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Condition Guides

The Antique Trader Grading Scale
The AB Bookman Grading Scale
In addition, thanks to Keith Wease, we offer a Condition Calculator, which can help new sellers to assess and grade their books in terms understood and expected by book collectors.

Antique Trader's Book Grading System
The Antique Trader Grading scale is taken from the pre-1949 AB Bookman Standard and is published in The Antique Traders Book Collector's Price Guide. Iola, WI: KrausePublications, 2003.

The first thing to determine in grading a book is the tightness of the binding. This shows the overall wear of the book and, presumably, how often it has been read. To do this place the book on its spine and open so that the covers stand at a 45 degree angle and let go.

If the book closes completely, the initial grade is fine.
If the book closes and the cover doesn't, the initial grade is near fine.
If the book opens and the pages fan, the initial grade is very good.
If the book lies flat open to a page, the book is, at best, good.
Some booksellers deviate here. A fine book may be downgraded to near fine or even very good due to other flaws such as foxing, dog-eared pages, notes in the text, and other factors. My own preference, and that followed by a good many used booksellers, is to begin with the objective standard above, and note the other problems separately.

Below these grades are:
Fair - a good book that is severely worn, and
Poor - a book that is falling apart but readable.

Either of these two grades might also be called a reading copy.

A binding copy is a book that cannot be read as it is falling apart but is whole and can be rebound into an acceptable book.

Copyright Richard K. Russell- All Rights Reserved

AB Bookman's 1949 Grading System
In 1949, AB Bookman rewrote its grading standards so that the basic terms would be more encompassing. This is the 1949 AB Bookman Standard:

As New is to be used only when the book is in the same immaculate condition in which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one) must be perfect, without any tears. (The term As New is preferred over the alternative term Mint to describe a copy that is perfect in every respect, including jacket.)

Fine approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

Very Good can describe a used book that does show some small signs of wear (but no tears) on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.

Good describes the average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.

Fair is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc. may also be worn. All defects must be noted.

Poor describes a book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

Ex-library copies must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book.

Book Club editions must always be noted as such no matter what the condition of the book.

Binding Copy describes a book in which the pages or leaves are perfect but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or nonexistent.

Dustjacket. In all cases, the lack of a dustjacket should be noted if the book was issued with one.