Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2014 Issue

It's not easy being green

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More lots posted since the recent sale ended

Alice Springer at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library spoke with me last week as 21 items the Friends had posted on eBay were grinding toward their conclusion.  The sale had come to my attention when the Queen Anne Neighborhood News Blog mentioned it in my Google newsfeed under rare books.  I had written an article about the San Francisco Friends a month earlier, about their very successful program of converting donations into cash using a variety of strategies; book fairs, used book shops, online and eBay listings.  Here was a chance to see what another library was doing and in particular what they were doing on eBay, a particularly tough marketplace and not one for the faint hearted.

 

The material the Seattle Friends posted was 21 items most of which have ISBN numbers and therefore are capital C common.  Such items tend to have competing copies for sale on Abe Books, in fact thousands in total for the items listed.  eBay auctions, in my experience, tend to be for special, not necessarily valuable, but somewhat uncommon material and with few exceptions this wasn’t what was offered.   Twenty of the 21 items had a starting price [with no reserves] of $9.95.  The other item was mysteriously priced to start at $54.95 and in fact sold for $63.00.  The sixteen items that sold brought $445.26.

 

The material was eclectic.  Okay, it was more random than eclectic and few people in the book business sell that way.  They focus and they concentrate because they know browsers, if they see one item they like, may look at other listings from the same seller.  When the material is eclectic it is almost always a bad sign.

 

For the Friends of the Seattle Public Library there is also some good news.  Few people have seen this experiment and the number of lots listed by the seller’s name [25] say both that this seller is new and doesn’t yet know how best to succeed on eBay.  The Seattle Friends will figure it out.

 

Here are a few suggestions.

 

Just like the big guys do each sale should have a focus.  If the subject is games it should be all games.  It the focus is books signed by their authors every copy should be signed.  If the subject is Seattle and local history every book should be relevant.  If at some point you offer more valuable material such sales should occur at predictable times and be promoted.  To the layman auctions may seem to occur randomly but in fact there are regular and deep patterns.

 

If the library can reach out to area professional booksellers they can provide valuable insight.  One of the inside point men at San Francisco Friends’ selling operations today was once a book dealer.

 

The opportunity for the Seattle Friends is enormous.  The bottom has fallen out of the low end of the trade, now weakened to a point where large-scale library operations employing volunteer labor have real advantages for handling and reselling such material.  In truth such material has fewer places to go and many, and I suspect most, people reject the idea of simply throwing their books away.  So they will welcome the chance to donate them and libraries around the world will have the opportunity to do well by doing good.

 

So take heart Seattle.  The tide is coming in.  To quote Kermit, it’s not easy being green but in time the program will generate some serious money.

 

Here's a link to their website:

www.friendsofspl.org/online-sales.php 

 

Here’s a link to their recent sale:

www.ebay.com/sch/friendsofspl/m.html?_ipg=50&_sop=12&_rdc=1


Posted On: 2014-07-01 14:14
User Name: islandification

Always a fun day to drive some distance to a sale and pay some money to get in, just to find yourself sifting through junk because the better books are only sold online.


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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