Selling autographed books
February 28, 2005 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I have several rare/autographed books that I'm interested in selling due to financial issues. I don't want to be ripped off. Help!

I have several rare and autographed editions of Gwendolyn Brooks works. Online, they don't sell for less than $100 ever from what I've seen (and several sell for considerably more). But when I took them to a local book store in Madison last year, they offered me $5 apiece.

Problem is, online they can take quite a while to sell. Is there a happy medium? Is there any store that will buy books online for a reasonable price?

I'm figuring this is a long shot of a question, but if such a place existed, I figured y'all would be the ones to know about it.
posted by u.n. owen to Grab Bag (12 answers total)

You could either try selling your book there, or do a search and find some dealers that sell similar items, and offer it to them. The dealers contact details (online and offline) are usually supplied next to the items they are selling, and the site represents dealers from all over the world. I'm not aware of an online store that specialises in buying up 2nd hand books, but someone else may be.
posted by fire&wings at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2005

I don't know of any in your area u.n. owen, but if you've a trusted friend in the Portland area you might want to consider shipping them out that way and having said friend take them to Powells.

From their Rare Books FAQ:
Will Powell's buy my book(s)?
If you think you might have a rare book, one of our Used Book Buyers would be happy to take a look at it for you. Our buyers are knowledgeable and quick, and will give you their assessment of the book's retail value to Powell's. You can determine value from there. You are under no obligation to accept the bid offered, of course. To have a Powell's buyer look at your book(s), please visit the buyers' table in the Orange Room at The City of Books, or at our Hawthorne or Beaverton stores. We also have buyers specializing in technical books at Powell's Technical Books. Other arrangements can be made for purchasing particularly large or valuable collections: please contact our buyers at 1-800-878-7323 ext. 559.

Please note: We cannot assess the value of a book over the phone or online. Just as no one reputable would give you the value of an automobile without driving it, a book must be physically inspected to be properly evaluated.

posted by FlamingBore at 2:07 PM on February 28, 2005

When selling collectors' items, the amount that one can get for an item is usually inversely proportional to the time it takes to make a sale. Why? Because it takes time for the right buyer to come along. You either have to wait for the person who values your item enough to pay the big bucks for it to find you; or you have to pay someone else to assume the risk of holding it in their inventory and waiting for that person to come along - e.g., sell it to them at a discount. So a happy medium seems unlikely.

One suggestion: try a rare book fair, where you are more likely to find a lot of potential buyers gathered together in one place. Hopefully one is in your area some time soon and you won't have to pay an astronomical fee to get in.
posted by googly at 2:12 PM on February 28, 2005

I'd try eBay, but if you don't want to sell them for less than $100, put a reserve on them. One points I'd like to make, though: just because you see something at a book dealer for $100 doesn't mean it actually sells for that. For all you know, that dealer could have been carrying that $100 book around for ten years. I've been collecting for over twenty years... it doesn't surprise me much anymore when I visit an antique mall after a five year hiatus and see the very same things I did the last time I was there.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:25 PM on February 28, 2005

Response by poster: I've seen fairly high turnover on her auto'd books (the selections are always changing on abebooks and alibris). But the idea to sell to someone already selling them is interesting! One of the books I have is currently listed at $195 from a seller less than an hour's drive away. I dashed off an email inquiring about it. *crosses fingers* I hope I get a reply, it's one of those months where a few hundred bucks makes all the difference. I wish I'd thought of this earlier!
posted by u.n. owen at 2:30 PM on February 28, 2005

I don't know if this book is really any good, but it's available for less than three dollars (used), plus Amazon offers "look inside the book", so you can read it for free:

Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books

And yes, selling your books to a rare book dealer is probably the fastest way to sell them, although you'll only get (say) half of the price that the dealer expects to get when he/she sells it. Rare book dealers are willing to build up inventory and wait for a potential buyer, while you may not be.
posted by WestCoaster at 2:37 PM on February 28, 2005

hey owen, what did I do to get banned from IMing you?
posted by Irontom at 3:48 PM on February 28, 2005

posted by FlamingBore at 4:14 PM on February 28, 2005

Response by poster: IronTom, no one's banned from IMing me.

I just had two weeks-from-hell at work caused by my boss being gone and being the only person there in my department. I've also got the boyfriend living with me now, and he keeps me a bit more occupied than usual. So I haven't been on AIM. You're not banned, trust me, but I'm getting at least 2 "are you alive, are you alive?" emails a day right now.
posted by u.n. owen at 4:56 PM on February 28, 2005

I have used ABEBOOKS.COM too. Sometimes only to find an accurate price range. Though I have noticed that books in serious demand often never make it onto ABE.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:46 PM on February 28, 2005

Coolio - just wanted to make sure everything was okay. Which, on the one hand, clearly it isnt. Best wishes to you!
posted by Irontom at 6:23 PM on February 28, 2005

I've had a very good experience with Amazon Marketplace. They take a 99-cent fee plus a small percentage for every transaction; much less than local used-book dealers, for whom the going rate is 25% of what they think the book will fetch, e.g. if they can sell it for $80, they'll give you twenty.

There is a "collectible" option at AM when you're selecting the condition on the book you're listing; select that, and enter all the attributes of the book in the description. I find that using assertive sales tactics and quasi-purple prose actually work to move the merchandise ("A must-have for the serious enthusiast," "A magnificent first edition," and "In nearly flawless condition," are winning phrases.) People want to purchase a book from someone who's enthusiastic and positive, and often people will buy my copy when there's someone offering an identical one for less.

Best of luck!
posted by cirocco at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

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