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Top 10 on eBay
The Warm Up to a New Series
July 2005

by Pamela Palmer

#49, 15 August 2005

Which fiction and non-fiction books are winners on eBay? This series answers that question and, along the way, looks at the listing strategies sellers use to bring in big bucks. Each month, we'll list the highest final value fiction and non-fiction titles and examine the auctions that showcase them. In By the Numbers, you get a math-eye view of directions and anomalies. Then in early January, we'll look back at the year and consider bookselling trends and highlights.

But first, the rules. Starting next month, we'll list the top ten high-dollar books in both the book fiction and non-fiction categories. Only books and booklets are eligible, so items like those expensive Scientology tape sets are excluded, as are book lots, multiple copies, and unpublished works. Trilogies and small sets are in but large sets are not. When it comes to gray areas, the decision is in the mind of the compilers, but we'll strive for consistency. We'll describe the auctions of the top five in each category.

This month is a warm up to the series and varies from the future format. We are missing data for a couple of days at the first of July and only listed the top five in each category. In addition, we listed selected several other high value sales of general interest.

Starting next month, though, you'll get the full 10 top fiction and 10 top non-fiction to help target your book hunt in the right direction. Let's see, if you sold a copy of the right first edition of Casino Royale today, you could pay for .....

Top Ten on eBay
Fiction's Top 5
July 2005

#1 $9,412.26 Ian Fleming JAMES BOND Casino Royale 1st Edition
#2 $7,500.00 A RAISIN IN THE SUN
#5 $2,111.16 The Lord of the Rings J R R Tolkien *SIGNED and doodled

Selected Fiction Also Rans

$1,401.00 FOUNDATION TRILOGY * Asimov * 1st editions, D/Js
$1,281.00 ROBERT HEINLEIN Farnham's Freehold SIGNED 1ST EDITION
$1,130.00 Salem's Lot Centipede Press Stephen King 1/300 signed

#1 Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

When Ian Fleming looked at his first published James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in the early 1950s, prospects for a buyer paying $9,412.26 for it were slim. But that's just what happened on July 17, 2005 when a Scots seller's auction resulted in the highest priced fiction book to sell that month.

Not just any copy, this is described as "First edition, first state, with dust wrapper, without reviews, original cloth with red title & 'Heart' design on front board. London 1953." The seller notes that 4728 copies were printed and that this copy has a bit missing from the top of the dj and has a wrapper not price clipped plus a few minor flaws.

The auction attracted over 1500 viewers and more important, 13 bids taking it from the starting price of GBP 650 to the final selling price.

#2 A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Propelled by its status as "An authentic first edition autographed hard covered playbook with autographs including Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee, John Fielder, Glynn Turnman, David Susskind, Jan Petrie. Book autographed August 29, 1960." This auction reached its $7,500 price on one bid on July 3, purchased by a buyer with no feedback. The seller kept the auction simple. With one picture, a short canned summary of the play and its history, and no condition statement, the seller bet on the item selling itself. Though winning no style points, the auction did well.

#3 Philip Pullman Trilogy
Northern Lights 1st, 1st, flatsigned
Subtle Knife 1st, 1st flatsigned
Amber Spyglass 1st, 1st flatsigned

These three titles, all flatsigned on the title page, went for $3,518.60 on July 18. Condition notes were included for all three, ranging from near fine to unread and mint. All include the dust jackets in very good to mint condition. One picture suffices to show all three books in djs. Thirty-seven bids brought the price up from a GBP 0.99 starting price.

#4 Philip Pullman Trilogy
Northern Lights
Subtle Knife
Amber Spyglass

Coming in at #4 is the same trilogy in #3 but this time from another seller. These books are listed as "all true first ever printings Nothing added, nothing removed." Offered by a British seller, this auction garnered 25 bids from a GBP 0.01 starting price with no reserve. Condition for each is described in detail with notes on the prices the seller thinks each should bring if sold alone. Four pictures accompany the auction. By the way, the seller missed his estimated value by a significant margin.

#5 The Lord of the Rings, by J R R Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return on the King
plus, a separate Tolkien autograph

Yet another British seller brings the total to four of the top five fiction sellers in July. Using the same stacked-books-on-left-and-top background as the sellers of #1 and #3, this auction describes the condition of each book in detail. Ten pictures are included, two showing the separate autograph with doodle. Starting at GBP 99.99, the 16 bidders drove the price to GBP1,200 or $2,111.16.

Top Ten on eBay
Non-Fiction's Top 5
July 2005

#2 $2,982.01 Helmut Newton SUMO signed limited edition book
#5 $2,051.00 NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS 1st Edition Red Book No. 2128

Selected Non-Fiction Also Rans

$2,026.00 Paris De Nuit 1st Ed Paul Morand, Photos by Brassai, NR
$1,396.71 Alcoholics Anonymous. 1st Edition,1944,Sixth Printing
$1,353.96 Signed OCTAVIO PAZ: THREE POEMS; Limited editions club

#1 Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World
by Mikhail Gorbachev

Listed by iSold It, eBay's chain of drop off stores, this signed "mint, leather bound limited-edition" 1994 publication is number 142 of 250 and comes in a slipcover. The presentation is brief, consisting of three pictures, a six-sentence description, and a lengthy quote from a published review. The auction attracted 26 bidders starting at $0.99 and rising to $3,650, far surpassing the stated $124.99 reserve.

From the start, this book had a lot going for it - limited edition, leather, and signed, but iSold It packaged it with all the right professional touches. The photographs are extremely clear, the design is elegantly simple, and the text is exact but restrained.

#2 Sumo, by Helmut Newton

Erotic photography on a large scale takes second place in the July non-fiction list with a collectable copy of Sumo. Hefty at 20"x27.5" and 66 lbs., the title aims to get attention. The British seller is shown as an eBay member since May 20, and he/she writes, "this book has only been opened to check contents and to photograph for this auction." In addition, it was kept "in it's original packaging inside a custom made aluminium case for protection," though the seller notes that the case is sold separately. This copy is number 7731 of 10,000 and signed by Newton. A single bid at the starting price brought in GBP 1,695 or $2,982.01.

#3 Commentaries on the Laws of England, by Sir William Blackstone
Vols. 1, 2, and 4 of a 4-volume set

Despite missing volume 3 of this set, the seller in Scotland had a $2,926.89 payday on July 30 with Blackstone's Commentaries. Published in 1771, the volumes are described as "Bound in original full leather, five raised bands, with extensive gilt decoration and edging, all secure bindings, no loose boards, cracking to the leather on the spine edge of volume 1 - not affecting the binding. Some wear to the edges and rubbing in places." In addition, the seller indicates that there are no missing pages, insect damage or tears. Four photos illustrate the set. Twenty-four bids raised the price from a start of GBP 19.99 to 1,651, or $2,926.89.

#4 America's Sensational Perplexer, by Harry Houdini


Calling this "a fantastic, rare find," the British seller says this 1904 title is in very good+ condition flawed only by a nick, and praises its rarity claiming, "I would go as far as to say that I believe this is possibly the best copy of this rare item left on the planet, whether on the open market or tucked away in a collection." Possibly? Maybe, so. After all this is Houdini. The 32-page booklet received 19 bids, rising from a starting price of GBP 0.99 to 1,601 or $2,816.64 by auction's end on July 17.

#5 Narcotics Anonymous: It Works

This first edition copy of "The Red Book" is numbered 2128 and was published in 1982. The seller notes it is in outstanding condition with only two flaws - the seller's name inked inside and a razor cut on the surface of the back cover. Three pictures are with the auction. After three bids, the price rose from the starting bid of $1,500 to sell for $2,051.00 on July 18.

By the Numbers

70% of the sellers were from the UK
8 items were published after 1950
6 were listed for 7 days
3 were listed for 10 days
1 was listed for 3 days
3 had a reserve price
2 had only 1 bidder each
6 had between 16 and 37 bids
The 2 highest priced items had fewer than 16 bids
3 sellers had 100% positive feedback
2 sellers had 99.3% positive feedback, the lowest except 0
8 sellers had 98 or more feedbacks
1 seller had 2 feedbacks
1 seller had no feedback, listed for 3 days, and sold at the 2nd highest price

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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