A love of books that goes beyond money at the Middleboro Library

Sep 14, 2023

MIDDLEBORO — For Middleboro Library patrons, learning that their antique books weren’t worth as much money as they thought came as a relief.

On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., rare book specialist Ken Gloss gave a talk at the library. Gloss is an appraiser for “Antiques Roadshow” and proprietor of The Brattle Book Shop in Boston. Afterwards, Middleboro residents and library patrons brought their own books to Gloss so he could appraise their price. 

Elizabeth Chase brought an old book that she had found in her grandfather’s house to the event. The book was a history of the City of New Bedford, with an intriguing note inside from 1961 reading: “This is valuable as there are only a few copies in existence. One recently sold for $40.”

At the event, Gloss appraised the book at between $50 to $100. Chase said she learned that the book wasn’t as valuable as it might have been in the past because information about city history is now available online. “He [Gloss] knows better than I do,” she said.

Another library patron, Nancy Winter, brought in a small collection of old books. “I was curious because I don’t know whether to keep them or whether to throw them away,” she said.

The books contained a reference to the 1800s, which made her think that they might be valuable. She had gotten the books from a home she lived in during her childhood.

Gloss told her that each book was worth about $10 dollars, and Winter said she still is unsure  whether to keep the books even after learning their price. 

“I live in Oak Point and I’m part of the book club there,” Winter said. “This library has been very helpful to us.”

Carol Cohen brought an old Nancy Drew book to the library to get appraised. 

Cohen explained that she originally thought the book was a first edition book, because of the copyright year, which would have made it more valuable. 

But at the library, she then learned that the copyright year was the same for all printings of a book, regardless of whether a book is first edition. Gloss told her the book was worth about $5.

A disappointing appraisal didn’t dampen Cohen’s enthusiasm. “I love Nancy Drew,” she explained.

Middleboro teacher Leslie Sorrento brought a bag of old books to the library.

“These books have writing in them and I know it’s my grandfather’s writing,” she said. “There’s something about someone’s handwriting from long ago. It’s a connection to the past.”

Earlier in his talk, Gloss explained that the financial value of books is often worth less than their sentimental value. After looking at Sorrento’s books, he explained that “if they were sold in a library book sale for about fifty cents, that would be about right.”

But Sorrento wasn’t disappointed. “It would have been wonderful to find something that was highly valuable, but it’s also wonderful to know I don’t have to keep worrying about this,” she said. Plus, she thought that one of the books was “funny and maybe disturbing” because of its outdated ideas about women. 

Sorrento’s feelings weren’t unusual, Gloss said. “Sometimes people have books for years and years thinking that ‘maybe this is valuable,'’’ he said. “They bring it in, I tell them it isn’t, and they go: ‘great! We don’t have to worry about it,’” he explained.

Asked if any of the books he had seen that night were particularly valuable, Gloss explained that “there wasn’t anything that stood out. But that’s not unusual. People just want to know.”

In response to an audience question, he said that although many books have monetary value, the most valuable book for him personally was his copy of “The Night Before Christmas,” which he would read to his children every Christmas Eve. That book was “priceless” to him, he said.

But Gloss still has his eye out for rare and valuable finds. He said that anyone with a question about the value of one of their books could call his store or send him a picture of the book. “If they email pictures of the bookshelves, and I can read things, I can tell if it is worth bringing in,” he said.

“Every once in a while there are things that show up that are quite valuable,” he added.