Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2007 Issue

eBay: Notes from the front

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A time and money saving tool.


By Bruce McKinney

This month I want to discuss two ways to improve your eBay experience. eBay and Google lie on one side of the tectonic shift; traditional bookselling, listing sites and book fairs on the other. The world of books doesn't only break down into these two halves of course. It also breaks down into an infinite number of combinations of these elements depending on personal perspective and experience. Google and eBay are built on concentric models, almost everyone else on sequential ones. For some folks eBay is an enemy. For others it's too complex. For many it's an unknown, and for others inaccessible. For an increasingly large group it's indispensable. This article is for those who regularly evaluate eBay listings and sometimes bid.

A month ago I signed-up for PowerSnipe [www.powersnipe.com], an automated bidding system. With it I can, for any lot, immediately enter a maximum price which they execute on my behalf as the auction expires. This differs from eBay's software which accepts my bid but exposes it as others post bids against me during the sale. Here is a comparison.

Posting my bid on eBay: A Gutenberg Bible, the original edition, is posted for sale with a starting bid of $100. The name is misspelled Gutenburg so I'm hopeful. In this first example I soon post a $5,000 bid via eBay. I'm the only bidder so my bid shows as $100. Over the next few days others notice the item and post their bids of $250 and $400. When the $250 bid is posted it exposes my bid at $255. When the $400 bidder posts theirs it further exposes my bid which becomes $405. Should one of these bidders or a new one next bid $1,500 my bid will become $1,525. Competitors will now click on my eBay profile and see that I sometimes buy very good items for strong prices. They'll consider whether they want to go higher and may do so. Over the final days of the auction many people will have opportunities to test my limit. I may win the item but I'm probably going to pay more than I would in the next example.

In this example I use PowerSnipe. When I find the item I save it to the items I'm following on eBay and then open my PowerSnipe account and copy and paste the item number in. The description then comes up and I'm prompted to enter a maximum price. I enter $5,000. On eBay nothing shows. I may be the first to notice the item but my bid is not visible. In fact, eBay is not even aware of it. In the mean time the $250 bidder bids and only the $100 starting price shows. When the $400 bidder arrives he shows up on top with a $255 bid. At this point I'm aware but not visible. As the sale winds down a third bidder enters and bids $1,500. He's now on top but shows only $405. With a few seconds to go my $5,000 bid appears. No one has any time to react to me. The auction ends and I buy the Bible for $1,525.

The cost of this service is $59.99 for a year. When I recently signed up it was offered for $45. They currently offer a one month free trial. If you buy a few lots every week you'll have the money back in no time.

There are several other services online offering similar capabilities and one of our members emailed us that they prefer esnipe. I'm an advocate of the process. We have no relationship to any bidding services and receive no commissions from any of them.

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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