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

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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