Weird and Wonderful Moments Buying and Selling Books

By Sharon Fussell, March 23, 2012

Sometimes buying and selling books produces some strange moments. I have lost count how many times I have glanced at a title of a book on the shelves and the next thing I know that book has sold. Or, the number of times I’ve seen a certain book or a certain author in a shop, and ignored it knowing that I already have copies that have not sold despite being listed for ages, and then looked at my sales only to find those copies have sold.

Sometimes I have been watching the TV and mentioned that I have books listed concerning the subject of the TV program and – lo and behold – a sale comes through for that very book as if the buyer had heard me!

(Unfortunately this only seems to work on a subconscious level, if you actually stand in front of all your books and chant ‘sell, sell’ sell’ or talk to them, like some gardeners talk to their plants, they are still unlikely to sell any quicker).

I also notice that one batch of sales can involve selling books all of which happen to be situated at the bottom of their respective piles. Or that if a buyer asks about a certain book that we do not happen to have, I will see a copy within the next few days – too late to make a sale to the prospective customer.

Last week I had two copies of a title that I listed over six months ago and sold both copies in the same week, one to a buyer in Scotland and another to a buyer in Ireland, the title was ‘Welsh Humour’ again, most strange!

I’m often bemused when charity shop volunteers earmark certain batches of books as ‘off limits’ to me based on the value they perceive them to have. This week for example we were asked to avoid buying a pile of original Penguin titles, and a collection of books on the Wild West. We agreed of course, as being respectful of such requests ensures we get repeat visits.

The amusing thing was that we know that Penguin books issued in 1960’s/1970’s are really of no use (except perhaps for firewood). Not only were they in a bad condition, the titles have been reprinted many times since their first printing.

The Wild West volumes were extremely heavy and I know from experience that the ranking for each title is extremely high (indicating low demand) and many sellers have them priced at 1p plus P&P – in other words no profit margin. So I would not touch them anyway.

However, the volunteers had no qualms at all about taking books from other sections of the back room. Like the three I have just listed at £24.99, £12.99 and £49.99 respectively, from that very shop! All have in demand rankings and will certainly make more profits than all those rubbishy penguin editions.

Many people believe because books are old they are valuable, in the vast majority of cases this is just not the case. If a book does have collectors appeal generally they would have to be in mint condition, perhaps a first printing edition and have ‘rarity’ value. In our opinion most old books handed into charity shops are old book club editions from the 1950/60’s. Printed in their millions most have little worth and absolutely no demand! We do not waste time checking through them.

We tend to pick out books that have ISBN’s, are in wonderful condition, and have niche element to them if possible. These are by far the most profitable and easiest to list and sell, as they tend to be in Amazon’s catalogue and it’s a simple matter of entering data… so, faster for us to process, get into the system and sell!


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