Could Your Book Collection Earn You Prize Money?

by Emma Cueto

Book lovers get their books in all kinds of fashion, but for those of us who buy them in hardcopy, we often wind up with more books than we know what to do with — which could actually be a good thing, believe it or not. Turns out competitive book collecting is a thing, and you can win prizes for it. In fact the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest is accepting entries right now. So that's right, you're not a book hoarder, you're a book collector — and there's potentially even money in it.

The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest has been held every year since 2005, and offers a chance for both undergraduates and grad students to show off their literary chops. But if you don't have an overflowing bookshelf in your dorm room or a treasure-trove of first editions, don't worry. It's not the number of books you have or how rare they are, but rather the theme of your collection. That's right, this is no contest where you simply document a stack of books; it's about building a unique and interesting collection.

As the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), who host the contest, explain,

A collection should reflect a clearly defined unifying theme or interest. It may incorporate ephemera, maps, prints, autograph material as well as books, either hard cover or paperback, as long as they are germane to the collection's focus. How well a collection reflects the collector's intent is more significant than either the number of items or the monetary value of the collection.

Contestants submit a bibliography that explains their collection, as well as how it fits into the wider world, and a panel then judges entires based on “the intrinsic significance, innovation and interest of book collections as presented in entrants' descriptive essays and bibliographies" — among other criteria. First prize winners are awarded $2,500, which should certainly help support your reading habit.

Past winning themes have included everything from romance novels to American propaganda.

The contest is only open to college students, sadly, and if your college hosts their own school-level competition through the ABAA, you are only eligible to enter the national competition if you win. If your school, doesn't have their own contest, however, you're free to enter. Students must also have a faculty sponsor.

You can find out more about the rules and procedures at the ABAA website here.

But whether you're eligible or not, I think we can all agree that competitive book collecting is, as a concept, quite possibly the best thing ever.

Images: sammyreadsbooks/Instagram