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Are political books valuable?

In 2008, history was made when an original exemplar of the Magna Carta was auctioned for $21 million. According to an article in the New York Times about the sale, “ Sotheby’s reckons that 17 ‘original exemplars’ from the 13th century survive today, most preserved in England’s libraries and cathedrals. Hundreds more have been lost — to rats, fire and reuse as scrap paper.”

Four years later, George Washington’s annotated copy of the Articles of Congress sold for more than $10 million at auction, indicating the immense value of political books, manuscripts and documents. In general, the most important factor to consider when appraising the value of a political book is rarity. Age does not necessarily equal value. The most expensive political books are those with a direct historical link and a good story.

Political books can include any number of works by authors dating back to the ancient Greek philosophers, to the Founding Fathers of the United States to more modern manifestos and treatises. Because of their controversial themes, some may have been banned, or explore a dark side of history. For example, one of Adolf Hitler’s personal copies of Mein Kampf sold for more than $20,000 at Alexander Historical Auctions in 2016.

To assess the current fair market value of your political book, our experts compare it to similar items that have sold at recent auctions. Providing images and as much information about your political book as possible, including details about where and when it was acquired, can help us to make a more accurate evaluation.

Mearto evaluates hundreds of similar items each month.

What are some of the factors that impact the value of political books?

In addition to rarity, appraisers consider a political book’s condition, design and craftsmanship when determining its value. Books that have been made with natural materials, such as leather or vellum paper can show discoloration, disintegration and other signs of aging over time. Pages can be torn out or stained, and dust jackets can be lost. Better preserved copies tend to sell for higher prices. Condition is typically ranked from ‘as new’ to ‘ex-library,’ which usually indicates that the book is not considered to be rare or collectible, and therefore, of limited monetary value.

Signatures, inscriptions and dedications from the book’s author or illustrator can also result in a more substantial value. Likewise, provenance - or the ownership history of an object - can play a role if you can prove that your book was once in the collection of a famous or notable person.


What does ‘first edition’ mean?

In book collecting, the term “first edition” generally refers to the first printing of a book. Political books are often translated and published in different countries, so there may be many that claim to be a “first edition.” However, the most valuable will be those first editions printed in the author’s home country. These books contain the original typos and are generally sought after because of their rarity, and because they provide an unparalleled sense of proximity to the author.

Throughout history, individual publishing houses have determined their own set of standards for defining “first edition” copies of the political books that they print. Therefore, finding a true first edition can require some experience. Our auction house specialists have worked closely with rare books and manuscripts and know how to identify and evaluate first edition political books.

What are some of the most famous political books?

Though there are many thousands of political books that have been written throughout human history, up to and including tell-all biographies and autobiographies of contemporary political figures, some of the most popular titles for book collectors include:

  • The Republic, Plato
  • The Prince, Nicolo Macchiavelli
  • Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
  • Two Treatises of Government, John Locke
  • The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
  • The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton
  • Rights of Man, Thomas Paine
  • Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
  • On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
  • Common Sense, Thomas Paine
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
  • What is to be Done, Vladimir Lenin


How can I find out how much my political book is worth?

Our easy-to-use submission tool allows you to send images and information to our team of rare book and manuscript experts. We review what you provide and reply with an estimate of your book’s fair market value within 24-48 hours. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to contact us!

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