Book Grading Key
Following are commonly used terms in book collecting, together with some fairly broad explanations and examples of what is meant by them. I’ll be using these terms to describe the condition of my books, backed up by photographic documentation.
Pristine or Mint – completely free from defects.
Books and dust jackets graded Pristine or Mint are just that – new, unread books. Some dealers actually store these collectible volumes in plastic bags to protect them from all scuffing and damage.
F – Fine, as free from defects as possible.
Books and dust jackets graded as Fine look like they have just come from the printer. These are virtually new books also, but perhaps have been opened or on a shelf. You will be hard pressed to find many used books in this condition.
NF – Near Fine
Minor defects, light wear, generally no open tears to dust jacket. (When I say open tears, I mean those that are not closed by themselves. Small closed tears (say less than 1/2 inch), while they must be disclosed, are allowable in Near Fine books.
These books and dust jackets are much better than the average used book but they may be slightly scuffed. Please note that a Near Fine book can have other types of flaws. For example, a bookplate or a previous owner’s name written in the book are flaws but in an otherwise Fine book, the book may be rated as Near Fine. All flaws must be disclosed.
VG – Very Good
Show some signs of wear, some, perhaps more than one, closed tears, light soiling of pages or scuffing of dust jacket, etc.
This is the average used book after it has been read and passed from one reader to another. All major flaws such as loose bindings, slanted spines, or other damage (especially water damage) must be disclosed.
G – Good
This is commonly termed a “Reading Copy”. It may be good for hauling to the beach to read, but contains flaws like rips and stains. Heavily worn, in other words.
This is the average used book after it has been read and passed through many people’s hands and not protected correctly. It may be sun faded, the spine may be slanted from improper storage, and the spine may actually be broken.
Rem – Remainder Mark
Usually an ink (Magic Marker) marking made by the publisher or book dealer on the top or bottom of the leaves. This indicates that the book was originally not sold at retail price. There are remainder wholesalers whose whole job is to sell these books to stores at drastically reduced prices. They make very affordable books. All instances of remainder marks must be disclosed.
ARC – Advance Review Copy
The ARC is a special edition of a new book sent to bookstores and reviewers by publishers. These usually are in soft cover bindings with a draft of the dust jacket (sometimes called wraps) and are produced before the First Edition. Some dealers refer to these as “True First Editions” but beware – they really aren’t. They are like draft copies before formal publications. While they are collectible, they are NOT First Editions.
The Ex-Library book is exactly as its name implies – it formerly was a library book and has been discarded for some reason. These books usually have their dust jackets and plastic protectors taped or glued to the book, contain stampings on the end leaves to indicate the library’s ownership, and may or may not contain a pocket in the rear of the book. If you find an Ex-Library book without a pocket, beware that the rear free end paper has probably been cut from the book!
An Ex-Libris book is not from the public library. Quite literally, the Latin translation is “from someone’s library”. In other words, this is a clever way of disclosing that the book contains a glued-in bookplate, typically on the front free end paper, probably with a former owner’s name on it, which may be either pre-printed or written in ink. You must ask yourself if you really want someone else’s name in your book before you buy it. There is no way to remove these things short of removing and replacing the front free end paper.
An inscribed book may take two forms, one less intrusive than the other. The first and in my opinion, worst, is to have a book with a gushing inscription like “To My Favorite Aunt who changed my diapers until I was twelve…” or something like it. I stay away from these altogether. The second inscription may just be a signature or printed name of a former owner, typically written in ink, somewhere near the front of the book. Some people go so far as to write their name on the front paste-down where it will be covered by the dust jacket!
PC – Price clipped
Usually indicates that a inside corner of the dust jacket (where the price would appear) has been cut off. While this normally indicates a gift book, it may also indicate that you are looking at a Book Club Edition (see below). Unscrupulous people have been known to clip off a portion of the dust jacket where it was identified as a BCE.
BCE – Book Club Edition
Published and sold through a book club like Doubleday or Book of the Month Club. These editions are generally worthless to the collector.
This is a really BAD term, leading you to believe that you are getting something that you’re not. All this means is that it is the first time the book is being printed in this form or format. For example, a reprint of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October that contains tie-ins to the movie might have (on the copyright page) an indication that it is a First Edition. A seller may refer to it as a First Thus (meaning its first printing in this format). Un-savvy buyers may think they’re getting a true First Edition when they really aren’t. Watch out for this term!
Many thanks to The Bookman from where I culled this info. He has a useful site for collectors.