From the FAQ:

How Much is My Copy
of <any title> Worth?

Judging the value of any collectable is a black art under the best of conditions. But basically the law of supply and demand holds true: The more people who want a title and the fewer copies available, the more that copy is worth.

Modern Library books with dust jackets are worth orders of magnitude more than books without dust jackets. In fact, it's safe to say that with rare exception (the Illustrated Don Quixote, Illustrated Alice, and to a lesser degree the scarcer buckram editions stand out) ML books without dust jackets are worth a few dollars at best.

Validated first edition copies in matching validated First Printing dust jackets are with few exceptions worth far more than later printings.

The higher the condition of your book and dust jacket, the more it tends to be worth. Assuming that the title is reasonably scarce, expect to get X for a Very Good copy, 2*X for a Near Fine copy, and 4*X for a Fine or As New copy. See Terms for Describing Condition from AB Bookman's Weekly for a description of condition levels.

In general, the earlier period of the title (croft leather more than balloon cloth, balloon cloth more than Blumenthal bindings, and so on), the higher the worth.

Pictorial dust jackets of the 1930's seem to have a higher demand than text-only dust jackets of the same period.

But the law of supply and demand will always hold sway: the more common the title and the fewer people who want it, the less you can expect to get for it in any condition: A Fine copy of Shaw's Four Plays in a Fine dust jacket will never be worth more than a few dollars; an About Good first edition of Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray in like dust jacket is certain to realize hundreds of dollars at auction.

In summary then, the scarcest and earliest first edition titles in matching dust jackets in the best condition are worth the most money; how much money depends on the current market. Here are some steps you can take to zero in on your copy's current value:

  1. Make sure that your copy has a dust jacket—if not, you'll likely incur more selling expenses than is reasonable for the time you'll spend.
  2. Determine whether your copy is a first edition.
  3. Make sure the book and dust jacket are a match using Barry Neavill's Dating Key.
  4. Determine the condition of both the book and the dust jacket.
  5. Look up its relative value in Henry Toledano's Modern Library Price Guide.
  6. See if the title in the same condition and printing has sold recently at eBay by looking at Completed Auctions using eBay's Advanced Search feature (be sure to uncheck the box labeled Title and description and check the box labeled Completed listings) and note how much it brought.

Where You Sell Counts: The value that you determine using the above method tells you what you can expect to get from a collector at auction. Here's a list that shows, in descending order, where you can expect to get the most money for your book:

  1. Auction such as eBay
  2. Private collector
  3. Specialist bookseller
  4. Non-specialist used bookseller (Internet)
  5. Non-specialist used bookseller (brick-and-mortar)

Some folks have suggested searching "currently for sale" sites such as, but this just tells you how much booksellers hope to get. This tells you nothing about what the book will actually fetch.

Ultimately, the marketplace will tell you what it's worth: Put it on eBay (using the information in the related FAQ Is eBay a good place to sell my Modern Library books?) and see what happens.

Contributors to this FAQ answer include:

Scot Kamins John Krygier

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