Close this window to return to BookThink

BookThink Special Report

Selling a Signed First Edition on eBay

by Craig Stark

#133 SR2, 6 April 2009

Update, and a New BookThink Service

Last month BookThink ran an eBay auction for a signed first edition of Gone With The Wind.

As you can see from the link in the above article, the item was listed with an opening bid of $1,999.99 and did not sell.

Prior to launching this auction I did two things: I researched recent sales of similar copies, especially those without dust jackets, and then made several inquiries at auction houses. Based on this and, I should add, an assessment of the present state of the economy, I estimated that this considerably worn ex-library copy would almost certainly not go for more than $2,000 and far more likely go for something closer to $1,000.

With this in mind it seemed reasonable to at least give it a shot at the high end. The only risk was a $4.00 insertion fee. Because this is a highly collectible book and perhaps also because of the additional publicity generated by BookThink, there were hundreds of watchers and well over a thousand views - and also some inquiries during the course of the auction, including a BIN offer.

When the book didn't sell, there were several possible approaches: Re-list it in a second auction, perhaps at a lower price; negotiate a deal in private and re-list it at an agreed-upon BIN, or send it to an auction house and be done with it. In this case, a deal was negotiated for $1,600.00 - more than adequate enough to accept - and this was the final outcome. After subtracting fees, the final take was likely a few hundred dollars more than would've been realized at an auction house.

Though it's often characterized as a wholesale venue, eBay can in fact deliver good, better-than-wholesale auction results for four-figure books, but care must be taken to do whatever possible to give this the very best chance of happening. This includes, among other things, clear photos that show exactly what's being sold complimented by a clear condition description and a detailed bibliography - and whatever else will help get things done.

This said, it can be difficult for an inexperienced eBayer to move inventory on eBay with consistently good results. It can be doubly difficult to move a higher-end book. Unlike other venues, eBay has a fairly steep learning curve, and it can take many months if not years to get up to full speed. If you're short on eBay experience and come across a truly special book, what do you do? Your options are more or less limited to listing it on a fixed-price venue, where a book can sit and sit and sit before it sells (if ever), or sending it to an auction house and paying a hefty commission, not to mention waiting sometimes months for a payout.

There's now a third option: You can consign it with BookThink. This week we're introducing a low-cost program for selling high-end books - specifically, any and all books that have likely values of $1,000 or more. Commissions range from 5% (or in some cases less) to 10%. Associated eBay fees, including shipping costs, will be added to this if the book sells for an agreed upon minimum price or more. However, if it doesn't sell, you will be responsible only for return shipping. No fees whatsoever.

In exchange, we'll give your book the best possible chance to sell quickly at a maximal price. Not only will BookThink prepare a professional presentation, but we'll also bring other resources to the table to increase exposure to the marketplace. These will include publishing a short article featuring your book in our weekly newsletter, The BookThinker, running a banner ad for your auction on the BookThink home page, and in some cases contacting potential buyers who may otherwise not be aware of the auction.

If this interests you, email me at for more details. Please include a description and, if possible, photos of your book.

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC