Online Auction Tips?
May 14, 2005 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Cleaning house, looking to sell books, CDs, toys etc., and I'm LOST. Need advice both specific and general. Is eBay best for books and CDs, or are there other places to get better value? With the 'Net awash in Star Wars paraphernalia, how do I find a price for this elaborate 1998 14" talking Darth Vader? (I've checked books and they're mostly about "vintage" SW toys.) How do I value odd things for my uncle, like this pipe from Germany circa 1890 or earlier, or some Xmas cards circa WWII made by Chinese Xtian nuns in Tsing Tao? Is there a market for historical magazines and newspapers, for example with headlines about the first moon walk?

Darth is in mint condition, but has been removed from and returned to the box. The cards are intricate paper cutouts overlaid on metallic embroidered background and could be considered WWII memorabilia.

I don't mind selling books and CDs cheap, but would like to maximize the $$ while not spending too much effort. Is something like a first edition hardcover of DaVinci Code worth more than other "just books," though?

Thanks. Any advice is welcome.
posted by Shane to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've had pretty good luck sellng books at good prices by listing on Amazon marketplace, as long as they weren't mass market novels (hard or softcover) -- I never sold any of the novels I listed, but stuff like art books, grad school humanities texts, etc. went fast. But check the used prices on Amazon to get an idea -- the first ed. hardback of "The DaVinci Code" is listed at about $11 right now on Amazon (which surprises me, actually -- I figured the market would be flooded with those), but by contrast when I went to list a first ed. hardback of James Ellroy's "The Cold Six Thousand" last year, there were dozens of the same edition for a buck or two.
posted by scody at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2005

Whether the books and CDs are worth selling on eBay really depends on what they are. Out of print CDs can fetch some decent dough, but if it's recent stuff, you are probably better off schlepping them to your local independent CD trader unless you want to go through the hassle of collecting money $4 at a time.

Your best bet is to just to a completed auction search on eBay to check the values. I always do this before I sell anything, just to get a reasonable real world ballpark value. Just to use your example, the Darth Vader should fetch about $20ish, give or take about $5-10, according to past sales, though there's one up right now at $31 with a day or two to go.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:57 PM on May 14, 2005

Newspapers/magazines about things like JFK, Moonwalk etc seem incredible, but are worth next to nothing due to their huge circulation and the amount of people who held onto them.

Ebay is best for most things. The easiest way to value something is to search eBay's completed listings. Those are realistic, up to date realised prices. Specifically for books - If you look on Amazon marketplace buyers can leave requests stating how much they will pay for titles, and it's pretty fast. Also check out, but be prepared to play the waiting game if you want to hold out for top price on there.

I've found that most sellers on all the other specialist auction/sales sites are also on eBay, so to maximise audience and price, start there.
posted by fire&wings at 12:59 PM on May 14, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks already, folks. Good answers.

Just to use your example, the Darth Vader should fetch about $20ish, give or take about $5-10, according to past sales, though there's one up right now at $31 with a day or two to go.

Aaagh! It's gone down in value!! It was supposed to go UP!

Hey, is there a website somewhere like AskMe, but where you can ask the price of really odd collectibles and antiques (like my unk's pipe and cards and such)?
posted by Shane at 1:18 PM on May 14, 2005

According to, an "as new" Da Vinci Code hardcover first edition goes for as low as $6.99.

Price your books here, Shane. I suppose eBay's as good a place as any, too.
posted by interrobang at 1:19 PM on May 14, 2005

Response by poster: Damn, nice match on the pipe, MegoSteve! Very similar construction and style.
posted by Shane at 1:21 PM on May 14, 2005

Your cards are an example of scherenscnitte (paper cutting), so you might get a better idea of their value using that as a search term. I'm interested in the history of those cards (and possibly the cards themselves), as my grandfather was born in Tsing Tao to German Lutheran missionaries before WWII.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:36 PM on May 14, 2005

In general I don't think you come up with a price first and sell on eBay second. It is possible to get ripped off on eBAy if you don't set some kind of lowest-price-acceptable (reserve, or price at which bidding starts).

But then you've just gotta let the market decide. How much is that darth Vader worth? However much you can get for it. And that's it. If you don't accept this and let things go at the price the market will bear, your garage will be full of crap forever.
posted by scarabic at 1:49 PM on May 14, 2005

Collectible action figures produced after 1988 or so like that Vader rarely go up. Just from my observance, a collectible is hottest when it's brand new in stores and people that want it can't find it. Once it's been out a while, the price and interest go down as people move on to the next new thing.

Just as an example, a few years ago, Simpsons action figures were crazy hot, but since Playmates discontinued them, they're pretty hard to move. A mint on the original card Smithers from the second series, which sold at $4.99 when it was released, sold consistently at $70-75 at the peak of the Simpsons market, but Playmates dumped a ton of the first two series at Toys R Us right before they lost the license, and now that $75 Smithers gathers dust at $2.95.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:12 PM on May 14, 2005

by contrast when I went to list a first ed. hardback of James Ellroy's "The Cold Six Thousand" last year, there were dozens of the same edition for a buck or two.

That's because The Da Vinci Code is still a best seller, while "The Cold Six Thousand" has already been remaindered. Plus, foolish people may think the first edition is collectible.
posted by drezdn at 2:24 PM on May 14, 2005

If there is a Craigslist in your area, I'd recommend that for stuff where it's more important to get rid of it than get a good price for it. I've been amazed at the response I get on CL--usually sell things the same day if they're priced $20 or less, and the buyer picks it up from me.
posted by adamrice at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2005

Shane, I just took two bags of paperbacks and a bag of old VHS to Half Price Books and got $40 bucks out of it, which is much more than I was expecting. It doesn't get much easier than that, and they give you at 10% discount coupon on your next purchase.
posted by sciurus at 6:47 PM on May 14, 2005

The most extensive booksearch is BookFinder. It's a metasearch and covers just about all of the others. Searching a single service like Amazon or ABEbooks can give falsely high prices if it's something that's not in plentiful supply.

The rock bottom prices are surprisingly low and books have not kept pace with inflation as an investment. I've occasionally found single copies of hard to find books for 1/10 the going price.
posted by warbaby at 7:00 PM on May 14, 2005

If your Da Vinci Code is a 1st edition, 1st printing then you might get $80 for it. Or more. Depends on what condition it is in. Check the printing numbers on the inside below the publishers info. If you have a line 12345678910, then it is worth something much more than a standard 1st edition.
posted by alteredcarbon at 8:14 PM on May 14, 2005

AlteredCarbon, really? If that's so, that's a bit odd, because the Da Vinci Code was anticipated to be a huge hit by the publishing company, and they gave out alot of advance copies and the first print run was probably pretty large in anticipation of the demand. I still remember the meeting with the publishing company rep when they told us The Da Vinci Code was going to be huge.

It's possible that they're worth a lot, but they shouldn't be that hard to find.
posted by drezdn at 1:57 AM on May 15, 2005

Response by poster: Hey, folks, thanks to everyone for all the advice!
posted by Shane at 6:43 AM on May 15, 2005

Response by poster: BTW, Soliloquy, if you want to know more about the cards just drop me an e-mail. I'm afraid my uncle doesn't know much, though. I think they were just maybe gifts given to the GIs to cheer them up at Xmas, passed down through the ranks from the officials or officers or whomever they were directly given to.
posted by Shane at 6:54 AM on May 15, 2005

I have to say to be careful of specialty books. My specialty is crochet/freeform so I am aware of the books in that area. While Design Crochet, a compilation of several well-known designer-artists of the 70's can still be had for $4, the Sweater Book by Sylvia Cosh goes for upwards of $50 and if you can find a copy of Judith Copeland's Modular Crochet, that one goes (believe it or not) for $100+ per copy.

Just my way of saying, check your book prices carefully before you give a bag of 'em to a seller for $10.
posted by altobarb at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2005

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