Correctly describing the condition of books for sale

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The condition of a book has a huge impact on its sale value, therefore it is critical that this is correctly described. There is a well established method of describing books which is understood by all book collectors, and which if properly followed will ensure a happy buyer and seller. This guide explains what each descriptive term means and when you should apply it.

Buying and selling collectible books on-line is a huge industry in its own right. Books are very suitable items for online trading, as they are generally easy to package and post, and sell well internationally. There are many specialist on-line book sellers, and all book collectors will have their own favorites, but will often search widely for a particular title, including on Ebay. When deciding whether to buy a book, collectors will expect to see specific terms in a book description which will allow them to compare the relative value of several copies before making a purchase. The most important of these is the condition description.

As New,Very Fine, or Mint

Even brand new books may struggle to meet this criteria. A book described in this way is in the same condition as the moment it was published and is absolutely perfect including its dustjacket. Even a brand new book may have bumps, or creases from shelving which disqualifies it from this description. Such a book is most likely to be unread, or perhaps even unopened. This term is frequently abbreviated to - AN/VF/Mint


This criteria describes most new books, there might be some very minor bumps or creases from shelving on the cover or dustjacket, any such defects or faults which exist should be noted. This term is abbreviated to - F. The term Near Fine can be used for a book with several minor defects, but these should be specified, this is abbreviated to NF

Very Good

A book which has been carefully read, but has no defects to either its cover or its interior can be described as very good. Such a book will have an undamaged dustjacket (if issued) and will be complete and unmarked. This term is abbreviated to VG.


This describes the majority of modern books for sale on Ebay. A book in good condition has been read, possibly several times. It is complete, no missing or torn pages, no missing endpapers, dustjacket (if issued) present and complete, it is unmarked and its cover is undamaged. This term is abbreviated to G.


A book which has been read many times, and shows evidence of a lot of handling should be described as fair. Such a book may have missing endpapers, or a torn dustjacket. There may be some creases or bumps at the ends, and some marking on the pages. All these defects should be carefully described. This term is abbreviated to F.

Poor/ Reading Copy

Any value for a book in this condition is the fact that it is readable, or that the text itself is complete. The binding and interior may be in poor condition but the text should be readable. This term is not usually abbreviated

Other terms you may see:

Ex Lib: This means a book was once a library copy. You should always state this if it is the case, along with the correct condition description.

Book club: If the book is an edition published by a book club, you should also state this as it can have a significant impact on a books value.

Binding Copy: This term refers to a book which has complete text, but which needs rebinding. The hinges may be broken, the cover loose, or even lost.
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