Author Topic: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)  (Read 1013 times)

Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« on: July 23, 2020, 09:23:01 PM »
I am in the middle of moving house and trying to raise funds by selling items on eBay. While researching ahead of sale, there was one item that brought up prices I wasn’t expecting at all: my paperback Carcanet copy of John Ashbery’s Collected Poems 1956-1987 (published 2008). Sellers in the UK, US and Australia (on both eBay and Abebooks) are charging £300-£800 for this particular edition but I can’t for the life of me work out why. Those are the sorts of prices you see for hardback first editions with signed bookplates, not something I bought for 20 quid down at Waterstones less than 10 years ago.

Do you think I should contact the sellers and ask them? It doesn’t seem sellable at that price range.

Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2020, 09:41:05 PM »
You get these weirdly over priced results sometimes. I don't think they can be relied upon, except on very rare occasions.

The Carcanet edition is now out of print, so it might be worth something to a collector, but nowhere near the amount being quoted. Also, there's a hardback edition from the Library of America which has exactly the same contents and is still readily available.

Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2020, 09:48:35 PM »
Ah right, thanks. I knew about the Library of America edition, which is what made me suspicious in the first place. I guess they’re just chancers banking on a few beginners who will take the bait and pay the full price.

Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2020, 10:05:55 PM »
Possibly. I've seen some people claim that extreme prices like this are a result of people money laundering, but in my experience they mostly seem to be either generated via algorithms, or else the seller seems to have a suspicious number of out of print books in stock. (In the latter case, I don't know what they do if someone actually places an order with them.)

With the Ashbery, I'd be tempted to price it in the region of £10-£15.

Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2020, 11:51:51 PM »
Bookfinder.com suggests that the Library of America hardback is not as rare as the Carcanet paperback. There are only a few of the 2010 (I think that must be the one you meant) Carcanet paperback for sale anywhere. The cheapest shown on that database is one for £34.74 with shipping to the UK from a German seller before shooting up to the prices that you mentioned for a couple of copies advertised as in new condition.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2020, 12:58:04 AM »
You get these weirdly over priced results sometimes. I don't think they can be relied upon, except on very rare occasions.

Someone once explained the algorithm some sellers use to set prices.  I can't remember the details now but it's all automated and it's something like... it's set to undercut another sellers prices by a trifling percentage, but after adding VAT it ends up a little bit more than the other sellers price, so when you have two sellers using the same program the prices slowly creep up tit for tat until the price is totally ridiculous and nobody wants to buy it.  Then a real person sees the price and assumes that they should be selling theirs at the same price.  The result is that quite rudimentary things get listed at silly prices (like quite ordinary CD's being sold for hundreds of pounds).  Of course the book might actually be worth that much.  For a better look at what people are willing to pay, look at completed sales.

Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2020, 01:14:30 AM »
Bookfinder.com suggests that the Library of America hardback is not as rare as the Carcanet paperback. There are only a few of the 2010 (I think that must be the one you meant) Carcanet paperback for sale anywhere. The cheapest shown on that database is one for £34.74 with shipping to the UK from a German seller before shooting up to the prices that you mentioned for a couple of copies advertised as in new condition.

Sorry, yes, mine is the 2010 edition not 2008. I’m tempted to price it at £20-£25 if it is as rare as all that but I can’t foresee an ordinary buyer purchasing it for the prices listed on Bookfinder, even though mine is also in very good nick.

Nor am I convinced it’s special enough that a collector or dealer would pay through the nose for it. Or would they? I’ve never done this before, so this is all entirely new to me.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2020, 12:01:32 PM »
Nor am I convinced it’s special enough that a collector or dealer would pay through the nose for it. Or would they? I’ve never done this before, so this is all entirely new to me.

If everyone else is listing it for £300-£800 I'd be tempted to list it at £250 to undercut them.  Some mug will think they've got a bargain.
(But do your research first, there may be some reason why it really is worth a lot!)

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Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2020, 08:07:54 PM »
Is there no point on just sticking it on eBay as an auction these days? If it is worth anything it should get bid up to a reasonable amount shouldn't it?

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Bookselling advice (eBay, John Ashbery)
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2020, 05:57:55 PM »
Bobson, to add a data point to your query, I just looked for the Radio Times Crossword books (nice reasonable cryptic level for my brain) on Amazon and noticed volumes 2, 3 and 4 are going for over $800 each (vol. 1 isn't available at all). I'm going to take a guess and say it's a fault with an algorithm somewhere, as - probably - is yours.

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