A book's condition is one of the most important aspects of determining a rare or collectible book’s value. A rare book in poor condition will be worth a fraction of the same book in fine condition. Though book grading is not as precise when compared to collectible coin grading, for example, it is a very important and something that all book collectors should become familiar with.
Very Fine or New - Standard abbreviation is "VF" or "New".
A book in New condition is a book that is in the same condition as when it came off the press and has no noticeable flaws to the actual book or dust jacket. Most books you would find at a book store will not meet this level, because of the minor damage that occurred during shipping. Some book dealers require books that are individually wrapped in plastic to still be in the plastic wrap to receive this grade, while others consider the book New or Very Fine if it is complete and flawless. Some dealers will not use this term at all.
Fine - Standard abbreviation is "F".
A Fine book in a Fine dust jacket is often written as F/F. Fine means virtually flawless. What flaws are present should be very minor and virtually unnoticeable, such as a few tiny nicks to a dust jacket. You will notice in some dealers catalogs, the expression "else Fine," which means except for the stated flaw in the description, the book is near perfect. For example, a description may read, Small scratch to the front cover, else Fine. If a book is described as Fine, certain flaws must be mentioned. For example, the presence of a former owner signature or bookplate must be mentioned. All dealers and collectors should always keep in mind the basic standard - how does this book compare to the way it looked when it first came off the press. Fine basically means - very close to a brand new look. Fine books, especially when that condition is scarce for a particular title, will always carry a substantial premium in price. The small scratch mentioned above can drop the price of an otherwise fine $600 book by as much as 15% to 20% and possibly more for modern first editions.
Near Fine - Standard abbreviation "NRF", or very near fine, "very NRF."
Book has a small number of small flaws, interchangeable with the "else Fine" term. Very Good - Standard abbreviation is "VG". Very good implies that the book is all around in sound condition and collectible. The book will have visible, but not serious flaws. A Very Good book may show some fading and/or staining to the covers. On older books there will likely be some rubbing on the edges of the dust jacket and covers. A Very Good dust jacket will have some rubbing, some chipping and possibly some minor tears or small pieces missing, but it should still be substantially bright, clean, and complete. A Very Good book should sell for about 30% to 50% less than a fine copy. Some dealers will add a + or - as the Very Good description for book encompasses a wide range of possible flaws.
Good - Standard abbreviation is "G". Good, except for very rare books, is not good! For most books it is a classification generally meaning the book is not collectible . The difference in pricing between Fine and Good books is almost always substantial. A Fine book selling for $600 may sell for only $50 to $150 in Good condition.
Fair or Poor - Standard abbreviation is "Fair" or "P." Except for the very rarest books or hard-to-find reference books for research, these condition levels are well below collector grade. Books in this state may have detached or missing covers, no dust jacket, torn pages etc. The books should still have all the pages (though some may be loose).