Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2013 Issue

More Tips from an eBay Power Seller


Book condition is not an issue with these Ernest Nister chromolithographs inside.

6. Old school still rules in books and paper.

Though no vocation has been affected more by technology than bookselling, when it comes to telling the real from the imitation -- old school still rules. No computer or on line image can substitute for your fingers. Your eye can be fooled, but it’s much harder to fool the hand. Touch before you buy, and describe the surface when you sell. It’s easy to fake the picture; it’s hard to fake the paper. If you know the paper it’s not hard to make a good guess at the date.

While we’re on the subject of “old school” here are a few words in praise of doing a decent job on packing. Even though only one in ten customers ever takes the time to write a feedback comment -- at least half of those do say “well packed.” It does make a difference.

7. Don’t rule out lesser copies

OK all the lords of the book world tell you condition trumps all. But in real life it’s a little different. In real life if you have an Ernest Nister Mother Goose and it has 40 chromolithographs printed in Bavaria it’s going to sell even if the boards are held on with duct tape. The same goes for that obscure postal history of Tin Can Island that’s signed and inscribed by the author. The buyer didn’t care that the boards were stained, the spine slanted and the dust jacket was missing. Don’t be so obsessed with condition that you fail to offer the worthy but somewhat lesser items in the inventory. Price it for the value of what’s good, and note the imperfections. Don’t hold it up against some arbitrary measure of perfection.

8. Mom was right

In closing I echo my mother, Petra F. Netzorg, who was ahead of me in this business. She had a framed sign that hung over her desk; it read: “You can not get rich being a bookseller, but you will have a rich and happy life.” It’s true.


Susan Netzorg Halas is a frequent contributor to AE Monthly and often writes from the seller’s point of view. Reach her at wailukusue@gmail.com.

Her earlier article Tips from an eBay Power Seller ran in AE Monthly in June 2012. Click here.

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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