Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2006 Issue

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

Boeb.1

[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

  • <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.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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