How to Describe Second Hand Novels
In the world of buying second hand books, better condition corresponds to more demand, which means you'll be able to sell it for a higher price and faster than a copy in poor shape. When a potential consumer reads an advertisement for a second hand novel for sale, he or she expects an accurate and detailed description of the novel's physical condition. This page lists the most often used terminology for doing so and explains their meanings.
Second hand novel Condition Terms Glossary
Second hand novels sellers and collectors have the following terminology to describe the physical state of a novel for generations:
Mint: A novel is in mint or pristine condition if it has just been flawlessly printed and bound and has not been handled. When it comes to second hand novels, "mint" is an ideal condition that is rarely achieved. Many described tens of thousands of second hand novels in the more than quarter-century before retiring as antiquarian novelsellers, and only two of them were described as mint.
Very Fine or As New: The novel is in excellent condition and seems to be brand new.
Fine: It would still pass as a new novel if shelved in a new novels store, but it is in less brand new condition than a very fine / as new novel
Very Good (VG) or Near Fine: This term refers to a second hand novel that is nearly perfect but not quite. It wouldn't pass muster as a new novel in a bookstore that specializes in new novels. It's possible that the novel has a gently bumped cover corner or little shelf wear. The dust jacket's edges may be scuffed and there may be a few small edge chips.
Good Plus: A used novel that is towards the top of the Good scale, but not quite Very Good / Near Fine. (In this respect, second hand novel dealers who use Near Fine might use Very Good.)
Good: A complete, sound, and clean worn novel with moderate traces of wear. It's possible that the novel is shelf worn and has bumped corners. Some of the pages may have been dog-eared. A paperback novel may have cover creases. The dust jacket may have a few small but noticeable edge chips, as well as a faded spine. This should be indicated if there is a short, closed tear on the inside of the DJ that has been repaired with archival tape.
Fair: This term refers to a second hand novel that has significant physical faults but is still full and functional. It could, for example, have stains or a split spine, or the binding could be cocked or loose. The dust jacket may be damaged or filthy, and may have extensive tears or deep chips.
Poor: A novel that is falling apart is described as poor. It's possible that pages or sections of pages are missing. Water, smoke, fire, animal bites, insects, or carelessness could all cause damage to the novel. The dust jacket is torn, missing huge chunks, and has been scraped or scrawled on.
The dust jacket: "Fine in fine DJ," for example, is a common description for the dust jacket. If it is, "Lacks DJ" is indicated. If a hardcover novel does not have a dust jacket, it is best to state it "In good working order. As published, without dust jacket." (The "dust jacket" is also known as the "dust wrapper," but don't confuse it with "wrappers" or "wraps," which refers to the covers of chapbooks, sheet music, pamphlets, and other small novels.) When you are used to sell books, you never described a book as anything but very good if it didn't have the dust jacket.
Else: This is used to indicate that a novel has a flaw but is in generally better condition than the flaw suggests. "Small smudge on page 93, otherwise fine," for example. "Pages water stained throughout, many pages dog-eared, extensive ink underlining, otherwise very excellent," as in "Pages water stained throughout, many pages dog-eared, extensive ink underlining, otherwise very good." (In that case, we'd say ". Fair." instead of ", otherwise very good.")
Collector's State: In general, the closer a novel is to its original condition when published, the more appealing it is to a collector. A novel in collector's condition is either in excellent shape or, at the at least, in very good condition, with no significant flaws. The inference is that a novel collector will be hard-pressed to find a copy in better condition. The reader's copy, on the other hand, is what you see.
Reader's copy: A novel collector may own two copies of a novel in the same edition and impression over time, one in collector's condition that is kept safely preserved and displayed infrequently, and the other with faults and signs of wear that make it inappropriate for a collection. It is the copy that the collector enjoys reading and does not mind handing over to anyone. When seen in a catalogue, the term "reader's copy" denotes a copy that should be purchased to read rather than collect since it is slightly worn or has defects.
Copy for binding: When the cover and binding of a novel are in poor condition or missing, but the pages are still intact, it is a candidate for rebinding.
Working library: A working library is a collection of novels gathered by their owner for their practical value. A writer's working library is likely to include novels on grammar, rhetoric, getting published, and writing strategies. A baseball aficionado is likely to have a well-stocked library of baseball-related novels. The list goes on and on, depending on your profession and interests. While a novel collector who wants to keep a valuable novel in as close to its original condition as possible and affordably will be picky about condition, a customer buying to add to his or her working library will usually be satisfied with good or better condition.
For its age: "It's in very good condition for its age," as in "It's in very good shape for its age," is a statement sometimes used by inexperienced second hand novel sellers and some antique dealers. Antiquarian book traders have traditionally described the physical state of a second hand novel using the same standards regardless of its age, and thus avoid using this phrase.
With All Faults or w.a.f: With All Faults, or w.a.f., is a term used by inexperienced people. In auction catalogues, this phrase is used. It's a good idea to inspect the novel before the auction to see how it's in physical condition.
When buying or selling second hand novels, the condition of the book is quite important.
The importance of condition in pricing a second hand book or determining if a price is fair and reasonable is determined by whether the title and edition are collectible. Regardless of the title, almost everyone would prefer a nice copy to an unsightly, well-worn one. For modern literature collectors, illustrated novel collectors, fine press novel collectors, and other novel collectors, the condition of a novel determines how much they will pay for it.
If the novel is likely to appeal to a buyer who is interested in the content's utility or entertainment value rather than a collecting interest, condition will be a less important criterion, though it will still be important. Again, know your clients and what they want, and make your desires known, novel hunters. Do you want any copy of a desired novel in any condition that is complete, sound, and inexpensive? Do you want the best copy you can obtain at a reasonable price? Do you currently own a copy in near-mint condition and are looking for a copy in very excellent condition?
Because it will take more time and use to deteriorate a book made of higher-quality materials, such as rag paper or acid-free paper, there is a higher demand for it.
It's difficult to describe the physical condition of second hand novels because it's subjective.
The usage of words to describe a worn novel's general physical state is subjective. A novel that appears fine to one person one day may appear to that same individual as Best Good Plus the next. After looking at numerous very fine novels, one's judgment is different than after looking at many novels in good condition.
When classifying, listing, or quoting novels, the best a used book dealer can do is be as consistent as possible so that clients know what to expect.
Your standard strategy should be to describe a novel in somewhat worse condition than it actually is, so that a buyer ordering by mail would be pleasantly pleased when they received it. (You should also have a policy of letting the consumer decide whether a novel is exactly as you represented it.) When you are buying books by mail, you should do the exact opposite, anticipating a novel listed as Fine to be at best Very Good, and so on. That way, you won’t have to waste time arguing and you’ll usually be satisfied with the copy you get. By trial and error, you’ll discovered which dealers tended to exaggerate and which to understate the condition of a book.