I have seen quite a few listings which are not accurate as to the scarcity or value of the book that is up for sale. In this blog post, I will be citing some specific examples, but I will not be linking to them. I thought about trying to smooth over what I am about to write with a few opening statements, but I decided not to worry about it. No doubt, I will upset a few people.
Using Farah's Guide values to justify high prices
I see this practice quite often and by a number of different sellers. As an example, let's say that a seller has a first printing of the Nancy Drew book, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, in dust jacket, which that seller has priced at $100. That seller tells buyers that the book is valued at $250 in Farah's Guide. The implication is that the seller is offering a great deal at $100. Not so, since Fire Dragon seldom sells for more than $50 these days.
Be wary of any listing that uses the Farah's Guide value to indicate the true worth of a book. My thought is always that if a book is worth $250, then why does the seller not ask that amount? The seller must feel that the book is worth less than the guide value.
Misinterpreting Farah's Guide
Sometimes, a seller misinterprets Farah's Guide without realizing it. I'd like to give the specific example, but all of you would immediately be able to find the listing. I have already given my opinion of listings that use the outdated Farah's Guide values to make the book seem more valuable. This listing falls into that category but goes even further, giving an incorrect reason why the book is worth even more than the Farah's Guide value. It has to do with thinking that two variants are the same printing when in fact Farah has separated them into two printings with different stated values. Always be careful of any listing that uses any means to magnify the value of a book.
Exaggerating the condition of books
Many sellers over-describe the condition of their books. One seller's books are always in "fine," "near fine," or "about fine" condition. My only comment is that the seller's pictures often tell a different story. In many cases, buyers are better off ignoring all of the seller commentary and focusing on what can be seen in the pictures. However, make sure you do read the seller's description for mention of any flaws that cannot be seen in the photos.
I caught another seller stating that a book had "absolutely no chipping anywhere to the jacket." If so, then why were small pieces missing at the extreme corners? True, the pieces were very small, but that would seem to negate the statement "absolutely no chipping." According to this site, "chipping" is "a small piece missing from the edge of a dust jacket."
Ignoring water damage
This one falls into the previous category, but it deserves its own section. Look carefully at photos for evidence of water damage. Even some collectors and knowledgeable sellers fail to disclose water damage. I saw one instance of a knowledgeable seller not disclosing what I could see in the photo. Not surprising, the buyer paid way too much, and then complained about the condition in feedback.
Below is a picture I took from a listing this fall. I don't know if the books had water damage, but The Haunted Bridge, which is second from the left in the top row, has the appearance of a water-damaged book. The whitish stain is how water damage often appears in photos.
Also notice the tape and stains from tape on many of the books. Sellers often fail to disclose old tape on books and jackets.
Stating that a common anomaly is a rarity and more valuable
Most people who sell extras of the UK edition Sampson Low Nancy Drew books with dust jackets mislead their buyers about the rarity of the books. Some sellers indicate that the books are rare because of the Dana Girls endpapers. All of the Sampson Low Nancy Drew books have Dana Girls endpapers, because Sampson Low apparently wanted to use the Dana Girls endpapers. The use of the Dana Girls endpapers may make the Sampson Low books interesting, but it does not make the them any more scarce or valuable. They are what they are.
Two Sampson Low books have misprints on the front covers. The Mystery of the Fire Dragon is "The Mystery of the Fiery Dragon" on the front cover. The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes is "The Clue of the Whispering Bagpipes" on the front cover.
I have seen multiple sellers charge really high prices for those two books as compared to other Sampson Low books based apparently on the very rare misprint. I have never seen a Sampson Low Fire Dragon without "Fiery Dragon" on the front cover, and I have never seen a Sampson Low Whistling Bagpipes without "Whispering Bagpipes" on the front cover. What would be rare would be a book without the error.
Pay the really high price if you want the book, but be aware that those books are worth no more than any of the others.
Stating that a book is the "true first edition" or "true first printing"
The part that bothers me is the use of the word "true" in front of "first printing" or "first edition." Using "true" indicates to me that the seller is 100% certain, when the seller really has no idea for any series that does not have a published guide, such as Connie Blair, Vicki Barr, the Dana Girls, and many others. The only series in which published guides exist that establish "true first printing" status are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, and Judy Bolton. Statements made about any books in any other series are pure speculation, so the word "true" should not be used.
I try to be very careful about when I give first printing status. For instance, I am quite confident that the first picture cover printings of Dana Girls #1 through 23 list to Sierra Gold on the back cover and Nancy Drew to Dancing Puppet/Dana Girls to Sierra Gold on the inside. I have not made notes about the books past #24, so I would not feel comfortable absolutely guaranteeing first printing status for #24 and up. View the last part of this blog post to see how I found out that a certain book is not the first printing.
While published guides establish what we believe to be the true first printings, we really do not know for certain. Even the guides have used speculation to establish which books are the first printing. However, the guides have established what is accepted to be the first printing for each title, so sellers are fine in citing the guides and stating that a book is the true first printing.
In conclusion, I caution you to be careful about how you respond to the excellent salesmanship qualities that some sellers have. These sellers are very good at making their books seem quite desirable, but often, the books are less desirable than how they appear.