Okay, so far Brad, it's you and me (although I'd really like to hear some contrary views!). Funny that you mention use of the word "mint" 'cause I had originally started to write on that topic too, but thought I'd save that for another thread.
Back to the "rare" discussion for a moment. It seems to me, as you point out, that dealers also ruin the word - and the sad thing is that most dealers are indeed well informed. So they get two thumbs down for leading the buyer astray. I suppose we have to give them a little leeway for putting sizzle in the sell, but geez, calling "Cues for Collectors" rare is going too far.
The same criticism can be made against dealers in using the term "mint," "very fine," etc. But of course, the same thing can also be said for the layperson. One primary problem is that we all tend to rate condition in relation to age. For example, we might see a book which is 150 tears old and say "wow, that's near mint." But what we're really saying is "geez, I'm surprised at how well this book has survived and it must be near mint considering its age." The problem with that is that everybody has their own idea of how old books should look. You've seen it on Ebay, where some antiques dealer comes up with a really tattered copy of some 19th century magic books and rates it in "very good" condition.
Basically, unlike use of the term "rare," where reasonable people can differ (you said 5 copies, I suggested 20), it IS possible to have a fairly objective standard for book condition if everybody agrees that age HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RATING CONDITION. In other words, a "near mint" book published in 2001 should look the same as one published in 1901 - or 1501. Generally, the more reptuable book dealers, such as members of the ABAA, are much more conservative in their descriptions than most in the magic trade.
Years ago, AB Bookman proposed standards of condition rating for book dealers. In fact, most of the high-quality book dealers adhere to these standards. I don't have my copy of these standards handy, but found them on the IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association) website and have copied and pasted them here, with due credit to IOBA. Basically, what follows are the AB Bookman standards as slightly modified by IOBA:
(Condition normally shown as __/__, i.e., F/F, denoting first book & then dustjacket condition)
AS NEW (AN) or VERY FINE (VF) or MINT (M): Without faults or defects, unread, in the same immaculate condition in which it was published (Note: very few "new" books qualify for this grade, as many times there will be rubs/scuffs to the dustjackets from shipping, or bumped lower spine ends/corners from shelving).
FINE (F): Approaches the above, but not crisp. May have been carefully read and dustjacket may have been slightly rubbed or spine ends slightly bumped from shelving/shipping, but no real defects or faults.
(NOTE: From here on, there may be "+" and "-" in a grade, which will mean that it is above the grade noted but not quite to the next higher grade for "+", and that it is below the grade noted but not quite to the next lower grade for "-".
NEAR FINE: Also used, although not contained in Bookman's Weekly definitions, meaning a book or dustjacket approaching FINE but with a couple of very minor defects or faults.
VERY GOOD: A used book showing some small signs of wear on either binding or dustjacket. Any defects/faults must be noted.
GOOD: The average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.
FAIR: A worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title page, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, dustjacket, etc. may also be worn. All defects/faults must be noted.
POOR or READING COPY: A book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. May be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted, and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
EX-LIBRARY: Must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book.
BOOK CLUB: Must always be noted as such no matter what the condition of the book.
BINDING COPY: A book in which the pages or leaves are perfect but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or non-existent.
Always, if issued with one, the lack of a dustjacket or slipcase should be noted."
[end of quote]
As you can see, if these standards were followed by us and by dealers in magic books, the descriptions on Ebay and in catalogs would be very different indeed. But all this makes sense to me - after all, what are the chances that a 100 year book is truly in mint or very fine condition? How is it possible that some guy on Ebay can put a picture up of a totally tattered dj with sunning on the spine and say the book is "mint" with slight wear to the dj? Ha!
When I sell my duplicates to people, I try to follow the AB Bookman standards. Usually, the recipients are pleasantly surprised -- and that's the way I like it.
I think that's enough food for thought for now. Okay, you people, come on and argue!