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When You Don't Know
What Your Book is Worth

A Review of ValueMyStuffNow

by Craig Stark

#144 21 June 2010

At a recent estate sale I acquired a copy of what I would be comfortable calling a rare book - in fact, an online search at WorldCat returned no results, and a Google search turned up only one copy, this in a library in the Tuscany region of Italy. Here's the book:

When this sort of thing happens, I usually do one of two things. Either I conduct a deeper search, looking for past auction records - American Book Prices Current is a good resource for this - or contact an auction house that I think might have an interest in it. Many booksellers, however, don't have access to ABPC - unless your local library has it, it doesn't come cheap - and contacting auction houses every time you want to know what something is worth isn't a good idea unless you are pretty sure you have something of interest going in and are willing to commit to consigning it - in other words, if you attempt to use auction houses as a free valuation service without an accompanying willingness to consign, doors will start slamming in your face. Of course, you could also post information about your book in a bookseller's forum or ask a colleague, but results could well be incomplete or unreliable.

So - what to do? Wait for Antiques Road Show to come to town?

I saw an article recently in, of all places, my local newspaper about a recently launched service - ValueMyStuffNow. The founder of this company is Patrick van der Vorst, who was both a Director and Head of Department at Sotheby's London for over 12 years. He has put a staff in place consisting entirely of former Christie's and Sotheby's employees, many of them now retired after long years of service, and who have expertise in 28 different collecting fields, including books.

The process is simple. You snap some photos, write a description, and email everything to them. Inside of 48 hours you have your auction estimate and an accompanying report - what's called an Online Valuation Certificate. This is maintained on their server so it can be accessed at any time and, if desired, shown to a potential buyer. Also included is a VMSN eBay Valuation Seal - HTML code you can insert in your auction that links to the Valuation Certificate.

Not only is this service fast; it's also cheap - most items are evaluated for $5.99, less if you purchase valuation credits in quantity.

You might be wondering if VMSN purchases any items or recommends venues for selling them. Fortunately, no. Here's the explanation from their FAQ:

"No, we are not in the business of buying items from our customers, nor do we advise as to where they should sell their items. If we were to buy or advise where to sell, it would only compromise our objectivity and hence have a detrimental effect on the accuracy of our valuation. We want to stay as objective as possible throughout the whole process and pride ourselves in being in a position where we can have a completely unbiased approach towards each item. This enables us to provide the most exact valuation possible as no other interests come into the equation."

To date, I've submitted two items and received responses in about a day and half. Based on my experience, I recommend ValueMyStuffNow highly.

Oh - and if you're wondering what the auction estimate for my book was ...

... $300 to $400.

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