book condition definitions

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    cloth hardcover: covering is actually cloth, a more durable and costly material than paper. Of the cloth coverings, buckram is the best and most durable.

    condition: an estimate of the shape that a book is in roughly (very roughly) conforming to the terms used in the book collecting and trading game. The terms following are in the order of condition from best to worst.

    mint: absolutely pristine and often in the manufacturer's (the bindery's) cellophane wrapper (sealed); not a nick, scuff, water spot, smudge; absolutely no signs of wear or handling; paper is bright white. In other words, just as the book was as it exited the binding process and was handled by clean (preferably gloved) hands; brand new and absolutely perfect.

   fine: practically, the same as "mint" and for many collectors of books and other collectibles, "mint" means "fine" since few, nowadays have ever heard of "fine". [The origin of the word, "mint", comes from the coin collecting world where uncirculated coins (fresh from the mint, i.e., the U.S. Mints at Denver, Philadelphia, etc.) are unworn, unscratched, unfingerprinted, unsmudged, etc. ... you get it.]

   near mint: Just that! Very minor defects not noticeable in a brief inspection or by non-collectors; in quantitative terms: one (1) small defect.

   excellent: [Not a standard or widely used term in the book collecting game, but one which is used in other collecting disciplines and which this writer likes and uses.] Between near mint and very good. To the layman, the "excellent" (condition) book, when received as a gift, will look brand new. Only a sharp-eyed collector will state that it is only "good" by detecting, almost-to-the-naked-eye, minor defects. In quantitative terms: two defects and these must be small. Often, an "excellent" book is used but has been stored (e.g., in a book store) under carefully controlled conditions.

   very good: an average book which could be dog-eared at the edge of the binding but certainly free of any noticeable damage, e.g. water stains. [The term "dog-eared" means many things to many people. To the average mortal, "dog-eared" means a book which has seen a lot of use and has pages rounded off at corners from heavy use. To the collector, "dog-eared" means slight and barely noticeable scuffing at the corners of the covers.]

   good: the condition of most books which have seen moderate use but have no damage visible. The pages are clean and corners are sharp.

   fair: may have some spine (binding) damage; no dust jacket; may have coffee stains and/or water damage, but it's still in one piece.

    poor: no dust jacket; dog-eared in many senses of the term; water stains.

     buckram: a coarse cotton or linen cloth coated (impregnated) with gum, paste, or resin (enamel or lacquer). This covering, when soiled, is easily cleaned with common cleaning agents.

    damage: as specified: which could include broken or separated binding, loose pages, tears, covers damaged, pages missing or with text or, often, illustrations removed. Damage should be specified.

     dog-eared: exhibiting some degree of wear do to usage and handling, being read, stored, etc.  To the average mortal, "dog-eared" means a book which has seen a lot of use and has pages rounded off at corners from heavy use with the page edges showing some soiling. To the collector, "dog-eared" means slight and barely noticeable scuffing at the corners of the covers.

    deluxe or "coffee table book": See paragraph on "large format", below.

    dust jacket, a.k.a., dust cover, dust wrapper: the paper covering used to protect (originally) the cloth covers of new books from soiling while on the bookstore shelves. Later, and presently, the dust cover is used as a billboard to entice the book buyer, to inform the book buyer, to provide hype for the book in the form of excerpts of reviews touting the virtues. For the collector, the presence of the dust jacket is of great importance since most modern books from the 1920s have been published with dust jackets. As noted, above, only the "fair" and "poor" condition-rated books are without dust jackets. It should be noted that a book can be in excellent, near mint, or even, mint condition and not have a dust jacket or have one in poor condition (worn and torn). Therefore, it is worthwhile in reading the description of the item to determine whether the dust jacket is present and in what condition. [On this website, the condition of the dust jacket is usually specified and its presence or absence noted.]

    hardcover: a durable-bound book with cardboard covers encased in paper, cloth, leatherette, leather, or composition material simulating leather or cloth; binding is usually sewn, but not always. Typical textbooks and some trade books may look like sewn bindings but are glued, a much cheaper alternative.

   large format: larger than average page size. Most trade and text books have been, traditionally, about 8" high x 5" wide; a trimmed down dimension from raw stock printing papers which used to start at 36" x 24". Large format books tend toward 11" high x 8.5" wide or the page size approximately equal to a standard sheet of typing or copy paper.

deluxe or "coffee table book": an extra-large format book which can be up to 11.5 x 14.5 inches and often printed on high-grade, coated, gloss paper. These are usually first editions and are rarely reprinted. If a second printing is issued, usually in softcover form, there is no dust jacket.  [This section was contributed by Dale Kuntz.]

    library binding: the best cover and binding of all; usually buckram cloth covers with a sewn binding and intended for the most rugged service and long life. This binding lends itself to repair and re-binding. Occasionally, listed and offered along with softcover and trade binding at an extra premium price. Books intended for archival used ought to be library bound.

    paperback: a softbound (softcover) book of a small size, usually 7 (+/-) inches high by 4.25 inches wide with (almost always) a glued binding. The famous "PocketŪ" and "BantamŪ" books are examples of the small paperback.

    softcover: a book with a heavy paper or light card stock cover. Binding may be sewn (rare), but is usually glued or may be stapled. Size varies widely from the "paperback" size up to (usually) 8.5 x 11 inches. This type of binding (usually glued) is becoming more common for short-lived books, e.g., textbooks.

    ex-lib; a.k.a. library discard : a book drawn from circulation and sold, given away, or thrown out ... discarded. Since libraries are short of two things, money and shelf space, their collections are rolled over: out with the old, in with the new, regardless of merit. Some librarians are as insensitive and coarse as the stereotypical junk / salvage yard operator. Many of the books are classic works or of extraordinary value as references, but that have exhibited limited circulation. Often, the dust jackets are still intact, but covered with a slippery plastic cover. Inside, between the #2 cover and the first blank leaf, are the telltale remains of the date sheet and other library imprints. Some libraries go to the trouble of stamping "DISCARDED" all over the book. However, the value as literature can't be diminished although the value, to book collecting purists is virtually nil. There are, however, unusual exceptions to this rule.

    Taking care of books (a few tips): Don't leave books laying around haphazardly; put them on shelves. Try to keep books out of the sunlight; it fades the covers. Many printing inks contain dyes and will fade under sunlight. Cover the books if you can; it keeps dust and dirt off and keeps them in "mint" condition longer. When putting down a book (during reading), don't lay it face down with the covers upward; that's hard on the binding - use a bookmark to keep your place.

Is a book new or used? We offer a mixed assortment of both new and used books; mostly used. We assume that this fact should not be of a concern of yours ... that is, we assume that you, the client and book buyer, are interested in content and are not a collector. 

 All of our books are complete and if any are not, that fact will be specified. All books are inspected for condition and the price is set on that basis. FICOA is not a rare book dealer although we may occasionally offer a rare and/or first edition. If you are interested in book collecting, hit the  First Editions and Rare Books  section.

Web pages of interest, which have books for sale:

 Art and Architecture Books

 Aviation Books Out-of-Print aviation books: technical; aeronautical; design; airmanship from the 1920s to the 1970s

Books of the Cinema  Books, new and used, covering all aspects of motion pictures: personalities, films, production, directors, authors, scripts, etc.

First Editions and Rare Books Books of various topics, which may be of interest to Rare Book and First Edition collectors. Many of these books listed are under-priced.

Index or Home Page  

Motorcycle Books    A listing of motorcycling books (virtually all out-of-print) covering the history, the sport, and the machines ... how to choose them, ride them, and keep them running. Some of the books tell you how to stay alive!

Movie Scripts and Screenplays

Parachuting Vintage Literature

The Political Bookstore     A listing of political books for sale.

Railroad books, mass transit, light rail

Rare Books and First Editions Books of various topics, which may be of interest to Rare Book and First Edition collectors. Many of these books listed are under-priced.

Remainders: Over-runs of books at bargain prices

Sports Books

War Books     Books about battles, strategy, tactics, politics, personnel, logistics, arms, machines, etc.

Sitemap: a linked listing of all the web pages on this website

Contact Us at:  FICOA, 5928 W. Michigan St., Wauwatosa, WI 53213-4248


*Do not click on this e-mail address since it has some gibberish attached to confound the "SPAM ROBOTS" which march across the Internet vacuuming up e-mail addresses; Use it as you see it (write it down & then use it).

                             phone:   (414) 258 - 6492   ... ask for Hank

July 05