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by Craig Stark

#53, 10 October 2005

FlatSigned or personally inscribed - which is better? More valuable? More readily authenticated? Most booksellers, I'd guess, have formed definite opinions about these questions, and, since so much is at stake, most likely they're strongly held. Forgeries have proliferated since eBay opened its doors in the late 1990s, and establishing signature authenticity has become an especially demanding, sometimes impossible task for booksellers. Depending on how effectively we accomplish it, values can soar or plunge.

BookThink's Science Fiction Editor Timothy Doyle has addressed this topic on several occasions, coming down on the side of inscribed books. Tim cited his reasons in this 2003 BookThinker article.

Which brings me to Tim Miller, president and CEO of FlatSigned.com and the FlatSigned Press. Tim, you may know, is responsible for introducing "FlatSigned" (originally coined by Stephen King) into our bookselling vocabularies, and certainly the term is useful for distinguishing a book that has been signed by an author from one that has also been personalized with an inscription. Recently, Tim contacted me and requested an opportunity to present his viewpoint on FlatSigned versus inscribed, which, in addition to his last name, differs sharply from Tim Doyle's. The resulting article appears today. In the interest of advancing the debate, I also offered Tim Doyle an opportunity to respond. Tim's article follows Tim's.

Tim Doyle (I think I'm keeping everybody straight here) also contributes a review of Bud Webster's new book, The Joy of Booking: Webster's Guide to Buying and Selling Used SF & Fantasy Books. If you're new to the business and interested in getting it right, this is definitely worth a look. And finally, to start things off, here's an interesting, potentially profit-generating letter I received recently from a nearby bookseller:

Craig, scouting is pretty good here [Ocala, Florida]. Some days are better than others, of course. Today I went to a library sale in Williston (north of here). They have one once a month in the fall and winter months. I came home with a whole box full of audio tape sets called "The Teaching Company" or sometimes known as "The Great Courses." They are actually lectures by college professors, and they are really hot on eBay and quite easy to list. They had a whole table full, and my mouth dropped open because Williston is just a little one-horse town, so to speak. I grabbed about 30 sets of 5 to 8 tapes in each set for $30.00 total for all (and they all included the course books!). If you weren't aware of these, then look them up on eBay. I'm sure you will see some in your area. The ones I bought are worth hundreds I am sure. Sorry to go on and on!

To get back to your original question, scouting is very good if you don't get discouraged. I took your advice in one of your newsletters, and instead of giving up on certain thrift stores, I keep checking in on a weekly basis. I have come up with some excellent children's book lots, also Christian romance book lots and such. I have only been at this for a couple of years, but I read everything about buying and selling that I can get my hands on. I also study other people's listings and selling techniques. Thanks to you I have bought and sold some great local history/genealogy books, Martha Stewart magazines (in lots), a couple of dictionaries, some interesting science fiction books, and much more that I would probably have passed on had I not read your articles.

Right after you brought up Martha Stewart in one of your articles (I think it was a 50/50 issue), I found a whole box of her older magazines for only $5.00 at a yard sale! I auctioned them on eBay, and thanks to you my family ate steak the following week! lol! I am still looking for that special cookbook. So, without further ado, I will say that, yes, scouting is very good here, but you have to be tenacious! Thanks again, Craig! And by the way, if I don't hear the end of that story about Abraham Lincoln pretty soon I will go ....


EDITOR'S NOTE: Lincoln is looming.

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