A Note about Internet Book Auctions


Internet Book Auctions are Fun-
Internet book auctions are fun -no doubt about it.  But new buyers and collectors should be aware of the potential pitfalls of buying books on Ebay and other auction sites.  Too often we have found wonderful books which, on further examination, have been misdescribed.  Nice early books which, when they arrive, turn out to be single volumes of sets but were not noted as such.  Literary treasures which scream "1st edition, 1st printing" in their descriptions but, upon reading the fine print closely, turn out to be later reprints.  Sellers of such outrageous dreck hide behind carefully worded descriptions -"well, it was the first printing of the reprint" and such.  To be sure, they are legally safe, but they are taking advantage of other people's lack of expert knowledge.   These misdescribed books often sell for many times what they are actually worth in the marketplace; many times what you could buy the books for elsewhere -many times what they are worth.

Ask Questions!
This is not to say that there are not wonderful things to be found on Ebay and other auction sites -there are.  But buyers need to excercise a great amount of caution and they need to know what questions to ask and what to look for.  If you are unsure about something in a description -ask! 
Ask the seller "Is this the *true* first printing of the first edition, not a later reprint?"
       "Is this part of a larger set?" 
       "Is the book complete?"

And keep all the emails so you have a record!  

Do Your Homework
Do some homework -check databases such as the ABAA Book Search, or the Advanced Book Exchange, to see if other copies of that edition and printing of the book are being offered, and what they are selling for.  Read the descriptions on these databases carefully and get some background on the book you are interested in.  Was there a limited edition in addition to the first?  Were there both American and English first editions, and are they worth the same amount of money?  Do the descriptions on the databases seem to differ substantially in collation (number of pages, volumes and plates) from the book listed on the internet auction site?

Look for the ABAA, ABA, ABAC or IOBA Logo-
The best way to stay safe in the internet auction arena is to look for whether the dealer is a member of a recognized bookseller's organization which demands that its members maintain certain standards.  Remember- anyone can set up a stand on Ebay or another auction site and call themselves a professional dealer, but that does not mean that they are.  The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Canada, and the British Antiquarian Booksellers Association are recognized among collectors and in the book trade as the outstanding trade groups which demand that their members maintain high standards and offer guarantees of their stock.  When buying from members of these groups your satisfaction is assured.  Likewise, the recently organized Independent On-Line Booksellers Assocation is striving to set and maintain standards for its members.  

Have fun when you are surfing eBay and other auctions sites, but remember the age-old advice -buyer beware!

Another interesting auction story- Call him Itchmael (from Alan Bamberger)


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