Friday, November 17, 2017

The Expectation of Low Price Regardless of Scarcity

In the Facebook groups, members frequently post about their finds, usually at a certain chain bookstore, and the books were purchased at below value.  In fact, practically the only members who ever state what they paid for their books are the ones who announce that their books cost from $0.10 each up to $1.00 to $2.00 each.  Sometimes a member will photograph a big stack of vintage books and state that the entire stack was just a few dollars.

I ran searches on the names of some of the people who often post about very cheap finds.  Occasionally they state that a book that they purchased was priced higher than they would have liked, but they omit the price on those posts.  Interesting.  These people only mention prices when the books are extremely cheap.

The rest of the members almost never reveal the prices of their books, probably because they paid the actual market value.  Since the only people regularly revealing prices paid are the ones who purchased the books at very low prices, many collectors now have unrealistic expectations about price.  Some buyers think all books priced above a certain amount are too high, regardless of scarcity.  For some buyers, anything above $5 is too high.  For other buyers, anything above $40 or $50 is too high.  It doesn't matter how rare a book is; they expect for the book to be priced low.  They fail to understand that some books will be priced higher, due to supply and demand.

I had a copy of Vicki Barr #15, The Mystery of Flight 908, up for sale at $130.  Someone was looking for a copy, and the link to my book was shared in one of the groups. Someone else immediately said that my price was "crazy."  I did not take offense, because I knew that I had priced my book at the approximate value.  Not only that, mine was by far the cheapest copy available for sale.

The very few others up for sale online were priced at around $500.  I purposely priced mine the lowest.  I'm sure I needed to price mine at no higher than $50 for my price not to have been considered crazy by many series book buyers.  However, if I had priced my book at $50, it would almost certainly have sold immediately to someone who would have placed it back up for sale at $150 or higher.  There was no point in me giving it away at a low price. 

Regardless, I could not price my book at just $50 since I paid more than $50 for it.  Whenever a seller has scarce books up for sale, they most likely paid high prices for the books.  Sellers are not able to find scarce books for just a few dollars each.  I know of a high-end seller of inucabula—books printed before 1501—who spends $20,000 or more on single books and then resells them for $50,000 or more.  Expensive books that are up for sale were expensive for the sellers to purchase.  Never assume that the sellers purchased the books for mere pennies.  Sellers have made significant investments in their inventory.

Getting back to my book, I had the book available for someone who needed it, but I priced it high enough to recover my investment and make it less likely to be purchased to be placed back up for sale at an exorbitant price.  The book is now residing in someone's collection instead of being stuck in limbo for sale online. Many online sellers play "keep away" with scarce books by placing them up for sale at outrageous prices.  I want to get a decent price for my scarce books, and I want them to have a chance at finding a home.  Those books must be priced where they will sell, but probably to someone who needs the book.

At the same time, please understand that I do not mind dealers purchasing from me to resell.  If someone had purchased my book and offered it at a higher price, that would have been fine.  However, I did try to price it so that it would more likely go directly to someone who wanted to keep the book.

In a discussion in one of the series book groups, one person noted that collectors tend to price their books higher than bookstores and antique shops.  This is certainly true for books that are special in some way.  We know what they are really worth.  We know the historic selling prices over the last 20 or more years.  Unfortunately, those new to collecting do not know the historic selling prices, so they think we have priced the books too high.

International editions have become quite problematic to sell.  Buyers expect the books not to cost more than other series books.  In order to collect international editions, I must import the books from other countries.  The seller from whom I purchase the book may price a book at just $5, but I must typically pay postage of $10 to $20 to get the book.  The average international edition ends up costing $15 to $25, and sometimes the cost is much higher.

I have quite a few international editions for sale on eBay.  Many of them came from purchases made over two years ago when someone's entire collection of series books was donated to a library, which then evidently sold the books very cheaply.  Ultimately, the books ended up in large lots on eBay.  I acquired a large number of extras as a result of purchasing some of the bulk lots.   I have had some of the extras up for sale for over two years, and nobody wants them.  Those books are now priced at below my cost.  Even so, I have prospective buyers contact me, asking if I will reduce the prices.

I believe the problem is that because I have had so many extras from those purchases that prospective buyers perceive that the books are easy to find and should be priced cheaply.  Awhile back, someone made an observation about the availability of Vicki Barr books.  They believed that the international editions are much easier to find than the original editions.  They were referring to my listings of international editions of Vicki Barr books.  I was a bit taken aback that someone would think that the international editions are easier to find simply because one seller happens to have a bunch of them.  Now that my extra Vicki Barr international editions have sold, none are available.  They were never easier to find, but they were perceived to be due to my listings.

I have now sold most of those international editions, but for some reason, nobody will purchase my Danish Dana Girls books.  The books have beautiful cover art and are priced below my cost.  The Danish editions are my very favorite international editions, and I cannot understand why the books do not sell.  Actually, I do know why.  The books have been listed for over two years, so buyers think that they are easy to find.  Once they sell, the books will be hard to find.

1 comment:

A said...

It's tough. I think people love bragging about a deal they get and some people are ashamed or don't want to say they paid a lot for something. I know when I buy, I'm looking for particular books and probably spend more on it than I should since I am trying to build a collection - not buy to resell.

New collectors today have pros and cons versus those in the past. The availability and access is so much easier because of all the online retailers. If you are looking for a particular book, it's quite easy to find. The main thing you have to wait for is condition and dust jacket. Also since more copies are visible, prices are lower than if only a few copies are available. The cons are that because so much information is available, things are going to be priced pretty accurately. You aren't going to find a lot of cheap finds or that book worth thousands which you only paid a penny for. The average seller is usually aware of what they have more than in the past, so finding something under valued seems like you won the lottery so people brag. Trade-offs.

Something at issue is also field of book collecting itself. People in the past saw it as an investment tool much more. It really was no different than buying art or gold. Today however, many just are not that interested in collecting physical books, let alone for retirement planning purposes. Investors that are selling however still feel like they are owed that investment, which I don't begrudge them. The problem comes because there is so much supply, the knowledge of other copies existing is so much greater, and so many fewer people purchasing books solely as an investment greatly influences pricing.

I think the reasons for collecting have also somewhat changed. I think more people purchase for a collection reason - not solely for investment purposes. Users are trying to collect a series or an author or subject matter as opposed to collecting the highest priced books to get the highest investment payout. People are checking things off a checklist, not just purchasing highly collectible books never to look at. Also I think many purchasing series books aren't necessarily high rollers. I could be wrong, but it seems like a high price would prohibit series book collectors more. Many, like myself, have to save for that next book on the list so I think the price can be quite a deterrent when the perfect one comes on the market.

As to the Danish Dana Girls, wish I had known about them. Dana Girls is one of the series I collect.