Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2013 Issue

More Tips from an eBay Power Seller

1weirdtechno

1930s Coke ad features an electric permanent wave machine.

A while back I wrote as an eBay power seller and gave a few tips I’d learned along the way from more than 14 years of selling on that the site. At this writing I have a 100% positive feedback rating and I’m pushing my 1,000th customer review; eBay is still my preferred vehicle for communicating with prospective buyers with a taste for books and older paper wares.

Here’s a second list of tips that may help you as an eBay seller.

1. Take those small advantages

The one that comes most quickly to mind is the relatively recent addition of the legal size flat rate envelope. It measures 15 x 9.5” compared with the regular flat rate size of 12 x 9.5.” That might not seem like a big difference, but it holds quite a bit more and it expands the size of books and papers that will fit easily and conveniently and travel rapidly in the mail. You probably won’t find the legal size flat rate envelope at your local post office; they are available free on line from the USPS www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-flat.htm - then click the “Order Supplies” button. You may not use them often but they do come in very handy.

The international rates for priority mail, even in flat rate boxes and envelopes, have become prohibitive, but the 1st class international package rate, while still stiff, is not nearly as costly as priority and anything up to four pounds can go as a 1st class package. The surprising thing to me is how many people are willing to pay the freight. Even with the huge international rate increases I sold as much or more abroad as in prior years.

It helps to understand that in the eyes of the post office anything that is not a letter—anything stiff -- is a package. The 1st class domestic package is also a good value, but inside the US the weight limit is 13 oz. - ideal for ephemera - but not so great for books.

2. Don’t overlook magazines

Magazines are the seller's friend. I am constantly surprised by how many periodicals are thrown away or sold for next to nothing. There is a market for periodicals with specialized content -- be it trains, doll houses or acoustic guitar music.

Some of my best sales come from magazines and what comes out of magazines. Old or new, whole or in parts, it doesn’t matter - if the image or content is attractive. There seems to be an unlimited interest in bizarre technology of an earlier age. Take this Coke ad from the 1930s showing an electric permanent wave machine. The single sheet brought a better price than an entire issue.

The same was true for a Marilyn Monroe fold out by Richard Avedon. It came from a series of photos he made in the 1950s and later ran as a double gatefold insert in the New Yorker in 1994. It opened to over 15” wide and sold fast.

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