First a story…some days I drive myself crazy. Yesterday was one of those days. I received an order for a book, but it didn’t appear on my inventory tracking sheet nor was it the main bin where I store listed books. Drat! So I laboriously opened up and searched 30+ bins in my garage. Then I looked on my personal book shelves and then through my unlisted books. I looked high and low. In total I spent over two hours looking for that #$%! book. I was minutes away from cancelling the order, then as fate would have it I stumbled upon the book hidden underneath some stuff by my desk. What the heck! It had been within a few feet me all the time!! I smote my head but was happy to have found it. (BTW, it was a delightful book by Beryl Markham with many photos of her life in Africa.)
Though I love books I don’t sell many these days. I once had a separate Etsy bookstore (Second Life Books) but it has been on permanent vacation for years. Initially the store did okay and then sales dropped off…a lot. Even though I provided photos and more info about the condition of each book, it was hard to compete with Amazon book sellers–partly because some can sell books so cheaply and partly because of the high traffic volume Amazon receives. I ended up donating over half of my Second Life Books’ stock.
Now I just sell a few select books through my regular Etsy store (Lion & Lamb Vintage) and I’m happy with that. I’m trying to focus on the more valuable books though truth be told my knowledge about “valuable books” is scanty. There were several old guys I used to see at estate sales and they always made a beeline for the books. They knew what to look for and got in and out quickly. I envied them. I don’t have that knowledge, but I do have a little BOLO list. I have a few types of books that do okay for me…and by okay I mean they sell modestly for $20 and above.
Books I Look For
- vintage/antique illustrated medical/health books
- vintage/antique font/typesetting books
- old punctuation/writing books
- old handwritten journals/diaries
- quirky themed books
- old illustrated books
- some religious books and older hymnals
Books on My Dream List
- first edition Ian Fleming James Bond books
- 1800s versions of Owen Jones “The Grammar of Ornament” book (I had one once! And I do have some individual pages for sale. They are gorgeous framed.)
Books I Leave Behind
- cookbooks (unless really old and/or unique)
- bestsellers ($24.95 hardcovers printed in the 100,000+ are fairly worthless in the resale market)
- textbooks (yes, I know there is money in textbooks I’m just not interested in them)
- new books
Books I’ve Sold
While books do not represent a large portion of my business, here’s a sampling of favorite books I’ve sold over the years.
The illustrated “The Cats of Louis Wain” book by Patricia Allderidge was in my personal collection for some time. I finally decided to let it go. Paid $4, sold for $52. And I love looking at font styles. Is that weird?? I got this 1950 font book “Type and Lettering for Typographers, Letterers, Designers” by William Longyear for free. It sold for $35.
One of my recent favorite book sales was for a 1949 illustrated copy of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” that was dedicated and signed by famed illustrator Virginia Lee Burton. While the book wasn’t in pristine condition, it was rather special. I don’t think the previous seller realized it had been signed by the illustrator.
Grading/Describing Your Books
It is important to adequately describe the condition of any books you sell. Book grading ranges from fine, near fine, very good, good, fair and poor, but you’ll also want to highlight/photograph any defects: stains, page bends, writing, corner bumps, foxing (brown spots), etc. Additionally you’ll want to share if the book is ex-library, a book club edition or has a musty smell, all of which devalue the book.
The Vermont Antiquarian Bookseller Association has in-depth information about grading books that you’ll want to check out.
One of my Favorite Resources for Pricing
Bookfinder.com is a wonderful resource for getting general info on how many similar books are for sale and at what condition and price. (I always make sure to enter the publication year.)
A Parting Story
When I still had Second Life Books open, I had this wonderful 1950s book on orchids. I had done my research on its value and had it priced reasonably at $18 which included free shipping. It was a good deal.
Well I was contacted by another Etsy seller and offered $12! Generally other Etsy sellers don’t make offers and I remember thinking how would she feel if I offered her 33% less for one of her handmade bracelets. I mean honestly!! Needless to say I didn’t accept her offer. I kept the book and finally decided to relist it in my main Etsy store a few years later, this time for $24, plus $4 shipping and it sold rather quickly and without fuss.
I’ll close for now, wishing you happy hunting,