eBay is the one site where users can see recent sold prices for listings. This is a great way to get an idea of how much books are worth. In my opinion, auction results tend to be low-end values. They are great indicators of what books are worth but are towards the bottom end of what the average buyer will pay.
eBay auctions often close too low because some collectors
rely on the bids of other collectors to try to decide what to pay. They
react when someone else submits a higher bid by placing an even higher
bid to outbid the other person. Buyers who don't need to use others to determine what to pay learned a very long time
ago not to bid until the last 10 seconds of an auction. The reactionary
bidders do not like that practice, since they prefer to let the other
bidders help them decide what to pay. Since many buyers wait until the
end to bid, the reactionary bidders never realize that they need to bid
higher, thus keeping the auction price low.
Some buyers are willing to pay higher prices in order to obtain instant gratification, and I am one of those. I do prefer good deals, but when I want to build a set of books quickly, I am willing to pay higher prices.
Recent Bret King auction results and my own experience with building a set serve as good examples of how auctions can be lower than what buyers are willing to pay on the fixed-price sites.
Aside from the first three books, the Bret King series is quite scarce. Volumes four through nine are difficult to acquire. I decided in June 2015 that I wanted to read the Bret King series, and I wanted to read them in the very near future. I had no choice but to purchase the books from two fixed-price sites, AbeBooks and Amazon. I chose the best value that I could that would give me books in the approximate condition I desired. Even so, I had much trouble finding a copy of The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa in the condition I wanted, detailed here.
Since I wanted instant gratification and no suitable auction listings appeared on eBay in the one to two months I was looking for Bret King books, I had to pay higher prices than what auction prices would bring. For volumes four through nine, I paid between $20 and $80 for each book. The prices averaged out to around $40 per book. I tend to average prices when I record how much I paid for books that are from the same series so that in the event I upgrade one later, I am more easily able to get my cost back.
I use books as escapism, and they help me to relieve stress. Reading is the one most important activity that keeps me in an overall positive frame of mind. This is why I am willing to pay above average prices to obtain needed books quickly. I do make a profit on some books I sell, and that profit helps cover the amounts I overspend in order to achieve that instant gratification. I doubt I'm the only collector and reader who does this, although I could certainly be in the extreme minority.
In December, two different sellers offered most of the the Bret King set in individual eBay auctions fairly close together. For that short time, the Bret King series did not appear to be that scarce, and this could have kept some of the prices down.
The following listings are the results for the auctions for volumes one, two, and three, which are the easiest titles to find. Including shipping, the final cost ended up being between $10 and $15 for most of the books. Remember that you can always click on an image to see a larger version.
For volume four, The Mystery of Rawhide Gap, I feel that both of the books with dust jackets were a steal. The two books with jackets sold for only slightly more than volumes one, two, and three, yet volume four is much harder to find than the first three books.
The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa was my hardest to acquire Bret King book in the condition I desired. I ended up paying not too bad of a price at less than $40, but I would have loved for a listing with dust jacket to have been available on eBay at that time! One thing to consider when viewing these results is that if one more person like me had been involved, the ending prices would have been higher. The prices might have only been a few dollars higher or could have been $20 or $30 higher, depending upon what the two highest bidders were willing to pay. Remember that value is variable and is subjective.
$20.50 for The Secret of Fort Pioneer is also a reasonable price to pay for this book.
I did not have much trouble locating a copy of The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, and the price I paid was less than the final auction prices of the two eBay listings. However, it is apparent from these prices that The Mystery of the Comanche Caves is one of the hardest to find titles in the series.
The Phantom of Wolf Creek was the book for which I paid the least out of volumes four through nine. Likewise, the two listings for that title sold at lower prices.
I paid more for my copy of The Mystery of Bandit Gulch than the closing prices of these two listings.
Notice that all of the books sold on December 29 sold at lower prices than the same titles did on December 16. Since the buyers of the first set of listings were not bidding on the second set, prices went down. This does not mean that the Bret King books dropped in value over those two weeks.
Unfortunately, sold listing prices are not available for AbeBooks and Amazon, so we have no idea what buyers are actually paying for series books on those sites. I do believe that buyers are paying higher average prices than they do in eBay auctions, so buyers have only a partial idea of what other collectors are willing to pay.
I have more thoughts on this topic which will be expressed in a future post about Nancy Drew picture cover books.