What to Do with Old Encyclopedias?

Old Encyclopedias on a shelf

As someone who loves books and has a soft spot for old-fashioned reference materials, I’ve often found myself wondering what to do with old encyclopedias. After all, these hefty tomes were once the go-to source for information on just about any topic you could think of. But in the age of the internet, are they still relevant? And if not, what should you do with them?

It’s important to recognize that old encyclopedias are not likely to be the most up-to-date or accurate sources of information. While they may still contain valuable historical and cultural insights, they are likely to be lacking in terms of the latest scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and other rapidly evolving fields. That being said, there are still plenty of ways to put old encyclopedias to good use.

One option is to donate them to a local library, school, or community center. Many of these institutions are happy to accept gently used books, and encyclopedias can be particularly helpful for students and researchers who may not have access to online resources. Alternatively, you could try selling your old encyclopedias online or at a used book store, or even repurposing them into unique art or home decor projects. Whatever you decide to do with your old encyclopedias, it’s important to remember that they can still hold value and meaning, even in a world that’s increasingly digital.

Understanding the Value of Old Encyclopedias

Old encyclopedias can hold significant value for collectors, historians, and book enthusiasts. The value of an old encyclopedia can depend on several factors, including the condition, edition, rarity, and historical significance of the book.

The condition of the book is one of the most important factors in determining its value. A book that is in excellent condition, with no tears, stains, or other damage, will generally be worth more than a book that is in poor condition. However, even a book that is in poor condition can still hold value if it is rare or historically significant.

The edition of the book can also affect its value. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition is considered one of the most valuable editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This edition was published between 1910 and 1911 and is highly sought after by collectors.

Rare editions of encyclopedias can also hold significant value. For example, the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1768, is extremely rare and can be worth thousands of dollars.

The age of the book can also be a factor in determining its value. Older books are generally more valuable than newer books, especially if they are rare or historically significant.

Finally, the historical significance of the book can also affect its value. For example, an old encyclopedia that was owned and used by a famous historical figure can be worth significantly more than a similar book that has no historical significance.

Understanding the value of old encyclopedias requires knowledge of the book’s condition, edition, rarity, age, and historical significance. By considering these factors, collectors and book enthusiasts can determine the value of an old encyclopedia and decide how best to preserve and share it with others.

Selling Old Encyclopedias

If you have old encyclopedias and are looking to sell them, there are a few options available to you. Here are some ways to sell your old encyclopedias:

  1. Rare Bookseller: If your encyclopedias are rare or valuable, you may want to consider selling them to a rare bookseller. These sellers specialize in rare and out-of-print books and may be interested in purchasing your old encyclopedias. You can find rare booksellers online or in your local area.
  2. Internet: The internet is a great place to sell old encyclopedias. You can list them on online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon. You can also sell them on websites that specialize in selling books, such as AbeBooks or Alibris.
  3. Garage/Yard Sale: If you have a lot of old encyclopedias to sell, you may want to consider having a garage or yard sale. This is a great way to get rid of your old encyclopedias and make some extra cash. Make sure to advertise your sale in your local area to attract potential buyers.
  4. Collectors: There are collectors out there who are interested in old encyclopedias. You can try to find collectors in your local area or online. You can also list your encyclopedias on websites that specialize in connecting sellers with collectors.
  5. Purchase: Some companies purchase old encyclopedias. You can find these companies online or in your local area. Make sure to do your research and find a reputable company before selling your encyclopedias.

Overall, selling old encyclopedias can be a great way to make some extra cash. Just make sure to do your research and find the best option for you.

Donating Old Encyclopedias

When it comes to old encyclopedias, donating them is a great way to give them a second life. There are many places that will gladly accept your old encyclopedias as a donation. Here are some options to consider:

Local Library

Your local library is a great place to donate old encyclopedias. Libraries often have limited budgets and may not have the funds to purchase new reference materials. By donating your old encyclopedias, you can help provide valuable resources for your community.


Schools are another great option for donating old encyclopedias. Many schools have limited budgets and may not be able to purchase new reference materials. By donating your old encyclopedias, you can help provide valuable resources for students and teachers.


Charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill accept donations of books, including encyclopedias. These charities may sell your old encyclopedias to raise funds for their programs or donate them to other organizations.

Friends and Family

Donating your old encyclopedias to friends and family is another option. If you know someone who is interested in a particular subject, your old encyclopedias may be a valuable resource for them.

Thrift Store

Thrift stores are another option for donating old encyclopedias. Many thrift stores accept donations of books, including encyclopedias. Your old encyclopedias may be sold to raise funds for the thrift store or donated to other organizations.

When donating your old encyclopedias, it’s important to check with the organization to make sure they accept book donations. Some organizations may have specific guidelines for book donations, such as only accepting books published within a certain time frame. By donating your old encyclopedias, you can help provide valuable resources for others while also decluttering your home.

The Historical and Research Value of Old Encyclopedias

As an avid reader and researcher, I have found that old encyclopedias can be a treasure trove of information. While some may argue that the information contained in these volumes may be outdated, they still hold immense historical and research value.

Old encyclopedias can provide a glimpse into the past, allowing us to see how people viewed the world at a certain point in time. They can also serve as a valuable resource for researchers, providing a wealth of information on a variety of topics.

In today’s digital age, it’s easy to rely solely on online sources for research. However, old encyclopedias offer a level of depth and detail that is often lacking in digital sources. They can also serve as reliable sources of information, as they were written and edited by experts in the field.

For those who are short on shelf space, it’s important to note that older sets of encyclopedias can often be found at a reasonable price. They can also be a great way to clear space on your bookshelves, while still having access to valuable reference materials. 

The Future of Encyclopedias

As technology continues to advance, the use of physical encyclopedias has significantly decreased. With the vast amount of information available online, it is no surprise that the demand for print encyclopedias has decreased.

Many outdated encyclopedia sets are often donated to local recyclers or disposed of in the garbage, as they lack relevance in today’s world. However, it is important to note that complete encyclopedia sets may still hold value to collectors or those interested in history.

Companies such as World Book offer digital versions of their encyclopedia sets on their website, providing a more convenient and up-to-date option for those seeking information.

When it comes to disposing of old encyclopedias, it is important to consider recycling options such as Freecycle.org or local recycling centers. It is also important to note that some outdated encyclopedias may contain valuable historical information and should be donated to appropriate organizations or individuals.

Overall, while physical encyclopedias may not hold the same demand as they once did, the information they contain can still hold value to certain individuals. It is important to properly dispose of outdated encyclopedias and consider digital options for more up-to-date information.

Scroll to Top