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Is My Family Bible Valuable?

Book Collecting Guide

Without question, family Bibles are precious heirlooms. They often contain handwritten records of notable events in a family’s timeline: births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths, as well as historical and newsworthy events.

These tomes hold great sentimental value and serve as incredible resources for genealogical information, but they rarely fetch more than a couple hundred dollars on the antiquarian book market.

How can something so dear be worth so little?

Consider the rules of supply and demand. The Bible is the most printed book in history, and the tradition of maintaining a family Bible has been around for centuries. Because of this, many old Bibles have survived the trials of time and regular use. Only very specific publications will prove to have any serious monetary value.

If you feel that your family Bible may be one of those extra-special tomes, you can have it professionally appraised to help you determine its worth. The libraries of large universities often offer basic appraisal services. They can assist you in identifying the printing date and evaluating the condition of your Bible.

Another option is to have your Bible professionally appraised. This method is much more thorough, but it can be an expensive process. Your family bible is likely worth the cost of an appraisal if it is in fine condition and meets any of the following qualities:

  • it belonged to the family of a historically significant person,
  • it includes signatures of famous individuals,
  • it is an American Bible printed before 1850,
  • it is a European Bible printed before 1700 (especially if it is printed in English)
  • it is a large or ornate Bible (often collected for display qualities)
  • it is illustrated by popular illustrators (i.e. Gustave Dore)
  • it contains printing errors (i.e. the “Wicked” Bible, “Vinegar” Bible, “Breeches” Bible)
  • it is an early Shaker tract
  • it is one of the first Roman Catholic Bibles printed in the U.S.

Corrections? Comments? Suggestions?

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