Monday, December 30, 2013

The Collapse of Series Book Prices

I have written about the decline in series book prices several times in the last five years.  I was able to locate a couple of key blog posts.

On November 22, 2009, I wrote about the economy causing series book prices to be low in "The Economy and Series Book Prices."  The economy is still a big factor right now.

The following passage is from July 26, 2009 in the post "Follow-Up to Low Prices for First Printings on eBay."
eBay is no longer a good venue for selling high value books unless the seller starts the opening bid at what the books are truly worth. Second, the seller must know what he or she has or the books will not attain their true values. Third, eBay is now the best place on the internet for purchasing valuable books to resell either on eBay or on other venues. Frank also observed that the prices would be even lower if the resellers were not bidding against each other. This is true.

For the three auctions that I mentioned, the second highest bidder was also a reseller in at least two of the three cases. The final bid prices of the books were driven by resellers and not by people who actually wanted them. The books would be selling for next to nothing except that the resellers are buying nearly everything good on eBay and are bidding against each other.
I added emphasis to the final sentence.  Finally, most of the people buying to resell have backed off, and this has happened only in the last few months.  As a result, most series book prices have now collapsed.
It's been difficult to sell series books in recent months.  The government shutdown in October caused internet commerce to slow to a crawl.  Sellers on websites such as eBay and Amazon reported that their sales were extremely low in October.  Since most all sellers have had much trouble moving their inventory, they have had to cut back on making purchases.  Since much less buying to resell is occurring right now, nothing remains to prop up the prices.

This is great for buyers, because the prices are lower than ever.  This is also problematic for new buyers of series books, because they have no idea what the historic values of scarce books are.  They may let some books slip by because they may think the current low prices are high prices.

The last Connie Blair title, The Mystery of the Ruby Queens, sold for only $13.63 on eBay in November, and the book had a dust jacket.  I could see where some new collectors who are used to finding books for $5.00 in local stores might have thought that $13.63 was too high, not realizing that Ruby Queens is normally a $75 to $100 book.

Likewise, a Cherry Ames #27, Ski Nurse Mystery, sold for only $36.54.  That price might seem high to new collectors, but that book is typically a $100 book. It used to be a $250 book.

Prices for the entire Judy Bolton series have fallen sharply.  Buyers can now obtain most any title in the series from #1-38 in a vintage hardcover edition for $35 or less.  If a buyer is careful, most titles can be had for less than $25, even with dust jackets.

The Judy Bolton reprints are the biggest reason why the Judy Bolton prices have fallen.  The Cherry Ames books have also been reprinted.  Many series books have entered the public domain in the last few years, including The Mystery of the Ruby Queens.  The prices have decreased for all books in the public domain because those books are now available in print-on-demand books or as free electronic texts.

The series with prices that have not collapsed are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Three Investigators.  Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys prices are rather low, overall, but they have not completely collapsed.  The prices for the Three Investigators books remain strong.

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys enjoy greater name recognition than the lesser-known series books.  The Her Interactive games are helping to keep the Nancy Drew name alive.

The Three Investigators series has a large crossover appeal; after all, Alfred Hitchcock's name is attached to the books.  At least one person continues to bid aggressively on Three Investigators books in order to buy to resell, so that person is keeping the prices high.

Most importantly, the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Three Investigators books have not entered the public domain.  When those series begin to enter the public domain in the not-so-distant future, their values will also decrease.

The huge drop in prices is a big concern to those of us who have been collecting for years.  I have always been cautious about what I spend on series books and have always tended to get good deals.  Unfortunately, I paid more for most of my good deals than what the books are currently worth.  I have books up for sale right now that I know have absolutely no chance of selling, because my prices are three to four times the current value.  I am going to leave most of those books priced the same and hope that values climb in the coming months.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nicely Colored Nancy Drew Illustrations

Any type of writing inside a book is a flaw, whether the writing is a price, a name, or an inscription.  Occasionally, I run across books in which one or more illustrations have been colored, and this is considered a significant flaw and would in most cases make a book undesirable.

I have held onto a Nancy Drew book with colored illustrations for ten years because I love how very nice the illustrations look.  The book is an ordinary copy of The Bungalow Mystery in the picture cover edition from the 1960s.  I have no need of the book in my collection except for the fact that I love the coloring. 

I have the book in plastic marked as one with colored illustrations.  I want to make sure I remember why I have this book that is not in the best of shape and is not needed for my collection for any other reason.

Here are the delightfully colored illustrations.

No doubt the original owner loved and enjoyed this book.  I hope that others find this book as neat as I do.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Always Watch for Water Damage

Water damage is a flaw that is often not mentioned by sellers.  I don't understand why so many of the sellers are oblivious that their books are musty and mildewed with wavy pages.  You would think that the flaws would be extremely apparent and that the sellers would mention the flaws.  Perhaps these people know so very little about books that they have no idea that we care about such things.  Even worse, some experienced sellers may choose not to reveal the water damage. 

I have learned always to be watchful for signs of water damage in sellers' photos.  This has saved me from ending up with books that are undesirable.  Recently, I saw what appeared to be very lots of Hardy Boys books with dust jackets on eBay.  Once I viewed the photos inside the listings, I realized that at least some of the books in each lot have water damage.  If even one book in each lot has water damage, then most likely all books have water damage including a musty odor.  I cannot stand books that have a musty odor and try hard to avoid acquiring those books whenever I can.

Vintage Lot of 10 The Hardy Boys Mystery Books

This lot sold for $58.00.

The books look very nice except for the following book which has water damage to the front panel of the dust jacket.

If even one book has water damage, then I have to assume that the other books do. These next two photos show that the books are not particularly clean, and I see some small water stains on the top edges of the books.

I also have to assume that the seller's other lots have water damage as well.  Anything less would be expecting too much.  Here is the second lot offered by the same seller.

Vintage Lot of 16 The Hardy Boys Mystery Story Books

This lot sold for $77.00.

As before, the gallery photo shows what appear to be beautiful books.  But wait...

Yuck.  In my opinion, this lot was not worth purchasing.  

Vintage Lot of 8 The Hardy Boys Mystery Story Books

This lot sold for $34.83.

Again, the gallery photo shows nice books, except for the one on the far right.  Perhaps the books are okay... think again.

The seller also had a Nancy Drew lot.  Would the Nancy Drew books have come from a different place and be okay?

Vintage Lot of 13 Nancy Drew Mystery Story Books

This lot sold for $36.27.

I found one book with a water stain on the cover.  This means that the Nancy Drew books are also water damaged. 

I could be wrong about this seller's lots, and possibly many of the books do not have water damage.  However, I have purchased similar lots where just a few books show signs of water damage, and I was displeased with the condition of all books in the lot.  Usually the damage extends to all of the books to at least some degree.

The final bid price for each lot was not bad.  If the buyers don't care about the moisture exposure, then they would be pleased with their purchases. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Cereal Promotion

In 1978, select boxes of Cookie Crisp cereal had Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys paint books as premiums.  There are six different paint books.

The Cursed Jewels
The Eerie Castle

The Mad Scientist
The Sea Monsters
The Secret Cave
The Visitors from Tomorrow

I have never tried very hard to find the paint books, just because it has never been a priority.  Nevertheless, I do have a couple of them.

The Cookie Crisp cereal boxes with the paint book promotion are extremely scarce and very expensive.  I don't know what the current value is, but I suspect that the cereal boxes are still worth several hundred dollars each in the current market.  They are about impossible to find and would have been a good candidate for my blog post on the "Ten Rarest Nancy Drew Books and Collectibles."

Image from the Nancy Drew Sleuth blog

The above image is of one of the Cookie Crisp boxes and is from Jennifer Fisher's blog.  Please note that I am Jennifer White.

Recently, I spotted a partial cereal box with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys promotion on eBay.  I almost didn't click on the listing because the seller placed a large white box with "EBAY" inside the image, which made it look not interesting.  Who is interested in something called "EBAY"? 

Someone had cut out the part of the box that contained the promotion, and the seller had that part of the box up for sale.  I immediately decided that I wanted to purchase this item.  I kept expecting other people to bid, but in the end, I was the only bidder on the auction and was able to purchase the partial box at a total cost of $5.74 including shipping.

Partial cereal box on eBay

Even though I only have part of the box, I believe that I got a bargain.

Since the paint books have never been a priority, I would never be someone who would pay hundreds of dollars for an intact cereal box.  It's just not that important to me.  However, getting a partial cereal box for less than $10 is perfect!

You will notice two bids on the auction, but both bids were me.  I bid at the beginning to keep the listing from being closed early.  I bid my true maximum at the very end of the auction.  I kept wondering why nobody else bid on the auction.  I have several ideas.

The seller's big white box placed over the image may have kept people from noticing the cereal box.  I almost scrolled past the image, and then quickly realized that I needed to take a closer look.  I'm glad I did.

Some people may have noticed the auction but chose not to bid because the cereal box was not complete.  I always take the view that I would rather have an imperfect rare collectible than go without having that rare collectible for years in hopes of getting one that is perfect.  Items like this are always worth buying, especially when they are cheap.

The auction closed on Sunday, December 1, which was over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  More than likely, a number of people did not notice the auction due to being distracted by the holiday.

Notice that my partial cereal box has a blue background and that Jennifer Fisher's box has a black background, so variations in the boxes exist.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Circumventing a Buyer Block

I have blocked a certain heavy buyer of series books from purchasing from me.  He purchased many lots from me last year and left a "four" DSR in all four categories.  This shouldn't have been a problem, except that he purchased many items, and my averages took a quick nosedive.  That alone would not have caused me to block him.  At some point, I figured out that he leaves very harsh feedback for any seller who messes up a description at all, delays shipment, or overcharges on postage.  The latter two would never be a problem for me, but I do sometimes mess up descriptions.  I don't need for a buyer to leave me an immediate negative or neutral for a mistake.  Therefore, I blocked this person on both his buying and selling IDs.

After I began selling on eBay in large quantity in June, I knew that eventually the buyer would run up against the buyer block that I placed on him.  I just received a feedback for a recent transaction, and the feedback uses the same odd phrase that the blocked buyer uses for all of his transactions.  The book purchased is exactly the sort of book the blocked buyer would have purchased from me.  I checked the transaction, and the buyer has the same surname but lives in a different state.  I looked at the feedback left for others, and this buyer leaves harsh feedback for exactly the same reasons as the seller I blocked and with similar phrasing.  Furthermore, one feedback followup mentions the state in which the blocked buyer resides.  I can conclude that my buyer block was circumvented by use of a secondary ID.

This is a reportable eBay offense.  Buyers are forbidden from circumventing buyer blocks.  I will wait several days before running a report to see what DSRs I received, since I do not believe that eBay releases the data immediately for recent feedback.  In the meantime, I have now blocked this third ID as a precaution.  I cannot have been left a low DSR in either communication or shipping cost, but I could have in the other two.  If I find that I have been left a low DSR on either one, then I will be filing a complaint against the buyer for circumventing the block.

If the buyer happens to read this, I am sorry but I cannot risk selling to a buyer who is known to leave harsh feedback without trying to resolve with the seller first.  I do understand that you are a large volume buyer with many incoming packages and cannot be bothered with asking for refunds.  However, sellers are real people who sometimes make mistakes, and nearly all sellers will rectify those mistakes if given a chance.  eBay now gives permanent selling suspensions to sellers who have just a few low DSRs and just a few negative and neutral feedback.

Furthermore, eBay suspends all IDs associated with the seller and all IDs for anybody who has ever used eBay in the seller's household.  This means that if a friend logged into eBay on the seller's computer at any point in the past, then that friend would also be suspended.  Some of you will doubt my words, but I have read eBay's message boards for years and have read dozens of reports of this happening.  This is serious, so buyers who have a habit of leaving bad feedback must be blocked.

For the rest of you, if you sell series books on eBay, you have almost certainly sold to this person, and the probability is at least 90%.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

People Buying and Selling with Little Knowledge

Recently, someone asked me if a Dana Girls book was the original edition from 1934.  This type of question bothers me, because while I believe the person wants to know if the book is the original text, I also wonder if the person could be seeking the first printing.  In this case, I made the mistake of answering both possible questions.

My response:
This book does have the original text from 1934 with 25 chapters. The text for Lone Tree Cottage was never revised, so this book has the original and only version. If instead you are asking about the age of this particular book, it was printed during the very early 1950s. Let me know if you need any additional information.
The buyer's response indicated that the buyer wanted the 1934 edition.  A bid had already been placed prior to the buyer asking the question, and the buyer canceled the bid as soon as my message was read.  I sent another message giving additional information.
The 1934 edition is a thick purple book. You want to look for those. It sounds like you are seeking a first printing copy. Even with the thick purple books, you have to ask the sellers about the post-text ads in order to find a first printing copy. Some thick purple books only have one glossy illustration, while the early ones have four glossy illustrations. If you need more information, I have a Dana Girls formats page which has pictures of the different formats along with years and other information. I can't give you a link in this message, but if you click on my "About Me" icon, I have a link on that page. I'm glad you asked about the book before the listing closed. Thanks!
The buyer should now know what to purchase, or at least that's what I thought.  The bid that was canceled was for this book, which you will notice has the green boards that date from 1949 to 1951.

After receiving my messages and canceling the bid, the buyer purchased the following book which lists to Crossroads.

The book purchased instead of mine is from 1954 and is a later printing, making it further from 1934 and supposedly less of an "original edition" from the point of view of the buyer.  I have to admit that I was annoyed and not because I lost a sale.  I was annoyed because I had wasted between 15 and 30 minutes on this person all to no purpose.  They were no better informed after reading my messages. 

During the same hour, the same buyer purchased another Dana Girls book on Bonanza and asked the same question.  I told the buyer that the book was an early printing and not the first printing.  The buyer wanted the order canceled, so I canceled it.  The buyer then purchased the same book from someone else who gave less information, and the buyer had no way of knowing whether that book was the first printing.

I'm sure the buyer asked the other sellers if the books were "original," and I'm sure the uninformed sellers told the buyer that the books were indeed "original."  The next time a buyer asks me if a book is "original," I might just answer "yes" and leave it at that.  Anything else is inviting trouble.  Of course, if the buyer asks if a revised text book is "original," I would tell them that the book does not have the original text.  It did neither me nor the buyer any good for me to try to help, at least not in this particular case.  I felt so discouraged.

I also don't understand why buyers place a bid or make a purchase before asking questions.  It's to the point that every time someone has already bid or purchased and then sends a message, I have a slight feeling of dread before reading the message.  So often, the buyer wants to know more about the book, and as in this case, the answer can result in a canceled transaction.   Why not ask the question before making a purchase?  Wouldn't that be easier for both of us?

In another case, someone new to purchasing Nancy Drew books is enthusiastically buying up many duplicates of Nancy Drew books on eBay.  The person may be collecting, but many of the duplicate books are now getting listed for sale.  Some of the books were purchased cheaply and others at inflated prices.  All of the books that are getting placed up for sale are being priced at five to ten times higher than the price paid for the book.  For example, a book purchased for $45 was listed for $250, and the seller stated in the listing that the book is worth $500.

Another book that I tried to sell for several years at $10 and under was sold for around $5 and has been priced at $40 by the buyer.

The descriptions of the books are minimal and are along the lines of "good vintage condition."  I am perplexed at the selling strategy, but I am even more perplexed that two lots have already sold at the inflated prices.