Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2004 Issue

Beyond the Zero Sum Game: <br>An Approach to Creating Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships


We helped one library sell a first edition of Casino Royale at market prices--a book that they are getting ready to sell for $1.00

Libraries always need money. So to participate in a mass — what else can I call it? — theft of library books just did not feel good. Bookselling does not have to be a zero-sum game, with the supplier being the loser and the bookseller being the winner. Thinking about this problem, we came to realize that the library had neither the knowledge nor the time to properly evaluate its holdings from the perspective of the global Internet-based market, and that even if it did have both, it lacked any means of fulfilling orders and working with customers.

So, we decided to do something different. Instead of buying (stealing) from libraries we began developing relationships with them, and turned the zero-sum game into a win-win situation — one that freed me from having to return to the mob lining up at the front door and delivered much greater financial benefits to the institution. We developed a simple consulting/consignment proposal that incorporated a revenue-sharing plan for non-profit organizations.

The heart of the proposal is this: we created guidelines for identifying valuable books (i.e. books worth, on the open market, $50.00 or more). We felt that these books need not (and should not) be sold at a library book sale for only $1.00. Our colleagues at the libraries did not have the skills or the information to identify valuable books, so we taught them how to do it. Since the program began, in one institution alone, (many states away from our home base) we have posted over $20,000 in consignment books, and sold — at fair market prices — titles such as a first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale — a book that the library would have sold at their book sale for $1.00. The program has the added benefit of helping libraries identify books that are unusually valuable and are in circulation.

As these books are identified, they are set aside for us. We inventory them, price them, and put them up for sale on the Internet, using standard sites, as well as eBay. The library receives half of the net realized price, less the out-of-pocket expense for commissions. We absorb shipping anomalies and anything else related to the fulfillment of the order. The books are stored in our warehouse until shipped and we provide monthly statements and payments to the institutions.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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