Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2007 Issue

Yahoo Closing Auction Site -- Did Anyone Notice?

Yahoo

Yahoo auctions recently displayed four five-figure books, including two first edition Oz books and an inscribed JFK.


By Michael Stillman

The auction arm of the world's most visited website (according to Alexa rankings), Yahoo, is closing down. That would seem to be astonishing news. Online auctions appear to have become an enormous force in the field. As best we can tell, there are always far more books being offered for sale online than at all traditional auctions combined. The closing of the online auction of the most visited site on the web would seem to be a momentous event. The world yawned.

As you are undoubtedly aware, though Yahoo may be the most popular website, it is not the most popular auction site. It is undoubtedly in the top ten, and from what we can tell, probably the top five. It might even be top two. It doesn't matter. In this competition, there is only one site that matters, and as we all know, it is eBay. Now, even Yahoo recognizes that fact. According to Reuters, citing tracking firm comScore, eBay controls some 94% of the auction market. Yahoo obviously was not making inroads.

From looking at their listings, books may have actually been one of Yahoo auction's stronger suits. At the time of their announcement in early May, they were showing almost 90,000 listings for books, though half of these were comics. This compares to over 450,000 for eBay. Perhaps more tellingly, Yahoo had 1,882 listings for "antique and rare" books, compared to 62,462 for "antiquarian and collectible" books on eBay. A small start-up site might be happy with that ratio, but it is a sign of defeat for so major a force as Yahoo. They recognized it was time to throw in the towel. To gather listings, you need sales, and to achieve sales, you need listings. Yahoo was not able to break in to this chicken and egg scenario at either end.

There are still a few other auctions trying to compete with the eLephant of online auctions. uBid is perhaps the oldest and most notable other online auction, though "notable" is a relative term here. However, books appear a low priority for this auction. They do not have a books category, other than as a sublisting under "collectibles." I found only 12 items here, not a one of which appeared collectible to me (I fear the Uzi modification manual offered is intended for practical use, not collecting). For those who buy and sell books, Amazon is likely the most significant other site. They do have an auction section, and a search under "books" found 20,894 listings (about a third of what Yahoo located). However, some of these have no discernable relation to books I can find, such as the $150 worth of repair service on your computer's motherboard that showed up as a "book." If there is a way of finding just antiquarian or collectible books at Amazon's auctions, the means are not clear, but I think it can safely be noted that rare books are not Amazon's strength in the first place.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. $40,000 to $60,000

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