Appraising old Jewish/Hebrew/Yiddish books/s'forim in the New York area
July 15, 2014 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking someone in the New York area (a collector? a store? an auction house?) who can appraise old books in Hebrew and/or Yiddish. Where might I find someone honest who can do this?

My grandfather passed away recently, and in his possession were many, many Jewish texts (commentaries on Torah, Talmud, and Jewish Law) in Hebrew (and probably Yiddish). He was a Rabbi and a scholar, and I've been told that some of the books are 100-150 years old. My mom and her siblings are trying to figure out how to value all of these, and I figured I would ask here to see if there are any recommendations.

The house is on Long Island near JFK, though if necessary we could probably figure out a way to bring the books somewhere. How do we determine their value? My family would probably be looking to sell some and donate some - how can I help to keep them from getting swindled?

posted by taltalim to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
argosy books on 57 street... or they would know who.
posted by Maias at 2:57 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My in-laws, also on LI, have used Sotheby's for assessment and appraisal for their old Hebrew books.
posted by xo at 2:57 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Someone at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst MA might be able to put you in touch with someone local, or be able to come down him/her self.
posted by brujita at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before you contact Sotheby's, Christie's or Swann, you need to do some organization and research on your own.

First make a list of all the books, recording the title, author, date of publication, type of binding, condition and whether any have been signed by the author and/or there are inscriptions.

Ideally you would take a photo of each book, including a photo of the title page.

Then you can begin to do some research on your own. Google each title and see what the results are. Ideally you will get some results like this.
posted by mlis at 3:50 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem with old seforim is that some of them - despite their age - are actually fairly common, but would still hold historical value to institutions if you're willing to donate. I would try calling the Yeshiva University Library and ask who they recommend.
posted by Mchelly at 3:50 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

My default for stuff like this is the Center for Jewish History on W16th street. They even have an "Ask the Librarian" portal for live chat during business hours.
posted by elizardbits at 7:08 PM on July 15, 2014

I would try YIVO at 15 W 16th. Yiddish is kind of their thing.
posted by maxsparber at 6:04 AM on July 16, 2014

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research's library is the world's largest Yiddish collection. My family donated some similar books to them. (YIVO is part of the Center for Jewish History, mentioned above.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:07 AM on July 16, 2014

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