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What To Do With An Old Encyclopedia Set – Don’t Throw It

If you find an old encyclopedia set lying around in your garage, closet, or attic, don’t toss it just yet.

Old encyclopedias can contain a treasure trove of information from centuries ago.

In fact, they can be a perfect resource for anyone trying to learn more about history or the natural world.

However, in this age of the internet, you may wonder about what to do with an old encyclopedia set.

Almost everything can be found online with the click of a mouse.

There is no need to purchase an encyclopedia set any more.

But if you already have old and dated encyclopedias on your hands, there are plenty of creative ways to put them to use.

What to do with an old encyclopedia set, 10 practical ideas

Encyclopedias have always been a great source of information.

In the old days, an encyclopedia set was a prized possession for many families, who relied on it for answers to all sorts of questions.

Some encyclopedias are now available online.

But you may have some volumes from an older set that you no longer need or use.

Since you shouldn’t throw these books away (that would be a waste), allow them to have a new lease on life by utilizing them in a practical manner.

Here are a few ideas of what to do with an old encyclopedia set.

Use them as display pieces

Do you feel like your living room is a museum of sorts?

Is there a special display piece you’d like to showcase?

Why not utilize an encyclopedia set in this manner?

They can come in handy for such home décor projects.

If you have an old encyclopedia of astronomy, for instance, put the books on a shelf or table where you can see them.

Or, if you have an old encyclopedia of plants, use them as decorative pieces or room decorations.

The good thing is that you won’t lack ideas on where or how to display them.

Pinterest and other sites offer plenty of ideas for using old encyclopedias as display pieces.

So, instead of tossing the set in a corner and letting the books be forgotten, you can make use of them in a creative manner.

Use the books as reference tools

Did you know that some encyclopedias come with page markers that let you find the page you want quickly?

The works of ancient authors like Aristotle, Galen, and Pliny are often referred to by name.

As the pages of your old encyclopedias are still okay (some may have yellowed), they can be very handy for locating passages or references on a particular subject.

If you have an old encyclopedia on military history, for instance, use the markers to locate pertinent passages on battles, generals and strategies.

The encyclopedias are also useful as a reference tool for topics like architecture, biology and astronomy.

You can find a lot of useful facts and figures in these works.

And surprisingly, some of this information might not have found its way to the internet just yet.

Use encyclopedias as research tools

Many people only use Wikipedia as a research resource nowadays.

It is the go-to resource when you want to learn new things about the world or even specific subjects.

Sure it’s a bit easier to get the information you need from the internet but it can be fun to do the research and compile the facts yourself.

Use your old encyclopedia set to compile research information.

This is especially useful if you are doing a school project and need additional facts, figures and historical references.

Your old encyclopedias can be ideal for such tasks and will give you a chance to revisit the world of facts and figures that existed long before Google came along.

While utilizing an old encyclopedia as a research tool, make sure you check the dates of publication.

You don’t want to use outdated or biased information for your paper or project.

Donate to a local school

Do you have any old encyclopedias that don’t really serve much purpose anymore but have some value to them?

If you have an old encyclopedia on local history, for instance, donate the set to your local school.

This can be a wonderful way of helping out the local community and school by donating the books.

Ask the school director if they would be interested in receiving the encyclopedias.

If they would, then that is great news.

Of course they’ll take the age of the books in consideration since a lot of the old encyclopedias are very old and completely outdated.

For that reason, they might not be useful to them but they still have some value.

If they don’t need the books, that’s okay too.

Just have them placed in the school library as a part of the historical archive.

Your old encyclopedias can go a long way in helping out a local school to learn more about their own community and its heritage.

Give them away to charity

Donating old encyclopedias allows you to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Most charities and non-profit organizations are always in need of books that can help them conduct their research and find information on subjects relating to their foundations.

If you are a philanthropist, then donating your old encyclopedias to a charity can be a noble way of making your mark as well as helping out others.

Needy children and students also benefit from old encyclopedias.

So, seek out a charity that offers help to poor children and students and donate your old encyclopedia set.

You can also ask people you know if they know of any good causes in your area that need donations.

Let them know you have an old encyclopedia set (don’t just offer it to them without asking) and see if they need the books.

Sell your old encyclopedia set

If you are like most people and would rather spend your money on something more practical, sell your old encyclopedias.

Take advantage of popular sites like e-bay to see how much they could be worth.

It might surprise you since there are a lot of people out there who collect old encyclopedia sets.

Remember that they still have some value even if they are outdated and outdated information can be useful in some cases.

You’ll need to research the market and how much your particular encyclopedias are worth.

Also, make sure you research the shipping costs and how you can ship them safely and in a timely manner.

Keep in mind, most people aren’t looking to purchase a set of obsolete encyclopedias.

Therefore, to sell your old encyclopedia set, you need to include some valuable information that makes them unique and interesting.

Finally, don’t just sell them for a quick buck.

Think about the difference you can make by passing on the knowledge and wisdom contained in these books.

In the long run, that’s what will matter to you.

Give them to your kids

Those of you who have children will know that the kids love old books.

They are great for role-playing and the information in them is something both the adults and children can learn from.

Depending on their ages, you can give your children old encyclopedias to play with.

However, it’s important to make sure the books are age-appropriate since some kids can be a real handful.

Older kids can get quite precious about their “old books”.

Some of you might be skeptical about giving your kids’ books that are outdated, but it’s worth it.

Kids love to read so they’ll enjoy having old encyclopedias or books in general.

You can tell them these are old and out of date but still valuable because they contain information that’s very useful to them.

Besides not all encyclopedias are obsolete or useless and they can still be valuable resources to your kids.

In any case, the interaction with these books will help in developing their reading and writing skills.

Give them to a local theatre

The local theatre might have an upcoming play that requires some old books as part of the set or props.

If so, they might be willing to take your old encyclopedias, especially if they are still in good condition.

Old books can truly work well as props or set pieces since they have that antique look to them and add to the theme of certain plays.

The theatre might even agree to compensate you for the books but you never know what kind of budget they will have.

If it’s a low-budget play and your old encyclopedia set fits the bill, then give it to them free of charge.

You might also get a few tickets to the play as a thank you.

Gift them to a family member or friend

There are a lot of families and friends who are always interested in receiving gifts, especially gifts that are old books.

In that case, give them as a gift to your family and friends.

A lot of people will be happy to receive books or gifts from you.

You can even ask if they have any book-related events coming up so that you can bring them along.

There’s nothing like this particular gift for making someone smile for their birthday or any other occasion.

Ensure you’re aware of the recipient’s interests and the type of subjects they’re more interested in so that you can give them a book that they’ll really enjoy.

Don’t just give out any old encyclopedia.

Be sure to select a book that they’ll appreciate and find useful.

If you don’t know what they like to read, ask them questions that get to the basics of their interests.


It might sound a little silly but old encyclopedias can be recycled.

Consult with the local recycling service to find out whether or not your old books can be recycled.

They might be able to take your encyclopedias and dispose of them in the correct way.

This is a good thing because it helps save the environment and reduces pollution as well as having a positive impact on the environment as a whole.

Recycling old books will ensure they don’t remain in storage forever and they can be reused in other ways to help save the planet.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of ways you can repurpose your old encyclopedia set and make your money’s worth.

You can give them as gifts to family and friends, donate them to a good cause such as a charity, or recycle them.

There are no limits on what you can do with your old encyclopedia set as long as they don’t have any personal value to you.

You can go ahead and sell them or give them away if they aren’t useful to you.

Always look for the best way to dispose of your old encyclopedias but don’t just toss them out or give them to someone without asking questions first.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your personal belongings.


What’s the best thing to do with old encyclopedias?

The best thing to do with your old encyclopedias is to donate or recycle them.

You can give them to a charity or recycle the books and make sure you do it in a safe way.

Are old encyclopedia sets worth anything?

Typically, they’re not worth much but there may be the occasional case where a group buys old books for their historical value.

Other than that, most people aren’t looking to buy old encyclopedias.

They are out of date and can provide little information unless you’re willing to research them.

Only keep your books if they have personal value or contain important information that you cannot find elsewhere.

What are encyclopedias good for?

Encyclopedias are great for giving you information on a wide range of subjects.

They can be good reference tools, especially if they’re in-depth and contain a lot of information.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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