Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Best eBay Finds

The main body of this post was written in May 2009. I'm pretty sure I did not publish it because some people would think it wrong to take advantage of a price set too low by a seller. A recent thread on eBay's message boards, Ethical issues with reselling, explains my position. One high-end antiquarian book seller who sells books valued at $10,000 and up explained the issue like this.
If they ask you what it's worth, your professional opinion when (and if) rendered, must be accurate to the best of your knowledge. If they come to you, on your premises, and request a value estimate, your professional opinion when (and if) rendered, must be accurate to the best of your knowledge. When you buy at auction, it's the seller's responsibility to set the price, and whatever you pay, you pay - usually.
I see a tremendous difference between making very low private offers to uninformed sellers in an attempt to defraud them and buying a book at a low price which was set by the seller with no input from me.

Some of you already know this story, but I never tire of telling it. The best...by far...eBay purchase that I have ever made was the true first printing with blank endpapers of the Nancy Drew book The Clue in the Diary with dust jacket for only $25.00.

I had trouble sleeping that night, so I got back up. I checked eBay, because that was the thing to do. I checked newly-listed Nancy Drew books, and I saw the gallery photo of the book and jacket. The images were side-by-side, so it was easily discernible without clicking on the listing that the book was the true first printing of Diary with blank endpapers and dust jacket. I saw the Buy It Now of $25.00.

I clicked on the listing and scrolled down. I knew that I had to act fast, and even then, it might be too late. I looked at the photo and glanced at the seller's feedback percent, but I hesitated for around ten seconds. It was one of those cases in which my reaction was, "Are you serious?!" I was worried that it was too good to be true. I quickly initiated the Buy It Now process and successfully purchased the book. I then got out my Farah's Guide and verified that the jacket did match the points for the true first printing.

The book had been listed an entire hour before I saw it. At that time, many people were trolling the eBay listings for good deals, so any good Buy It Nows would usually sell within the first five to fifteen minutes of the start time. I am not kidding. The good books sold fast. How this book had such an obvious gallery photo and lasted for an hour, I'll never know. If I had been able to sleep that night, the book would surely have sold by the time I checked the listings.

I had trouble sleeping that night after I purchased the book since I knew that the seller could always figure out what he had. Whenever I purchase something on eBay, I know that it is never truly mine until I have it in my hands. I am generally not willing to pay the Farah's Guide value for any of the early Nancy Drew first printings, so I have had to rely on pure luck to obtain the ones I have.

I requested priority mail and paid the seller. I wanted to get that book quick! A few days later, I had the book in my hands, and it was exactly what I expected.

I have seen a first printing Diary book and jacket in just about the exact same condition sell for around $2,500.00, so my Buy It Now of $25.00 was quite an amazing deal.

Another time I bid on a blank endpapers edition of Old Clock for the heck of it. I did not bid very high at all and did not expect to win the auction at all. I certainly did not expect to win the auction for around $5.00. I still do not understand how that happened. When I received the book, I determined it to be the 1930A-1 first printing. It did not have a dust jacket but was in excellent condition. The first printing of Old Clock in similar condition typically sells for around $500.00 and can sell for a higher amount.

Those are my two best eBay finds.

I hope a few of you will share your best finds. They don't have to be valuable books bought cheaply. A "best find" can simply be a particular purchase that meant a great deal.


Kelly Robinson said...

I've been wanting a copy of a particular sci-fi book for years, and I wanted it just to read, so the $300 copies on the net were not going to work! (The book is long out of print and very hard to find.) I found it in the budget bin at a used bookstore (in hardback!) marked at .75 just last week. I was in shock!

Lauren said...

Back when the high number Judy Boltons were selling for hundreds of dollars, I found a copy of #27 The Trail of the Green Doll and #33 The Secret Quest in a Buy-It-Now for $8.

I already had Green Doll, but for $4, I was happy to buy it. The Secret Quest was impossible to lay your hands on for under $100, so that was exciting.

I also found #34 The Puzzle in the Pond buried in a big lot of (worthless to me) books. There were tons of books and I got it for about $50, so the price worked out to about $5 per book at a time when that book sometimes sold as high as $300+ for a dust jacketed copy.

That one I had to work for though, I was out walking for exercise and was halfway across town when I remembered that the auction was ending shortly. I sprinted home and made it with seconds to spare. I was red-faced and my lungs were bursting, but I got my book! = )

sequesterednooks said...

I don't really buy books on eBay anymore (for various reasons), but one of my favorite purchases was a lot of 8 dust-jacketed Carolyn Wells books (Two Little Women and Marjorie series). At $30 including shipping it wasn't the world's biggest steal, but they were in great condition. The best part is that they all have the original owner's name in the front, so I feel like I'm keeping her collection alive.

keeline said...

This description brings a couple of eBay auctions which I have been fortunate enough to win.

The most recent was the Bob Berran artwork for The Flying Saucer Mystery. Two auction sellers, Heritage Auctions and an eBay reseller. Neither one of them knew that it was a Nancy Drew painting even though a quick search for "Bob Berran" and "Flying Saucer" would have revealed this important fact. Had either seller made the slightest effort, it would have sold quicker and for more money than it did.

Many years ago I saw an auction for a paper dress that included logos for many 20th Century Fox films circa 1969-70, including a couple with name changes and some that were not produced or released. For me the most interesting was Tom Swift. However, because paper dresses have a strong collector following and they don't survive well. That copy sold for a couple thousand and I figured I would not see another. A couple years ago a miracle occurred and another one was listed but this time the seller did not include the magic words "paper dress". It closed for about $20 and I was sweating bullets until it arrived from Canada.

Another case of a seller who didn't do a Google search was a metal notepaper case which was a souvenir of the 1939 NY World's Fair. It is stainless steel in the shape of an envelope with a World's Fair stamp and an address for Leslie McFarlane engraved as the "to" address that is a facsimile of his handwriting. There was one bid on it for the minimum and my late bid was the winner at an increment above the opening minimum. Fortunately the seller never looked up who Leslie McFarlane was and the initial bidder, a series book collector, forgot to come back and place another bid.

One remembers the "wins" but also sometimes the "losses". In general, I have seldom had reason to regret something I have purchased but many times I have regretted the items that "got away."


Jennifer said...

I found it in the budget bin at a used bookstore (in hardback!) marked at .75 just last week.

That type of find is the very best! I love finding books that I want to read and at low prices. This reminds me of the very best find I ever had in an antique shop. I wrote about it here. I had wanted those Judy Bolton titles so badly, and it was amazing to find beautiful copies in an antique shop. That is the only time I ever began trembling upon finding some books.

It is stainless steel in the shape of an envelope with a World's Fair stamp and an address for Leslie McFarlane engraved as the "to" address that is a facsimile of his handwriting.

I remember when you wrote about that find shortly after obtaining it. That is a fabulous find and worth far more than what you paid for it.

In general, I have seldom had reason to regret something I have purchased but many times I have regretted the items that "got away."

I have a few regrets. My greatest regret is letting a certain library edition get away around ten years ago. That variant has never come up for sale again.

stratomiker said...

How about pre-eBay finds?

Some of you have no real idea how much fun it was in the 1960s and 1970s to buy the series books we drool over at the local thrifts or used book stores for only $2 each, in great DJs. Everytime you went!

Toronto was a real hotbed for books in those years and two stores on the east end beaches specialized in kids books. One time on my way up to the lake I stopped to browse and bought about 50 books, among them a nearly complete set of Penny Parkers - odd to find in Canada and all in VF DJs. I drove up to the cottage and spent the week reading them.

Also with that haul was near-complete set of the blue velvet 50s Danas in DJs, which many believe were British or Canadian editions.

The books were everywhere and inexpensive. You could easily pick up the early thick ones. I actually sold some Hardys and Drews at my grandmother's garage sale in 1974 for $5 each that today would get hundreds each on eBay. Who knew?


Jennifer said...

I have just started going to garage sales and estate sales again for the first time since the middle part of the 1990s. I'm not sure why I ever quit, but I strongly suspect that it had something to do with discovering the internet and eBay.

20 years ago, I would find a few series books during every single outing. Now, I rarely see any series books. Ever since I began going again a few weeks ago, I have seen a few Hardy Boys books that were very overpriced at one sale and have not seen any others. I can't even imagine the fabulous finds that were around 30 to 40 years ago and even further back.

Mike G said...

Jennifer - My Best eBay find was remarkably similar to yours. It occurred in Nov 2008. I was skimming through the new Hardy Boys listings on a slow Monday morning at work. There was a Buy-It-Now listing for 3 Hardy boys books for $30. There was only one photo, and it showed the 3 books stacked on top of each other. The top 2 books were modern glossy Hardy boys books, and the book on the bottom of the stack was While the Clock Ticked (based on the written description). I could see that the book had a white dust jacket and that the book itself was red. A possible 1st edition, first printing? I rationalized that most likely it was an Applewood reprint, especially given the other two were glossy picture cover books.

I emailed the seller to ask if the publisher of the dust jacketed book was Grosset & Dunlap, but I realized that if this WAS the rare/scarce 1st printing of Clock Ticked that it could get sold right in front of my eyes, in which case I would never forgive myself. So, I used the Buy-It-Now for $30.

An hour later, the seller emailed me back, saying that it was a Grosset & Dunlap book. When it arrived, it matched all the points for a 1st printing (including the green print on the inside of the dust jacket.) The dust jacket was in a similar condition to the Clue in the Diary book you purchased.

People often give eBay a bad rap in terms of finding any decent series books any more. While great books may not be as plentiful as they were 10 years ago, there are still occasional treasures out there waiting to be discovered by diligent (and LUCKY) collectors!

stratomiker said...

I have just started going to garage sales and estate sales again

*** One thing you can do at estate sales is talk to the liquidators, tell them you buy series books and ask would they call you about sets pre-sale. I used to give them flyers explaining what I buy and I'd often get calls before the sales, while they were still organizing the stuff, and I'd go out to the place and buy beautiful sets.

Most liquidators have people to call pre-sale for many kinds of items, especially those that do not do well at the sales. They'd rather sell a whole set or collection cheaper than only a few of the items and be stuck with the rest.

I used to buy large sets this way but stopped doing it because I have too many books. But about a year ago I bought a huge collection at an estate sale at a nearby mansion, so sets and collections are still out there. There are still attics that have not been cleaned out since the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and thus the books are still packed away in them.


Deb said...

I loved reading your post about Best Ebay Finds. One of my favorite stories about a "find" is from my dad, who got the book-collecting bug from me in the late 1990s-when prices were high.
He was at a Goodwill in central Nebraska, digging through a pile of 'clearance' books-if you can believe it....and he found a Judy Bolton #34 with the dustjacket. We all know what that combination was selling for in the late 1990s. He paid a whopping .9¢ for the book!