Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2007 Issue

Yahoo Closing Auction Site -- Did Anyone Notice?

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

  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000
  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • 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
  • 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.

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