How do you price your books?

How do the volunteers in Collector’s Corner price the books on their shelves?

The first step is a simple one: a scanner. Most scanning services check the prices offered for a book on online auction sites like eBay and Amazon.com and present the range of prices a given title has brought in over the past three months, as well as giving an indication of whether the price has been rising or falling during that time and how brisk the title’s sales have been. It’s a good first step in pricing, but, of course, it’s only a first step.

Scanners can’t help much with antique books or books in custom bindings. The sites they tap into seldom (if ever) list information on the condition of books offered at varying price points. They do not distinguish between the amounts dealers are asking and the final prices actually being paid for items at auction. They do not take into account whether a book is a first edition, whether it is signed, or whether it is still in its original dust jacket. Copies of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, for example, can be found for under a dollar… first editions of The Old Man and the Sea, though, start at considerably more. Pricing most of our books requires additional research.

Some online resources we routinely consult are rare-book marketplaces, among them AbeBooks.com, ViaLibri.net, TomFolio.com, BookFinder, and the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.

We often check in with individual antiquarian booksellers, art appraisers, historians, rare book librarians, and subject-area experts as well.
Our volunteer staff also brings a great deal of personal experience to the task of pricing. We’re lucky to have librarians, antique dealers, gallery and museum staff, and historians in our ranks. No item on our shelves is assigned a price arbitrarily.

All of this expertise goes toward finding what price our donated books are bringing at auction. As a general rule, once we determine the comparable going rate for a book we set our price at half that going rate: we’re a non-profit, staffed by volunteers, and we get all of our stock free through donation. We can afford to offer such steep discounts, and dealers from all around the country come to our sale to take advantage of those discounts. Many camp out overnight the night before the sale opens!

Every sale is a new adventure. We never know what will come to us as a donation, and patrons never know what new treasures will be up for sale. Join us in October 2017 and see for yourself!