Old books can be a licence to print money
Dusty tomes can be worth a lot, depending on age, scarcity and condition, writes ZILLA EFRAT
A few years ago, a first edition of Beatrix Potter's The Adventures of Peter Rabbit sold for £63 000 in London, while some of Ian Fleming's books have been going for £2 000 lately.
However, Vivienne Yudaken, owner of Bookdealers of Rivonia, says most people tend to walk away from the book dealer disappointed.
"What they believed was a treasure may not be in great demand even though it is old - or it may be in poor condition," she says.
"It is sometimes the people who come in to get rid of their junk who bring in the valuable books."
Condition, it seems, is the most important factor in determining the value of a book.
"A book may be rare and in great demand, but if it is in poor condition, it will be almost worthless," says Doron Locketz, head of the Bookdealers group.
"Books in their original wrappers and dust jackets will be worth much more while stains, folded pages and other signs of wear quickly wipe away value."
He says first editions of well-known authors tend to go for better prices. But not always.
"Much will depend on how many books were printed at the time and how much demand there is for that particular book."
Locketz adds it is not always easy to tell if a book is a first edition, especially if it was published in the US.
Generally, however, if further editions are not listed, it is likely to be a first edition.
Grant Christison, the author of Book Collecting in South Africa and a partner of The Bookman in Maritzburg, says the value of a book can also be influenced by the following factors:
An inscribed copy provides a link with a well-known author because he or she actually handled the book.
According to Locketz, early works by Agatha Christie and Dick Francis are currently in great demand, as are William and Biggles books, Rupert annuals, and first editions by Enid Blyton and Malcolm Saville.
Also fetching good prices are books dealing with early natural history - especially those with colour plates - and illustrated books published before the turn of the century.
Closer to home, books by Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer are eagerly sought, as are those on the Zulu or Boer Wars and those on early hunters, explorers and tribes in southern Africa.
Popular writers here include Cornwallis Harris, W J Burchell, George French Angus, Barbara Tyrell and W D M Bell.
"There is a class of men and women who, even in this modern age, delight at the thought of frontier living - life on the edge of the unknown, the threshold of discovery," says Christison.
"Most frontiers have been claimed today, and since we cannot now go out and harpoon whales, we must content ourselves to sublimate this urge through reading the accounts of others who lived in an age when frontiers were two-a-penny."
You could also be in for a windfall if you own any early books on African folklore, languages (printed before 1900), art work and tribes, as well as anything published before 1940 on the Zulu language, people and war.
Some tips on protecting and selling your valuable books:
These literally eat away at their value;