Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2012 Issue

Tips from an eBay Power Seller

Tools of the trade

The tools of the trade.

Those are good questions. One way to find out is by carefully reading the higher priced listings, especially listings by dealers who are ABAA members. An ABAA designation still inspires a certain degree of confidence.

Conversely, don’t be misled by sellers who place absurd prices on what your research shows to be more common wares.

Then look how many copies are really listed. Are there over a 100 different copies available? Or, are there really only six copies, but each one listed in a dozen different places? On ADDall you can tell at a glance.

But, ADDall only tells you what’s listed. It doesn’t tell you what sold or the selling price or how recently.

Next go to eBay and do a search of “completed items” using a variety of key words Search for something that’s identical or close to identical to what is in your hand. Search for look-alikes with good clear photos. Don’t just search in “books,” because “books” is not always the best category to either buy or sell. Search “all categories.” EBay completed items only go back a few months, but that’s far enough to determine if there are a lot of other competing items and interest and success generated.

Americana Exchange the Most Reliable

Finally, do you have a hunch it might be worth north of $100? If that happens frequently subscribe to the Americana Exchange data base.

Americana Exchange is the best, most complete and most reliable estimation of current market value in the book world today. Americana Exchange auction records search (a by- subscription feature) will surface prices realized, comparables, frequency and condition. It’s not infallible, but it is reliable. In a world filled with hype and guess work it’s a very good deal, especially if you’re a seller.

The combination of those three searches will usually result in a fair estimate of current market value.

But sellers don’t just want to get the current market value, they want to get more. Not surprisingly, sellers want top dollar.

Start High

I was fortunate to be born into the antiquarian book business a long time ago and to learn the trade from my parents who were ABAA dealers for 50 years. From my wise elders I learned it is easier to come down from a high price than to go up from a low one.

So a lot of times - no matter what the research says - I will pick a starting price that is, to put it kindly, “optimistic.”

I also learned from my folks that if it’s yours and you only have one copy, it doesn’t matter what the auction records say, or how many copies are listed, all you really need is one (1) buyer who is willing to pay your price.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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