What is the monetary worth of a captured spellbook? [closed]

In my last game, the players defeated two wizards, and captured their spellbooks.

The party wizard crowdsourced gold from the other players and copied the spells he wanted onto his own spellbook.

Now, they want to sell the captured spellbooks.

Assuming a buyer can be procured, how to calculate the worth of those spell books?

The books:

1st x10, 2nd x5, 3rd x4, 4th x2

1st x12, 2nd x6, 3rd x5, 4th x3, 5th x2

All the spells are of common availabiltiy (only from the PHB).

Related but for 3.5e

• How do you handle spell scroll purchases at your table? Jul 10, 2018 at 18:16
• Is your campaign high magic, low magic, or somewhere in between. (Reference is the table in DMG p. 38 on starting items for players based on tier of adventure) Jul 10, 2018 at 18:16
• And how have you generally priced the cost of a spell scroll or other magic item? I'm trying to get a baseline for your current magic economy. Jul 10, 2018 at 19:37
• This seems like it may be very opinion based considering how 5e handles magic items and things of that nature. Jul 11, 2018 at 0:10
• @nautarch yeah, but then we are diving into homebrew territory. this is the reason people closed it as POB, i guess. But "there is no answer by the books" is an answer in itself. I don't feel like the subject can be delved deeper than this at this time. So I will leave it as is. Thanks for the support. Jul 11, 2018 at 13:45

It's Complicated

As a general statement, the worth of an item is based on the amount of time and money put into it. As such, the spellbook's cost of production is

100 (the two spellbooks) + 50 * 101 + [the wizard's hourly rate] * 101 or

100 + (50+HR) * 101

This varies based on the rate your average wizard charges per hour.

However, this is not considering the other side of the coin, which is the harder side to judge. This is:

How much is an indecipherable spell worth to a wizard?

Keeping in mind a few things, I'll take a shot at it.

1. A wizard will recognize the exact amount of work that goes into a spell in a spellbook. This sets an idea of what the price should be, but it isn't by any means a price floor.
2. This item is effectively single use. This halves the price in the D&D economy (think consumables in terms of magic items).

Spell scrolls are priced like so (half of a normal magic item):

Common: 25-50 gp

Uncommon: 51-250 gp

Rare: 251-2500 gp

Very rare: 2501-25000 gp

Legendary: 25001+ gp

A scroll's rarity depends on the spell's level:

Cantrip-1: Common

2-3: Uncommon

4-5: Rare

6-8: Very rare

9: Legendary

1. Account for the notable differences between spell scrolls and spell book pages: no copy fail chance drives the price up (slightly),
2. but no spell attached drives the price down (significantly).
3. Also, having the product afterwards to resell would cause the market to slowly flood with spells, driving the price slowly down over time.

So what does this mean? It mostly depends on how flooded the market is with spells. I've played in many settings where there was just a library with a bunch of spellbooks. Spellbooks were at that point worthless. I've also played in settings where there was little to no magic and spells were a commodity.

...Soooo...

Assuming your setting lies somewhere in the middle, I'd rule that a spell will sell on the market for roughly 1/5 of a spell scroll's cost or 1/2 (remember, consumable) the cost of putting the spell in the spellbook (including time effort), whichever is lower.

TL;DR: for this arrangement of spells, that puts the spellbooks worth about:

1st: 10gp * 22 ----- Based off spell scrolls

2nd: ~35gp * 11 ----- ||

3rd: 50gp * 9 ----- ||

4th: 100gp * 5 ----- Based off spell book (does not include time taken)

5th: 125gp * 2 ----- ||

= an underwhelming 1805gp.

After doing all this math, maybe it's just better to give your players that 5150gp. They'll like you better.

• @KorvinStarmast I was originally going to do some math based on the amount of time you spend as a blacksmith or other D&D profession and relate the two, but I did not have XGTE on me. I've removed the reference. Jul 11, 2018 at 14:14
• No worries. I removed my comment. Jul 11, 2018 at 14:46

Depending on your campaign's magic level, 5150 GP is a good starting price.

But I'd recommend that you charge more or less based on how generally valuable new spells are to wizards in this edition. (The books may be worthless in the short term, see below). Magic as used by wizards is, in general, rare in D&D 5e:

... practitioners of magic are rare, set apart from the masses of people by their extraordinary talent. (PHB, p. 8)

Since the players are selling it, you as the DM can add modifiers to that basic cost based on how hard to get spells and spell books is in your campaign, or even how easy.

• If magic shops operate freely in settlements all over your setting (High magic campaign; DMG, p. 38) your players are competing with those merchants on price. They may have to discount the books to get a buyer. In that case, you may want to reduce the price from that baseline.
• On the other hand, if spells and spell books are extremely rare (Low Magic Campaign; DMG, p. 38) then what they found borders on priceless. Jack up the baseline price by multiples, or even by an order of magnitude.

Why use 5150 GP as a baseline?

1st x10, 2nd x5, 3rd x4, 4th x2 + 1st x12, 2nd x6, 3rd x5, 4th x3, 5th x2 = 101 spell levels

Copying a Spell (PHB, Wizard, Your Spellbook sidebar) For each level of the spell, the process takes 2 hours and costs 50 gp. The cost represents material components you

At a minimum it costs 5050 in GP1 cost to have copied them into the books in the first place. Toss in the basic cost of a spell book, 50 GP each (Basic Rules, Adventuring Gear, p. 48) for 5150.

A point on the specialized knowledge that is required to even create a spellbook in D&D 5e, which has magic as a fairly rare thing(PHB, p. 8). The value of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Consider the price of college text books (OK, I'll not begin a rant on that) or consider a piece of meat:

1. Case 1: prepared by a gourmet chef
2. Cast 2: prepared at a fast food chain

The wizard is more like the gourmet chef. The act of creation adds value.

The study of wizardry is ancient, stretching back to the earliest mortal discoveries of magic. It is firmly established in the worlds of D&D, with various traditions dedicated to its complex study. (PHB, p. 115)

Rarity and demand can influence price

With all of the above in mind, this is a golden opportunity for some role play if you and your players like to negotiate and work deals as part of the game.

1. Who needs spells, who wants spells, and who makes the highest offer?

2. How discrete do you need to be, in this campaign, when letting the market (overt or underground) know that a valuable and magical item is for sale?

3. Is arcane magic illegal in the kingdom? If yes, now you are trafficking in contraband so the price goes up, and so does risk.

4. Are they worthless? Consider this situation: nobody within a hundred miles is interested, since nobody within a hundred miles is a wizard. The party just killed the last two wizards in the region. They are worth zero for the time being. Travel to the next major settlement may change that.

5. How rare is each spell in your setting?

Uncounted thousands of spells have been created over the course of the multiverse’s history, and many of them are long forgotten. Some might yet lie recorded in crumbling spellbooks hidden in ancient ruins or trapped in the minds of dead gods. Or they might someday be reinvented by a character who has amassed enough power and wisdom to do so. (Chapter 10, Spellcasting, What is a Spell?)

If some of those 4th and 5th level spells are comparatively rare, the price for those spells alone can massively swing the price of the book(s) upwards.

Option: trade for a magic item

These books have significant magic in them; it might be more fitting to try and trade these tomes of magic for a magic item in the rare to very rare category, if such can be had. This is another opening for a mini-quest or adventure to find and negotiate a trade with a special NPC.

1 Using the description in the PHB, it had also cost at least 202 hours of time for someone, but how to measure that in terms of value is an open question.

• Im not sure someone would pay that much money for a book only to have to pay close to the same amount to copy the spells after... Jul 10, 2018 at 19:06
• @Mindwin Since there isn't a rule for it, I provided a rational baseline price to be adjusted for by the level of magic in your game. My answer is similar to the sunk cost model offered by Bloodciner. A perfectly valid answer is 'you're the DM, you figure it out' but I don't think you'd find that a helpful answer. So I offered a logical baseline To Start From. Jul 10, 2018 at 20:05
• @TimGrant Not to my view: spells you use from the book are usable again and again, and can be used for barter with other wizards if there's a spell you want to learn from them. Scrolls are consumable. (but not a bad idea that you bring up) Jul 10, 2018 at 20:22
• @TimGrant also, scrolls offer a way to cast additional spells without using spell slots which may be more valuable depending on the intended use Jul 10, 2018 at 20:42
• @BlakeSteel It's worth whatever you can get someone to pay for it. Also, you are now meta gaming as the NPC customer. This isn't the PC's buying the book, it is the PCs selling it. Also, I do not say that there is one price. The whole answer covers why the price varies. The whole greater than the sum is related to gourmet chef. It is in the creation that extra value is added. Jul 10, 2018 at 21:34

The opportunity cost of 50gp + (50gp × the total spell levels) is a good baseline for the market value of a spellbook.

The original wizard who wrote a spellbook incurred the following monetary expenses to produce it: 50gp to buy the blank spellbook, plus an extra 50gp times the spell level for each spell copied into it (which excludes spells gained at 1st level or by gaining a level and disregards any school discounts).

However, that's only the monetary cost spent by the original wizard, not counting time and effort. The spellbook is worth more to another wizard than the original wizard spent in money to fill it. If another wizard buys the spellbook, they are benefiting not only from the original wizard's monetary expense when copying spells into the book but also from the original wizard's expense in time and effort for gaining those spells that came only through study (level-up spells).

Thus, it would be reasonable for another wizard to pay as much for the spellbook as it would cost them to be able to buy a blank spellbook and replicate the original, disregarding their own school-specific discounts (since they aren't putting in the time or effort themselves to copy it). Under these assumptions, the book is worth 50gp, plus 50gp times the total spell levels of the spells contained in it in order to replicate it. This is the book's opportunity cost.

For your particular spellbooks, this cost would be as follows.

• The first book's total spell levels are 1(10)+2(5)+3(4)+4(2)=40, for a total of 2,050gp.
• The second book's total spell levels are 1(12)+2(6)+3(5)+4(3)+5(2)=61, for a total of 3,100gp.
• The total for both books would be 5,150gp.

It's then up to you decide whether that opportunity cost is the appropriate market value of such a spellbook. Note that another wizard's spellbook is of limited use (see this question on using another wizard's spellbook), but whether that affects its market value is something only you as the DM can decide based on the setting of your campaign and how you might allow such a spellbook to be used (as discussed in your companion question).

• @Bloodcinder, I like your eco-maginomics. There's one thing I'm not quite sure about though. Let's say a purchasing wizard already has every spell in the for-sale book. How would that book be worth anything to them? On the other hand, perhaps the spellbook contains a single spell that the wizard wants and has been unable to obtain elsewhere, and in that case that book could be worth a great deal to that wizard.
– Jack
Jul 10, 2018 at 21:54
• I'm only providing the opportunity cost in general, not for a specific buyer. You probably wouldn't want to buy a book that only had one useful spell in it for that kind of price. Jul 10, 2018 at 23:47