Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

Four eBay Bookselling Tips

Susanhalas10-10

Bookseller Susan Halas offers her tips on profiting from eBay.


By Susan Halas

A lot of you, like me, are on-line antiquarian booksellers who sell older books and other vintage material such as maps, prints, photos and ephemera via the Internet. Some of you have web sites, others list on book bases. Many of you distain eBay because you think it's for bottom feeders only. I may be a minority opinion, but I think eBay is one of the better places to sell antiquarian books and paper and also to realize above average prices.

As a bookseller for over thirty years and an eBay seller for more than ten, here are a few suggestions that you may find of interest:

Tip #1: BOOKS is not the best category to list books

Selling on eBay has gone through many twists and turns since I first started listing there in the 1990s. In its most recent incarnation the category "books" and its sub-category "antiquarian and collectible" is NOT the best place to list an interesting older book.

That is because the books category is absolutely flooded with people who know nothing about books, nothing about what makes a book worth having, and even less about correctly describing it. Even worse, the books category limits the amount a seller can charge for shipping to $4 (which is not the case in other categories). Also in books there is a stiff additional charge for the instant enlargement feature which is offered free in a great many other categories.

So if you have a good antiquarian book, especially if it's non-fiction and want to get a good price, don't list it in books. You'll do better to list it in a subject category which often has a books sub-section and offers additional helpful features at no extra charge.

For example: the Collectibles category has a sub-section called Cultures and Ethnicities which includes just about every region and identity in the world from Afro-American to Celtic or Egyptian. Some of those subsets like Native American and Western American have further subsets such as books. Even if there is no subset books offered in a particular culture category, it still may be a better place to list a book than books, because that's the place that people interested in that culture or ethnicity browse. I'm a Hawaii-based dealer and when I have a good Hawaii book, I don't list it in books, I list it in Cultures and Ethnicities> Hawaii> Other.

Or, if I have something a hundred years old, or even early 20th century, I list it in Antiques>Books & Manuscripts>American because that category is less crowded and it often has more sophisticated people browsing and selling in it. Books = common and cheap. Antiques = precious and rare.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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