Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

Four eBay Bookselling Tips

Susanhalas10-10

Bookseller Susan Halas offers her tips on profiting from eBay.


By Susan Halas

A lot of you, like me, are on-line antiquarian booksellers who sell older books and other vintage material such as maps, prints, photos and ephemera via the Internet. Some of you have web sites, others list on book bases. Many of you distain eBay because you think it's for bottom feeders only. I may be a minority opinion, but I think eBay is one of the better places to sell antiquarian books and paper and also to realize above average prices.

As a bookseller for over thirty years and an eBay seller for more than ten, here are a few suggestions that you may find of interest:

Tip #1: BOOKS is not the best category to list books

Selling on eBay has gone through many twists and turns since I first started listing there in the 1990s. In its most recent incarnation the category "books" and its sub-category "antiquarian and collectible" is NOT the best place to list an interesting older book.

That is because the books category is absolutely flooded with people who know nothing about books, nothing about what makes a book worth having, and even less about correctly describing it. Even worse, the books category limits the amount a seller can charge for shipping to $4 (which is not the case in other categories). Also in books there is a stiff additional charge for the instant enlargement feature which is offered free in a great many other categories.

So if you have a good antiquarian book, especially if it's non-fiction and want to get a good price, don't list it in books. You'll do better to list it in a subject category which often has a books sub-section and offers additional helpful features at no extra charge.

For example: the Collectibles category has a sub-section called Cultures and Ethnicities which includes just about every region and identity in the world from Afro-American to Celtic or Egyptian. Some of those subsets like Native American and Western American have further subsets such as books. Even if there is no subset books offered in a particular culture category, it still may be a better place to list a book than books, because that's the place that people interested in that culture or ethnicity browse. I'm a Hawaii-based dealer and when I have a good Hawaii book, I don't list it in books, I list it in Cultures and Ethnicities> Hawaii> Other.

Or, if I have something a hundred years old, or even early 20th century, I list it in Antiques>Books & Manuscripts>American because that category is less crowded and it often has more sophisticated people browsing and selling in it. Books = common and cheap. Antiques = precious and rare.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
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  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
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    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
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  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
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    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.

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