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How to Thrift for Vintage Books

By Rachel

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Last Updated on March 7, 2024 by Rachel Granholm

Learn how to thrift for vintage books with these easy pointers!

I used to have a super difficult time navigating stores, trying to find vintage and hardcover books. However, through practice, I’ve been able to successfully find old books in ways that others might not know about. I’ve done the hard part for you and am sharing my tips and tricks on how to thrift for vintage books!

A Guide to Thrifting Vintage (and Antique) Books

Over the past few years, I’ve gained knowledge in many areas related to thrifting. When I feel like I have enough experience in a certain area, I like to share it with you in hopes of passing along helpful advice. Thrifting for vintage, especially books, is such a thrill!

Shop Vintage Books

Pricing for Vintage Books

First, let’s talk briefly about fair prices to pay for old books.

This is going to vary from person to person depending on the location, where you are shopping and how popular vintage books are in a given area. An average price for vintage books in my part of the country is around $6.00 per one.

antique French book

Personally, I don’t like to spend more than $5.00 for any one book. Most of the vintage books in my collection have been purchased for between $2-3.00. If a book is on the larger side, I feel okay about paying a little more for that, say around $8.00.

When it really comes down to, though, is what a book is worth to you. If you love it and is going to add joy to your home, buy it!

a vintage book used in a thrifted basket display

How to Thrift for Vintage Books

Below are some easy tips and tricks that I use when hunting for vintage books at thrift stores or vintage shops. If you don’t find any the first time around, try again another day.

Patience is the key when thrifting for any type of decor item. I do hope you find them practical and handy. Let’s get into it!

1. Peel Back the Dust Cover.

The first tip on how to thrift for vintage books is to see what is underneath the paper. Many times old books have a paper cover that wraps around the whole book and it’s usually either 1) NOT pretty or 2) Super ripped and torn in many places, or both.

Look past that cover and see what the actual book looks like.

vintage books styled on a shelf with a vintage lower frog

In my experience, the books that are covered with a dust cover are so pretty, sometimes having a linen texture to them or containing lovely old graphics.

So, take a few minutes to peruse the book section at the thrift store. Peek under a few of the dust covers and see what there is…I have found many of my favorite books in this way!

Patriotic colored vintage books for Summer

2. Check Unexpected Areas.

Another thing to do when hunting for old books is to look in places that you wouldn’t expect books to be. Sometimes people will grab a book, carry it around with them but then decide not to purchase it. They set it down wherever they are in the store, leaving it for someone else!

I have found vintage books thrown in random boxes at the back of the store and in the kitchen section with dishes.

two vintage books stacked on a hearth with a blue glass jug

Another spot where I’ve found vintage books is in a styled vignette. This happens more at vintage shops or antique malls where the booth owner has created a themed display. They will sometimes stack them under a vase or flower pot or have a few books corralled with some candle sticks.

Always keep your eyes peeled in any area. You never know where a pretty old book might be!

vintage blue books in a hutch with milk glass

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3. Browse Each Bookshelf Carefully.

When searching for vintage books, one cannot be in a hurry. If I’m going thrifting and looking for something very particular, especially old books, I make sure I have at least thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to spend looking around.

I have learned that, if I’m in a rush, I don’t enjoy the process of browsing through all the books. I’m sure I’ve missed some pretty spectacular books in my day because I go in only having ten minutes.

a row of vintage green books on a shelf with milk glass

Go in with an open mind and take your time looking through the book sections that interest you.

For example, I gravitate towards the home and gardening books as well as design and travel. In my experience, when I look through books where the content interests me, I am more apt to find one that I love.

a vintage green book on a mantel with milk glass

4. Get Down and Dig.

The last tip that I have for you is to simply roll up your sleeves and dig. I’ve done this many times in the novel section of the thrift store.

You know those shelves with novel after novel and they are all piled on top of each other? Those are the places to look, guys!

I’ve pulled so many beautiful old books out from under stacks of other books. This is how to thrift for vintage books it it’s finest!

a vintage blue book styled with a vintage bowl

When you find books that speak to you, grab them and start a pile next to you. Once you have looked through the shelves, then you can go back and weed through your stack, choosing which ones you want to purchase.

This ensures that no one else grabs a book out from in front of you while you are still searching. Many people go to thrift stores and antique shops to do just the same thing as you…digging and thrifting for vintage books!

a vintage blue book in a patriotic hutch display

How to Style Vintage Books

Below is a brief list of ways that you can use and decorate with old books in your home.

For more in-depth and detailed ideas on how to style and decorate with vintage books, you can read this post, 3 Ways to Decorate with Vintage Books.

  • stack a few underneath a vase or jar
  • line them up across a shelf
  • style them into a seasonal vignette
  • use them for height in a display
  • open them up and use as background decor

a vintage milk glass lamp styled on some books

Closing Tidbits on How to Thrift for Vintage Books

I hope you learned something new about how to thrift for vintage books! Most of the time thrifting is pure luck but, at times, there can be an art to finding the items that you are looking for.

Through practice and patience, you will be able to discover hidden treasures that are meant specifically for you! Be encouraged to search for pretty old things, books or otherwise, finding joy along the way.

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Leave me a comment! Do you like to use vintage books in your decor? How would you use them? I love hearing from you!

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Just click on the red button in the left corner!

how to thrift for vintage books

If you are new here, I’m Rachel, the writer and content creator here at The Antiqued Journey. I’m so happy to have you! I encourage you to stop by the ‘about me’ page to get to know me a little more.

Here on the blog, you will find loads of inspiration for decorating with vintage and antique decor, simple DIY crafts and many thrifting adventures. If that interests you, I invite you to sign up for my e-mail. You will receive a free digital download as a thank you!

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Rachel from The Antiqued Journey blog

Hey! I’m Rachel!

I’m so glad you are here! Old things are my jam. Antique malls and thrift stores are my happy places.

Here on the blog I love to share my excitement, knowledge, and ideas about all things antique, vintage, and thrifted. Let’s journey together!

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