Rare Book MonthlyNew Letter
Letters to the Editor
. December 03, 2006
AE article on eBay signatures auction prices
I'm a subscriber who enjoys the newsletter quite a bit, and I usually find it very helpful.
Was surprised and disappointed though at the article by Burnham on eBay signatures. I thought it very poorly done -- leaving only a few sentences of warning about fakes. eBay is clearly flooded with both fake signatures and fake COA's to go with them. There should be a great deal of warning -- this article, I think, rather encouraged the sheep to gladly go to the wolves. Not enough is being said anywhere about the rampant dishonestly on eBay, and I think a professional outfit like AE cannot simply touch on eBay lightly like this without dealing with this issue.
There is a great difference between the remaining outlets with professional standards and the "buyer beware" sites -- and AE should clearly stand with the former.
Sleepy Hollow Bookshops
We appreciate the heads up on the fraud issues pointed out in this letter and the one which follows. There are some wonderful opportunities on eBay, but it is very much a "buyer beware" forum, and this issue should have been pointed out, including that of phony signatures, COAs, and just about anything else. There are definite advantages to buying from reputable auction houses and dealers, and this security is what one can lose when tracking down deals on eBay.
. December 02, 2006
re: "Top Values of Signed Books on eBay"
I have a problem with a bookseller advising, "Try to make sure that the signature is authentic, that it has a certificate of authority (COA)..."
We all know they are worth only the paper they are printed on, and I'm surprised that the Americana Exchange published such a statement.
. November 02, 2006
One comment I have made to a number of show promoters: Take the
"Antiquarian" out of the show title. Many people who would be otherwise
curious about a book fair or even beginning collectors, are utterly
intimidated by the high-falutin' sound of "Antiquarian." Nor does the term
truly represent the largest percentage of the stock at shows.
It's up to promoters to make their shows as widely-appealing as
possible....to one and all. I'm not suggesting free balloons and popcorn,
but there is plenty of opportunity to make them more attractive, as well as
to offer educational programs and displays.
Certainly the rising interest in ephemera of all sorts presents one
opportunity to expand the context of the traditional "book fair" in creating
Good talking with whomever that was at the entrance to the Seattle show a
few weeks ago. Nice report, too!
The Prints & The Paper
Thank you for the comment. My wife Jenny and I made the trip to
Seattle to speak with folks about their show experience and I'm glad
we had the chance to meet.
. November 01, 2006
Thank you for the AE monthly.
I take exception with Michael Stillman's classification of ABE as
"the largest old and used books listing site". It is no longer in the
main "old and used".
With the inclusion of relisters, print on demand, new books, mass
marketers of remainder stock, they are clearly not targeted at "old
and used". The latest inclusion of a quantity field verifies that and
it will be interesting to see how this is used by some of the bulk
By their own admission the formal antiquarian bookdealer (as opposed
to home, basement, & charity sellers) who after all is the purveyor
of the "old and used" is no longer their target and this section of
the industry provides a diminishing selection of books on this site.
100 million listings is a lot of listings, but 100 million books?
Pure marketing hype, they are a long way from that.
. November 01, 2006
This is a great issue. I am really getting a lot out of the material.
Thank you for providing such informative content.
San Antonio, Texas
. November 01, 2006
We thank you for your newsletter. Joe has been selling books for over 50 years now through several book shops and mailing lists. Thirty years ago we used an inky, messy mimeograph machine and a typewriter to get our book lists into the mail.
Times have certainly changed....a lot.
Keep 'em coming,
J & T Nie
piratelady October 21, 2006
I am looking for a forum to sell some antique books. Could you please direct me to an appropriate venue?
The first question is whether these are valuable old books or ordinary ones. This will determine the appropriate course. If you do not know, I would first go to the Advanced Search screen at www.abebooks.com, enter title, author, date and publisher, to see whether other copies of what you have are being offered, and if so, for what prices. The asking prices on Abe are likely higher than you can expect to get, but at least it will give you a ballpark whether what you have is valuable or common. If you don't find your books even offered on Abe, then they may be relatively rare, and perhaps (though not necessarily) valuable. At this point, you might want to purchase a short-term Visitor's membership to this site and search the AE Bibliographic Database, as this may find records on pricier books than are found on Abe. Once you have an idea what your titles are worth, you will not only have a better idea of where to sell, but just as importantly, how much to sell for.
Among the selling sites for books are Abebooks, Alibris, Choosebooks, and the "Books for Sale" on this site. All have their strengths, but the charges and technical requirements make selling on these sites more appropriate for a bookseller, rather than an individual. However, if you have a large quantity of reasonably valuable books, you may want to consider becoming one, even if only temporarily. I believe amateurs can still offer books for sale via Amazon without incurring a charge unless they sell, but Amazon is more a marketplace for used and not so valuable antique books rather than valuable old ones. Of course, there is always eBay. Don't shrug this one off. It can be good for middle range old books, perhaps valued in the $50-$100 range. Sometimes you will get a good price, other times you won't, but this is your best shot at selling them and selling them quickly.
If you discover that what you have is of reasonable value, you may want to contact an auction house or a bookseller. Major auction houses can be found under the link to "auction houses" on the sidebar. The largest houses like Sotheby's and Christie's will probably only be interested if your average book is worth in the thousands, but others will go for books in the $100+ range, some even $50. They may get good value for you on some books, not on others, but they should be able to move a lot of inventory quickly. If your books are of lower value, perhaps a local auction house will be interested.
If your books are of some value, you may also find an interested bookseller. They may be willing to come in and buy the whole lot. If a higher value, you may want to look for someone who specializes in the type you have, even if far away. Otherwise, a local seller is more appropriate. Be sure you get a handle on value first, as some booksellers will be honest in their valuations, while others will lowball you hoping you don't notice the difference.
. October 20, 2006
On your site you state Southerans of London as being the oldest book shop in the world (1761).
I thought you might like to know that there are a few older bookshops in The UK,
the oldest in the world being Cambridge University Press Bookshop (1581).
Institute of Biotechnology
University of Cambridge
. October 12, 2006
Thank you for the interesting article about the Betjeman hoax. For me, however, this was slightly spoilt by four mistakes:
1. There is no such word as "shined". The part participle of "shine" is, of course, "shone".
2. The writer says that Sir John Betjeman is "not exactly a household name". This may be the case in America, and clearly the writer had never heard of him before learning about the hoax, but the fact remains that Sir John is without any doubt the most famous and best loved English poet in history. Ask 100 English (not Scottish) people to name one English poet and probably 98 of them will say Betjeman, even if they can't spell it. (The Scots would go for Burns, of course).
3. "Hoaxter" might be an American word, I'm not sure, but over here the word is "hoaxer".
4. "The universe contains about one person" is not a very acurate statement unless we are talking about some very deep philosophy indeed. I think the word "such" has been accidentally omitted.
You will have to forgive us Americans for not being very adept at speaking United Kingdomish. In a land where we count George W. Bush among the "best and the brightest," just four errors in an article should be looked upon as a step forward.
. October 11, 2006
I just read your article on the stolen Mormon books from DUP and our subsequent involvment. I just thought I'd point out that your story had a couple of things wrong.
1. The books were not worth 1 million dollars; they were poor quality Mormon books and were probably worth little more than $200,000. The more the story progressed the more the press and the police added to their value.
2. The two books offered to Eborn Books were not two first editions. One was a 1858 New York edition worth about $2,000. We offered $1,000 for that one. The other book was indeed a first edition, but it a) had no title page; b) had about 30 missing pages; c) did not have the original binding; and d) was in horrible condition. (DUP didn't even know it was a first edition; they had it listed as an "unknown edition missing title page." At best it was worth $20,000 and we offered $10,000 for it. [We usually pay half of what we're going to sell things for.]
Not that it really matters now; but the press and misinformation sure exaggerated the story and left out details. For example, it wasn't Lindsay who sold us the books; it was a woman. Anyway.........just thought I'd give you a few more accurate details.
Bret Eborn / Eborn Books 10-10-6
. August 25, 2006
Dear Mr. McKinney,
I'm at last catching up on my reading this evening, and am enjoying your August issue of AE monthly (as I enjoy all of your issues).
I was particularly anxious to read about your travels through upstate New York, having been born there and having spent the last three years in Syracuse. I was therefore particularly gratified to find mention of Joel Munsell and your interest in his imprints. Perhaps you are not aware that Syracuse University Library has, to my knowledge, the largest and most complete collection of Munselliana, formed largely by collector Henry Bannister. The collection is mostly, if not entirely cataloged, so I would encourage you to browse the Syracuse University Library online catalog. Nearby Hamilton College also has an excellent collection of Munsell imprints. Although not quite so complete as the collection at Syracuse, there are variants at Hamilton that are not found in the Syracuse collection. At Syracuse, the most knowledgeable person about the Munsell and Bannister is curator William La Moy.
Now back to my reading, and your next article.
Director, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia
. August 24, 2006
re: Texas Missing Documents
Dear Bruce and Michael:
I was glad to see on Americana Exchange Michael Stillman's article about the missing Texas documents, even if I do not agree with some of the statements.
I think it would have been a great service to everyone to post the link to the Texas Missing List, making it possible for collectors, dealers, auction houses, appraisers, and institutional buyers to know what is missing.
Here is the link: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/missingintro.html
I have worked with the State and Texana quite a bit, and I can tell you that the State of Texas is incredibly conservative and even-handed in its claims. If you want to see other cases of replevin of documents gone missing long ago, check out the current case in South Carolina. That makes Texas look exceedingly mild.
The best intelligence on the Texas Missing List is in the State's internet inventory and statement.
sam August 23, 2006
I have two books in manuscript of the late great indian poets, writers, and writups with their Sketch and painting since 1941.
Can You suggest me the best auction prise will be and how can i realise its value.
. August 01, 2006
re: "Texas Sues Private Owner"
I always read each AE monthly avidly, but I did have a concern with Michael
Stillman's piece on Texas. In no place did the word "replevin" appear, and
the case clearly derives from the principle of replevin. I was bit surprised
not to see the word mentioned. Would you please direct Michael to the
Manuscript Society (which has a "Replevin fund"), on the question (Oak
Knoll has just started distributing their titles). A number of state
archivists have started pursuing replevin vigorously since the 1990s, and it
looks like Texas has joined that number. It's a hot button issue with
You might also consider having an interview with Rich Oram of UT's Harry
Ransom Center (he's also current chair of the RBMS Committee on Theft), to
talk about the HRC's attempt to retrieve books stolen by a volunteer, and
you might use his comments and HRC's strategy to contrast with how
archivists have used replevin. HRC has a "compensation fund" which, while
it seems to be used to "buy" back books, is being used to compensate
innocent buyers, and seems to make people more amenable to returning books.
I was quite skeptical of the idea, but personal experience has changed my
I can't recall if replevin was used in repatriating the North Carolina Bill
of Rights which were liberated from that state by a Yankee soldier.
Paul W. Romaine
Michael Stillman's Response
Thank you for the heads up on replevin and the Manuscript Society's involvement. The legal doctrine of replevin does not appear to be used in this case for two reasons, though the underlying principle is involved. To the best of my recollection, "replevin" is one of those old common law concepts that applies to the return of goods inappropriately converted, or taken. The reasons why it does not appear to be used here are:
(1). Texas has a specific statute which enables governmental entities to take back old public records. There is no reason to employ older, less certain common law rules when you have a clear statute that allows you to act.
(2). The replevin rules are based on an improper taking of the material. From what I can see, no one has made the claim of improper taking in the Texas case, and if that is what they believe, it does not mean the state can prove it. The Texas statute makes it easier to retrieve the goods as it does not require proving the material was inappropriately taken, which could be difficult here. Most likely it was, but it is also possible they sold the material or simply tossed it away.
Of course this is a special circumstance, these being public documents and Texas having a specific law dealing with the issue. The greater overall issue is more difficult. Certainly the monitoring of sites like eBay for stolen material is an important issue, and the fact of wrongful taking much easier to establish on material that recently disappeared. Material that disappeared long ago is harder to establish rights and wrongs. There must have been tons of old government records thrown away as junk two centuries ago which today would be valuable. Should the government have a right to seize, without compensation, things legally obtained long ago because it is now valuable? I have books sold off by libraries that lack deaccession stamps, though I know they were legally obtained (I bought them myself years ago). How could I prove now I bought the books rather than stole them? Should libraries be able to go back and seize the books they sold off a century ago because today they are valuable? Will I have to return arrowheads thousands of years old since perhaps they were stolen from some ancient Indian leaders? This whole issue is an enormous can of worms, and hard to figure out how to settle fairly. However, the creation of a fund to recompense innocent owners of such material is, at least, helpful.
. August 01, 2006
re: "Truth in Pricing"
I read the article about real prices. It's very interesting. For us trying to sell from Australia its even more frustrating. With the average cost of a novel of $10.00 australian and the shipping of a book over 1 kg. to the USA being $ 28.00 by air, often I get an inquiry for an oversea sale that fails on the cost of shipping. When I send a set of books to the USA weighing just over 5 kg, the books cost 65.00 the postage 112.00. and now the Australian post is stopping the economy air from the beginning of September. Apparently this is a world wide trend to remove the most cost effective transport.
for Medlow Bath Books
. August 01, 2006
re: Upstate New York Perspective
You are not wrong! I have around 700 books on-line. My stock here is 12,000
. July 23, 2006
Dear Mr. McKinney,
Congratulations on your fine editorial re admitted map thief E. Forbes Smiley III. You made a number of excellent points ("first-time caught").
I hope you will also write to the judges involved in sentencing Mr. Smiley. I have heard that Smiley's college friends (who never knew how he conducted his business) will undertake a letter writing campaign on his behalf.
The more the judges hear from those who see the damage he has caused, the better the chance that he will get an appropriate sentence.
Thanks for listening.
George Ritzlin Antique Maps & Prints
1937 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201
Member ABAA, ILAB
? July 13, 2006
If a questionable request is received, Microsoft Outlook provides a way of verifying it. Open the message, go to "View", click on "Options", and voila- you will have all the internet headings!
. July 03, 2006
re: Editorial about map thief
Bravo on your recent article. It really is quite perfect and it made me feel happy to support your site!
. July 01, 2006
A Bookseller Responds to Whining about Abe and the "Big A's"
First, thank you very much for your informative newsletter. I look forward to it.
I've been following the letters about the big 'A's, especially ABE. I've heard enough whining from booksellers.
I am a small bookseller selling on ABE. I am pulling the ABE oxcart, under their lash, which is loaded with my books. I must take my beating because there is no other practical way to transport my books. No matter how much they beat me, I will continue pulling their cart. They know this. I shall not whine about it. I shall be a realist and know that there will be no 'cart-pullers' strike, bookseller's union, or mass exodus or mass anything else, other than the mass whining we now hear. I must pull ABE's cart because they're the biggest cart out there.
All this talk is a bit like the talk about gasoline prices. The price can't get high enough to curtail driving. Everybody knows it, especially the oil companies. You're not going to see any mass parking of cars anytime soon, and you're not going to see any mass movement away from ABE either. They're too big and care only about their bottom line, as they should, and as you should care about yours. One way is to increase prices to pay for the ABE increase. That's something we could all do. It's easy to do and effective, but most dealers think 'Heaven forbid we should ask the consumer to stand part of the cost'.
Another thing professional booksellers need to suspect is that the bulk of 'book dealers' on ABE are not full-time booksellers earning their living from bookselling. Many are 'basement booksellers' with another income and ABE can't flog THEM hard enough to get them to slip out of the harness. They'll keep pulling the cart. Trust me on that one. So all you professional booksellers 'don't make a hill of beans' as Bogart said. When ABE increases their commission to 10 percent, which is surely on the way, they'll not even see a blip in their bottom line. They'll wave the whip and smile all the way to the bank, as they should.
ABE's intent, as is proper, is to make money for ABE owners. They're not going to give up Print on Demand or mulitple listings or anything else that makes them money. No one can fault them for that. What booksellers should do is pass ABE costs on to the consumer.
That's the way things work, folks. Pass the cost on or slip the harness and quit pulling. Above all, quit whining.
. July 01, 2006
re: Smiley Map Case
With respect to the decisions in the Smiley case, it is my understanding that all investigational aspects are not yet fully closed. The best place to keep up-to-date on many of the issues involved is, in my opinion, Tony Campbell's ongoing entries at the Map History site, specifically: http://www.maphistory.info/theftlinks.html#smiley.
Regards, Joel Kovarsky
Unstated June 01, 2006
re: William Blake Sale
I am a "William Blake" fan and have been for a long time. Greed, Greed, Greed. The world of "taste", "quality" and honorable love of the arts is falling rapidly by the wayside. What else can you expect from people who truly lack the amenities of life. But in the very end respect for these so called people of culture will be gone.
Bookaday May 04, 2006
We've read your articles regarding e-bay and auctions in general and you have made some interesting and worthwhile observations. We have been selling books online for several years and have only attempted e-bay auctions once, with several Limited Editions Club books in very good condition. In addition, we have been selling antiques and ephemera at shows and markets for a substantial while longer. We have some of our own observations which supplement your own.
First, as to e-bay:
(a)there's entirely too much "stuff" out there and much of it is "trash", and this goes for all merchandise;
(b) we have observed that with e-bay available, everyone fancies themselves a "dealer". Knowledge is not a pre-requisite, just buy cheap and re-sell on e-bay and make your fortune. Alas, if this were so easy we could all be rich.
(c) despite e-bay's attempts to insure that people will treat others fairly and be treated fairly, there are too many horror stories of merchandise arriving and it is not as described and attempting to get your refund is all but impossible or such a hassle that it is not worth the time;
(d) it takes time and effort to correctly list an item and be available to answer all the questions (even stupid ones) that inevitably come up.
I know a retired gentleman who regularly lists on e-bay, but generally can't list more than 15-20 items per week because he has estimated that each item, from start to shipping, usually takes over an hour. Now, as to the effect that all of this has had on the markets (the antique and flea and show market), what we have found is that many customers come to these shows looking for the bargain to list on e-bay and expext to pay $1.29 for everything, then tell you that they have to make a profit. Well! I guess that us dealers only do this as our charitable contribution to society!! We also get the feedback that dealers don't bring "good stuff" to shows and markets because they sell it on e-bay. Nothing is farther from the truth. The dealers who work these shows and markets prefer to deal with knowledgable buyers who can see what they're buying, understand what it is and buy, or, if time permits to deal with a buyer who would like to be educated (and hopefully become a repeat customer) by a knowledgable seller. But with the atmosphere e-bay has created, many items that would be available to knowledgable dealers are no longer so, since they can all be sold on e-bay. That makes it difficult to keep everyone happy.
We occassionally find the middle ground in that we often accept consignments from prospective sellers who do not want to sell at a discounted price to a dealer, yet, are willing to wait for a sale at a price determined by both seller & consigner. That price can be reduced as necessary until, as a last resort, it can always be sent to auction. We refer to auctions as a last resort because the two major factors for a good (meaning successful for a seller) auction are, first, it has to be a decent item and, second, two people have to want it that day. It's easy to get burned at auction and we advise potential clients that unless they need the funds right away, give consignment a try.
. May 03, 2006
This is to show you that I'm actually reading material that comes from Americana Exchange. Slowly but surely I hope to use it more as time goes by. The keyword lookup was extremely helpful on a recent book so I'm beginning to see the value of your efforts.
Just to be somewhat contrary, however, I'm writing this note to comment on your recent editorial with respect to Ebay. I strongly feel that Ebay is the last site that will be helpful to the serious bookseller. For the occasional bookseller it should be most useful but to buy good books you have to pay good money. It doesn't just happen by the luck of the lottery. To sell those books on an economic ongoing regular business basis the chances that one takes by putting books up for sale on Ebay would lead to certain downfall.
It is fine for the masses but when you have to buy books you also have to hold them many times for extended periods of time. There is a very substantial investment in doing so. Oftentimes the recouping of one's investment takes months, even years, and not even the breadth of Ebay's market replaces the unique conditions that surround the sale of good books. That is why Amazon, Alibris, and Abebooks are much closer to the appropriate methodology, as is the use of serious auctions with serious catalogs and research. Who should know this better than the Americana Exchange.
Eveleigh Books & Stamps
buzzard509 May 02, 2006
I find eBay an excellent source for both buying and selling rare books. I bid about 100 items a week and win about 10% of the time but when I do win I get a great bargin. Most of the items I win I end up reselling on ebay at a big profit mostly because the previous seller was a novice or an idiot. It is pretty easy to buy items off abebooks and sell them on eBay for big profits if you are paying attention.