Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2006 Issue

Buying on eBay -- It's all in how you look

[1] Click BUY to search; [2] Insert search term; [3] Select search category


By Bruce McKinney

Buying on eBay is different from buying on listing sites and at traditional auctions. eBay mimics other forms of buying and can seem familiar but at heart it is a different buying option and a powerful one for those who understand its differences and become their master. eBay is a marketplace and a very large one. You can buy almost anything and periodically one of the "anythings" shows up on newspaper front pages. The fact that eBay covers almost every type of material masks the fact that it covers books, manuscripts and ephemera very thoroughly. Traditional book auctions are events, eBay auctions a continuum of lots posted by thousands of people. There is no pre-announcement, no warning. They show up -- typically listed for 5 to 10 days. Half sell, the balance is often reposted. Recently there have been about 500,000 books, manuscripts and ephemera up for sale. Among this mountain of material are great rarities and interesting and difficult to locate materials. The trick is knowing how to find them.

Printed material on eBay is a chaos of possibilities that defeats every effort to see it as one would a traditional auction. eBay lets you see it this way because this is initially how you believe it should be seen. When you go to an auction you expect to browse the shelves or, if the sale is documented, read the descriptions. A typical traditional auction however has about 400 items, eBay on a typical day a thousand times more just in books, manuscripts and ephemera. Browsing doesn't work because these books lying side by side form a display 63 miles wide. The books at one end will be long since sold by the time you get to the other. Adding insult to injury, every book you examine will be replaced by another title so the line isn't actually 63 miles, it's never-ending. Many eBay virgins approach the listings with a traditional perspective and expectation and soon retire exhausted, never making the leap that makes buying on eBay potentially so effective. They simply look at the list of books as they expire and get manic as material falls into the abyss. At traditional auctions you can bring an open mind and consider all lots that strike your fancy. On eBay you must set parameters to screen out the debris that, left unfiltered, kills the enthusiasm of even the most inveterate buyer. To this many say "I don't know what I want." Well then, eBay is not for you. You are the blind man at the beauty contest. Even if only in a rudimentary way you need to establish search terms. Because the searches are fast and results easy to read anyone can experiment to find terms that are effective.

Let's search in BOOKS for Poughkeepsie. There are 39 matches, instantly culled from 509,000 listed items. Wow, that was fast! Most are not antiquarian but it takes only a few moments to see this. One that is, an 1815 Poughkeepsie imprint has a starting bid of $20, no bids and 3 days to go. eBay gives me the option to WATCH THIS ITEM. Next I change the search category to COLLECTIBLES and find 101 matches for the term Poughkeepsie. Here you see postcards, plates, menus, two revolutionary war letters, railroad tickets, CDVs, very old beer and soda bottles and much more. Okay, you prefer Pittsfield. In books there are 40 matches, in collectibles 129. In a few days there will be a new wave of listings.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

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