>Collecting books is a great game, as I’ve said before, and you don’t have to have a lot of money to do it well. The best thing to start with is a passion for a specific theme or subject. Auctions can be a great place to begin collecting, though I would caution the amateur about trusting some of the more rinky-dink outfits which are rather low on professionalism. Some auctioneers intentionally drive up the bidding with “ringers,” in order to increase the house’s percentage.
One local place I recommend highly is New England Book Auctions, at www.nebookauctions.com, out of Sunderland, MA. A solid bookman (Leif Laudamus) has run it since 2001, and it’s a place for collectors and dealers to get some real deals. It’s also a good place to get your feet wet at a low-key but still serious book auction. Every month or so in the Hotel Northampton they conduct a sale. These are often themed sales, and are preceded by a printed catalog (anyone can subscribe for a nominal fee). Tomorrow there is a sale on Sporting books, graphics, autographs, and ephemera (mostly baseball and fishing books, with misc. other sports included).
A few years ago I bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica (the famous eleventh edition) for a mere $5.00 (no one wanted to lug it away)! I can’t promise those kind of deals every day (generally these sets go from $300 to $1,000), but it’s a great experience in a nice little college town in western Mass.