AE Monthly

Articles - April - 2012 Issue

Tips from an eBay Power Seller

Book vs ephem

An image taken from a worthless book may be of value.

The Value of Photos


So much of what’s listed on the internet is poorly described, or worse yet, a phantom -- especially on the three A's (Amazon, Alibris, Abe). The virtue of eBay is items listed there are shown warts and all. They are real; they are visible and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get.)

Every eBay listing, whether auction or Buy It Now, allows up to 12 photos. Those photos are the feature that puts eBay ahead of all other sites as a vehicle for selling antiquarian materials.

If you’re selling a stated first edition with no other editions listed, take that photo of the copyright page. If it’s a signed copy, show the author’s signature. Is the dust jacket unclipped and in nice condition? Then open it all the way up so both flaps are visible and show it all complete. Increasingly more and more of the value of early 20th century books is in the dust jacket. If your copy has a good dust jacket, it takes only a moment to include it with the photos.

Selecting a Category

All things being equal, if you have interesting or unusual material and describe and photograph it well, it’s not really about setting the lowest price, it’s about stimulating desire and placing the material in a category where it won’t get lost.

Book>Antiquarian & Collectible is a good place to start. But there are a variety of other options that get results that are just as good at terms that are more favorable to the seller.

One of the drawbacks of the “books” category is it’s crowded with cheap junk, the enlargement of the key photo costs extra and there is a $4 limit to the charge for shipping.

Many other categories provide the key photo enlargement for free, do not have such unreasonable restrictions on shipping charges and are more narrowly defined, thus more likely to attract buyers with specific wants.

Some that have been useful to me include: Antiques>Marine>Other, Cultures & Ethnicities>Afro American >Books; Collectibles>Historical > Cities and Towns; Collectibles>Comics>Other; Collectibles>Cultures & Ethnicities> Western America>Antique, or Antiques>Books>English - to name just a few.

What if you selected an “optimistic” price and it doesn’t sell? Don’t automatically lower the price. Instead try moving it to another category, changing the key words, changing the lead photo or revising the description. In fact sometimes, if you think it has value and you can substantiate that value, raising the price might be the answer. With up front costs of between zero and 20 cents per item you can play around with many offerings at nominal expense.

Over the years I’ve found uncommon material that is well described and photographed brings a good price no matter what the condition. Being patient and rotating the inventory through a variety of categories is a strategy that works. Often a buyer will see something that didn’t sell and ask if it’s still available. Again because there are photos, even if the listing is over, if it’s recent it’s still alive and drawing eyeballs on eBay.

AE Monthly


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