Sunday, June 7, 2015

Book Buying Dilemmas

Book prices have fallen precipitously since the summer of 2008.  Quite a buying frenzy occurred that summer due to one buyer.  I made the following statement in 2009.
Remember the buying frenzy of the summer of 2008? Gosh, those were such great times! We could list anything for a high price, and she would buy it! For those who don't know what I mean, a certain buyer was buying approximately $20,000 worth of series books per month for around three months on eBay in the summer of 2008. She paid $50 to $100 for $5 books. She paid $500 for $100 books. She paid $1,000 or more for $300 to $500 books. She won just about all auctions she bid on because of her huge bids. Months later we learned that she had stolen several hundred thousand dollars from a bank and went to federal prison.
After all, when a person is using stolen money, they can bid as high as they want.

By early 2009, prices had decreased to lower than they had ever been since the genesis of the internet.  Prices have decreased further since early 2009 and have never recovered.  Some scarce books sell consistently for shockingly low prices.  Not only are fewer people building sets of series books, but the low amount of interest and low prices have led to new collectors having no idea of the historical value of scarce series books.  That means that some buyers will never want to pay more than a few dollars for a book, no matter how scarce it is.

Series book prices will probably ever return to the previous level.  As current collectors grow older and quit collecting, fewer young people will become collectors.  The series are part of the distant past, and few young people will be aware of them.  This is why current collectors should not wish the demise of the few series that remain in print.  In particular, I recall a comment from a Trixie Belden collector who wished that Nancy Drew would go away.  Since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are still in print, they provide a gateway to the older series that are out of print, including Trixie Belden.  It would be a great loss if Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys ever go out of print, which is why I wish Simon and Schuster would take better care of them.

Waning interest in vintage series and ever decreasing prices lead to my dilemma.  I am now rather wary when an extremely scarce item shows up in an eBay auction.  As always, I have to outbid all other buyers in order to be the highest bidder.  Is that wise these days?  I am also wary of fixed-price items, and sometimes I hesitate longer than is wise when considering what is obviously a good purchase price on eBay.

Here's an example.  When I saw this Grosset and Dunlap sign on eBay, I hesitated, even though I wanted it and knew it was extremely scarce.  I'm not the only one, because someone else had already placed it in their watched items list.

I thought it over for at least several minutes.  I took the Buy It Now of $99.99.  My decision was wise.  Here is another Grosset and Dunlap advertising sign that sold recently.

The sign sold for $518.96 on April 14. If the second sign is worth over $500, then my sign is also worth over $500.

Auctions on eBay for the truly scarce books can be frustrating.  Since I have to outbid everyone else in order to win scarce books, I have to pay a high price.  The problem is that I usually already own a copy of the book in lesser condition.  Even when I pay a high or somewhat high price for the upgrade, the book that I already own usually cost more than the upgrade, since prices have fallen.  In order not to take a loss on the upgraded book, I have to price it higher than what I paid for my upgrade.  This is a problem, since buyers won't want to pay that high of a price.  The result is that I have to take a loss on the book that was upgraded.

I also can end up overpaying for books when I purchase them at fixed prices.  This can't be helped when I want to build a set quickly and don't want to play the game of checking eBay for one to three years.  I have to select from what is currently available, and I sometimes have to pay more than I would like.

I also end up taking a loss when I sell books that I have owned for many years.  I decided to sell a number of my Cherry Ames books.  I purchased the books in around 2007 at what were then very reasonable prices.  If I had sold the books in 2007, I would have made a nice profit.  Since 2015 Cherry Ames prices are much lower than 2007 Cherry Ames prices, many of the books will have to be sold at a loss or at a break-even price.  This is true for most all series books from most all series.

This means that I find it necessary to continue selling extra series books that I can find for less than the current fair market value.  Any profit that I might make on some books that I sell covers the losses I take on books that were purchased years ago. 

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