Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2014 Issue

It's not easy being green

Ef8574d6-19e1-4670-845e-a5323fcfdf4d

More lots posted since the recent sale ended

Alice Springer at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library spoke with me last week as 21 items the Friends had posted on eBay were grinding toward their conclusion.  The sale had come to my attention when the Queen Anne Neighborhood News Blog mentioned it in my Google newsfeed under rare books.  I had written an article about the San Francisco Friends a month earlier, about their very successful program of converting donations into cash using a variety of strategies; book fairs, used book shops, online and eBay listings.  Here was a chance to see what another library was doing and in particular what they were doing on eBay, a particularly tough marketplace and not one for the faint hearted.

 

The material the Seattle Friends posted was 21 items most of which have ISBN numbers and therefore are capital C common.  Such items tend to have competing copies for sale on Abe Books, in fact thousands in total for the items listed.  eBay auctions, in my experience, tend to be for special, not necessarily valuable, but somewhat uncommon material and with few exceptions this wasn’t what was offered.   Twenty of the 21 items had a starting price [with no reserves] of $9.95.  The other item was mysteriously priced to start at $54.95 and in fact sold for $63.00.  The sixteen items that sold brought $445.26.

 

The material was eclectic.  Okay, it was more random than eclectic and few people in the book business sell that way.  They focus and they concentrate because they know browsers, if they see one item they like, may look at other listings from the same seller.  When the material is eclectic it is almost always a bad sign.

 

For the Friends of the Seattle Public Library there is also some good news.  Few people have seen this experiment and the number of lots listed by the seller’s name [25] say both that this seller is new and doesn’t yet know how best to succeed on eBay.  The Seattle Friends will figure it out.

 

Here are a few suggestions.

 

Just like the big guys do each sale should have a focus.  If the subject is games it should be all games.  It the focus is books signed by their authors every copy should be signed.  If the subject is Seattle and local history every book should be relevant.  If at some point you offer more valuable material such sales should occur at predictable times and be promoted.  To the layman auctions may seem to occur randomly but in fact there are regular and deep patterns.

 

If the library can reach out to area professional booksellers they can provide valuable insight.  One of the inside point men at San Francisco Friends’ selling operations today was once a book dealer.

 

The opportunity for the Seattle Friends is enormous.  The bottom has fallen out of the low end of the trade, now weakened to a point where large-scale library operations employing volunteer labor have real advantages for handling and reselling such material.  In truth such material has fewer places to go and many, and I suspect most, people reject the idea of simply throwing their books away.  So they will welcome the chance to donate them and libraries around the world will have the opportunity to do well by doing good.

 

So take heart Seattle.  The tide is coming in.  To quote Kermit, it’s not easy being green but in time the program will generate some serious money.

 

Here's a link to their website:

www.friendsofspl.org/online-sales.php 

 

Here’s a link to their recent sale:

www.ebay.com/sch/friendsofspl/m.html?_ipg=50&_sop=12&_rdc=1


Posted On: 2014-07-01 14:14
User Name: islandification

Always a fun day to drive some distance to a sale and pay some money to get in, just to find yourself sifting through junk because the better books are only sold online.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions