My wife loves to sale. No typo there. She loves to go to "garage sales" to find hidden treasures and for an excuse to leave our home and meet new people. When I accompany her on these adventures, I am often struck by how boxes and boxes of books - old and new - are for sale at their bulk pulp value.
In fact, a recent JD Supra article, titled “California Estate Planning: What to Do if You Inherit a Library,” warns against failing to value books left as part of an estate.
Libraries and rare books in an estate can frequently be hidden treasures.
You never know if the library has tucked away an inscribed first edition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway. That’s going for $8,500 on Ebay right now. Or maybe a signed J.D. Salinger “The Catcher in The Rye.” Asking price for this is only $55,000 these days.
There are rare first editions and hard-to-find antique items are out there. But if you are left with the responsibility of sorting through a collection containing hundreds of volumes, and you have little experience with books, where do you start?
An experienced estate planning attorney should be able to help you.
In addition, you can start be doing some of the preliminary research yourself. Websites such as www.Abebooks.com and www.AddALL.com are extremely detailed and gather data from numerous book sites. There is also the American Book Prices Current database (www.bookpricescurrent.com). This is a valuable tool that about every professional bookseller in North America knows and uses. This database shows you if a book has sold at auction in the past.
What if you do not have the time to catalog and research all those hundreds of book titles and ISBN numbers on a website or go through entire libraries by hand? Consult an experienced rare book dealer.
As an expert, he or she can quickly identify rare or unusual items in your library and estimate their worth by taking into account the rarity of a book, its condition, and the book’s provenance (its ownership history).
According to the original article, most rare book dealers are happy to buy books and libraries, as some will want to make you an offer on the most valuable titles. So do not discount a library collection bequeathed in an estate—Ernest or J.D. may be hiding in there somewhere!
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: JD Supra (November 3, 2014) “California Estate Planning: What to Do if You Inherit a Library”