antique children's books

What a delight these antique children’s books are!

When I researched this topic, I kept getting the feeling, “My goodness, I owned these books!”  In truth, I did own many of them.  My greatest treat, along with my doll collection, was a new book.

That is, in fact, the first thing to know about antique children’s books.  “Antique” means 19th and 20th centuries, not the 16th century.  Creating books for children, especially books with pictures, was late in the printing process.

The second important thing to keep in mind is that most of these books were loved dearly, and handled extensively by small hands that weren’t always clean or careful.  Sometimes a book can be cleaned up considerably using modern techniques; sometimes not.

The third thing to keep in mind is that there are many editions, reprints and re-issues of popular children’s books.  I did a search on “A Child’s Garden of Verses” and discovered about a hundred different editions.

All of which says that, while antique children’s books is a fascinating topic, it is not for the novice.  This type of business requires someone who

  • Has an existing collection of antique children’s books, or has access to one;
  • Can provide professional repair to old volumes;
  • Can determine which edition a particular book is;
  • Has ready access to international shipping; and
  • Is able to price each volume appropriately.

It is also very helpful to have ready access to slews of garage sales and used book stores that may not appreciate the value of what they have.

But, my goodness, if you’ve got those skills, you’ve got a whopper of a business.

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A number of years ago when I was just learning about online business, my instructor at the local community college gave us the task of identifying the ideal online business, and explaining why we thought it was so good.  I chose “antique books”, and I still believe it is one of the best topics around.  Just think:

Not everyone has access to the physical books, and so looking online is essential;

Some folks just want to complete their set of Nancy Drew or first edition Seuss books and really can’t travel around the country looking for the elusive title or two;

Some folks want to buy a treasured title for a friend, but haven’t a clue how to buy the best edition;

Books ship easily, around the world, with no breakage issues;

Books don’t go out of style;

This is a relatively non-techy business, requiring only the ability to set up a basic listing for each title in your library;

If kept in a dry space, books are easy to maintain.

You can probably list a few dozen more reasons why an antique children’s book business would suit your fancy.

And this is an absolutely perfect business for starting small.  There is no rush to get a huge inventory — do it at your own pace.  There is no need to respond to a collector within five minutes of receiving an inquiry — do it when you get home from work.  There is no rush to go to every antique book fair around — choose one or two and get your toes wet first.

And as you are building your business, take time to consider just what you want to focus on.  Perhaps you do want to carry all hundred or so editions of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”.  Perhaps you want to focus on first editions, or on the works of certain authors or illustrators.  There are a million variations on this idea, and they are all potentially exceptional businesses!