    64mo: A book that is up to 3" tall.
    Folio: A book that is up to 15" tall.
    Elephant Folio: A book that is up to 23" tall.
    Atlas Folio:  A book that is up to 25" tall.
    Double Elephant Folio: A book that is up to 50" tall.

     
    POOR CONDITION
    (BOOKMAN POOR)
     
    This condition is really not collectable except to temporarily fill in a gap.  It may be readable or usable, but is BARELY that.  This condition may be described as:

    COVER/DUST JACKET:
    Coverless; cover badly torn up;  badly faded;  badly water/dirt etc stained; lots of rust stains around staples, pulls/tears at area of staple;  may be chewed up by "the dog"; gloss is long since gone

    ACTUAL ARTICLE:
    may be torn, may be chewed up, badly folded, badly stained, badly yellowed, badly torn, badly faded, binding NOT tight, often very loose or binding broken, not flat


     
    FAIR CONDITION
    (BOOKMAN FAIR)
     
    This condition is more collectable than poor, but is not particularly desirable for collecting purposes.  It can be used to fill in gaps in a collection.  It is usually worn, but entirely usable, however.  This condition may be described as:

    COVER/DUST JACKET:
    loose; cover torn, but not as bad as in poor condition, folded, water/dirt stained;  rust stains on staples;  pulls/tears on areas of staples and bindings;  probably not flat; probably has very little gloss left

    ACTUAL ARTICLE:
    readable/usable; decent color retention; not very faded; has tears; pages yellowing; repairs often done (especially tape, restaple etc); binding tighter than poor, but not very good; probably not flat; may lack endpapers, half-title.  binding may be worn.  almost abused, but all around VERY WELL USED and USABLE ARTICLE 


     
    GOOD/VERY GOOD CONDITION
    (BOOKMAN 
    GOOD/VERY GOOD)

      
    Many times these conditions are stated together to allow for a RANGE of condition.  This condition is collectable.  The article is normally quite usable and  is generally indicative of a used, but cared for article.  Older articles are generally found in this condition and down.  It is unusual but not impossible to find something in fine or better condition if it is very old... this is especially true of pulp books, mass market paperbacks and comic books/newspapers because of the pulp paper used in their manufacture.

    COVER/DUST JACKET:
    usually attached fairly tightly, but may be very slightly loose;  pulls at staple areas are common;  may have small marks, tears, stains on cover;  color is usually good, and not very faded.  gloss is commonly present, but limited;  may be creased or folded or have small chips/pieces missing

    ACTUAL ARTICLE:
    usually fairly tightly bound, but not always completely flat;  may have been folded open, have dog-eared/creased/folded pages;  color is usually ok;  yellowing may exist, but is not as far gone as in lower grades;  good condition should not have been repaired w/ tape etc.  All pages/leaves present.  Very Good would have no tearing in binding or paper.

    GOOD CONDITION IS NOT AS NICE AS VERY GOOD, WHICH SHOULD BE APPROACHING FINE CONDITION.


     
    FINE/VERY FINE CONDITION
    (BOOKMAN FINE)

      
    Many times these conditions are stated together to allow for a RANGE of condition, just like good/very good.  This condition is quite collectable and usually a pretty desirable condition.  It is less common to find very old articles in this kind of condition, but not impossible.  This condition is often an example of a collected and pretty well cared for article. 

    COVER/DUST COVER:
    usually very clean and flat; may have very slight pull at staple;  covers are usually straight and even; may have very slight rough spots on finish, but no major flaws; a very minor fold may be present if it is very small; no to only extremely minor tears; no rust around staples; flat; tight to article; gloss should be almost new in appearance, but may be slightly dull

    ACTUAL ARTICLE:
    usually very clean and flat; not as crisp as near mint/mint/as new; no defects; cover is very tight and even; binding is tight; article is flat; no folds, tears, repairs, bends;  yellowing is only acceptable if particularly old, in keeping with age.  no dog ears, bends, folds, tears, etc

    FINE CONDITION IS NOT AS NICE AS VERY FINE, WHICH SHOULD BE APPROACHING NEAR MINT CONDITION.


     
    NEAR MINT/MINT CONDITION
    (BOOKMAN "AS NEW")

      
    Many times these conditions are stated together to allow for a RANGE of condition, just like good/very good and fine/very fine.  This condition is very collectable and usually a very desirable condition.  It is very uncommon to find very old articles in this kind of condition, but may not be impossible.  This condition is often an example of a collected and very well cared for article. 

    COVER/DUST COVER:
    clean, flat, high gloss, straight, no tears, stains, bends, folds, wear.  near mint is ALMOST like brand new or immaculate condition just as published.  mint is JUST LIKE brand new.

    ACTUAL ARTICLE:
    clean, flat, tight, straight, no tears, stains, bends, dog-ears, folds, wear.  near mint is ALMOST like brand new or immaculate condition just as published.  mint is JUST LIKE brand new

    NEAR MINT CONDITION IS NOT AS NICE AS MINT, WHICH SHOULD BE APPROACHING ABSOLUTELY PERFECT CONDITION.


     
    MISCELLANEOUS 

      
    EX-LIBRARY COPY
    Just as the name states, this is a book which was orginally purchased for a library.  Usually these books have stamps, stickers, writing, pockets associated with identification for the library and wear associated with lots of use.

    REPRINT COPY
    Just as the name implies, a reprint is another printing of a particular volume, sometimes by the same publication company, sometimes by others.  Reprints are not usually as collectable as the First Printings unless they are particularly old or rare in some way.  Some publication companies are "reprint companies" (A.L. Burt, for example), while others are not.  It is appropriate to be aware of which companies are "reprinters" and which are not.

    BOOK CLUB EDITION (BOMC) COPY
    Just as the name states, these volumes are usually special, less expensive printings (reprints... see above), which are not as desirable as the first edition.  Often the nomenclature is found on the dust jacket, although not always. Heritage Club and Book-of-the-Month Club are both kinds of Book Club Editions.

    PROOF COPY
    This is often a soft-bound volume, printed prior to the first edition volume and intended for review and comment.  Because it pre-dates the First Edition, some consider it the true, actual first edition.  While this may be true, it must be kept in mind that the actual first edition may be rather different than the proof copy.

    BINDING COPY
    This is a copy which has major binding flaws, although it may be complete otherwise.  It is similar to poor condition, except that the problem is the binding, not the actual pages, which may be perfect.

    SIGNED/INSCRIBED BY AUTHOR COPY
    This copy is signed by the author and may be inscribed to the owner.  Some graders consider that a signed copy is not MINT, because the inscription and/or signature is not indicative of a "perfect" copy.  Interestingly, signed MINT first editions usually bring a much higher price than a MINT first edition without a signature. 

    SIGNED/INSCRIBED COPY
    This copy is signed/inscribed by some individual other than the author, usually the owner or giver.  It becomes important when the inscription establishes a particular date or place.  This is NOT the same as signed by author and does not carry the same value.

    PRICE CLIPPED and REMAINDER MARKED COPY
    Regardless of condition, books marked liked this have either had the price clipped from the corner of the dust jacket or have a stamp and/or mark made on the edge of the paper marking it as a "remainder"... a book sent to a seller and returned as unsold.  Usually these volumes are then "blown out" at very low prices.  Some collectors consider these as lower-valued books, even if they are first editions, while others don't.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION
     
    The Diogenes Club:  IBCA Main Page
    IBCA: 
    The International Book Collectors Association MAIN PAGE
    The Diogenes Club:  Glen Larsen's First Editions
    IBCA: 
    Glen Larsen's Guide to First Editions
    The Diogenes Club:  Robert F. Lucas on the Essentials of Book Collecting
    Robert F. Lucas
    Seminar on the Essentials of Book Collecting
    Click here to go to The Diogenes Club Doorway
    Link to The Diogenes Club

    The Diogenes Club:  (c) Copyright 1999-2002 The Diogenes Club All Rights Reserved
     


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