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Thread: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

  1. #1
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    Default Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    I picked up a first edition of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" in a $10.00 box of gardening books at a yard sale.
    Because Antiques Roadshow wasn't available, I did a search of ABEBOOKS.COM.
    I found a range of values from $50 to beyond $6,000.
    How could that be?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bow View Post
    I picked up a first edition of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" in a $10.00 box of gardening books at a yard sale.
    Because Antiques Roadshow wasn't available, I did a search of ABEBOOKS.COM.
    I found a range of values from $50 to beyond $6,000.
    How could that be?
    I'm sure John won't mind if I jump in here, having dabbled in the book trade for many years, although I'm sure when he shows up he will be able to offer a more experienced opinion.

    I think some of the more outrageous prices have a number of explanations. The first being that sellers slap a silly price on something hoping that somewhere out there there is an oligarch or other wealthy person who would never consider buying anything cheap. I have experienced this on a much lower level, where I am selling a book at 20.00 and there are other copies available, with the same condition description at 5.00, but mine sells before the others.

    There has been some speculation about crazy high prices being a money laundering scam. You, or perhaps a small team, have several buyer accounts on ABE, one seller account and several bank accounts. As a seller you list a book for 5000.00, which pretty much ensures that nobody else will buy it, but if some idiot does buy it then that's just fine. Otherwise it is purchased through one of your other accounts, effectively moving a large sum of money from one bank account to another.
    Somewhere between Murder and Suicide, there is a place called Merseyside.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Seems like the volume would be too low to be worth the trouble. 5K x three of four may be a lot to you and me, but we're not connected. Not me, anyway.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    I have several books from the 1800's. They aren't worth much at all, but the idea of how many hands have held those books and how many eyes have read them gives me an odd sense of satisfaction.

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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    We just gave away 20 cartons of books. One I've kept is, of all things, an old English prayer book. IIRC, it's dated 1604
    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime" Mark Twain... so... Carpe the living sh!t out of the Diem

    I'd rather look back at my life and say "I can't believe I did that" instead of being there saying "I wish I'd done that"

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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    Seems like the volume would be too low to be worth the trouble. 5K x three of four may be a lot to you and me, but we're not connected. Not me, anyway.
    It's not just the book thing, I see it on eBay too. Things like guitars and saxophones, grossly overpriced..

    One way that unscrupulous people who are trying to transact with dirty money is to set up fake listings on eBay. It looks like a real transaction, but the price is usually astronomically inflated for the type of item, and the sales price does not make sense.
    https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-mo...n-ebay-4145387
    Somewhere between Murder and Suicide, there is a place called Merseyside.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Quote Originally Posted by isla View Post
    I'm sure John won't mind if I jump in here, having dabbled in the book trade for many years, although I'm sure when he shows up he will be able to offer a more experienced opinion.

    I think some of the more outrageous prices have a number of explanations. The first being that sellers slap a silly price on something hoping that somewhere out there there is an oligarch or other wealthy person who would never consider buying anything cheap. I have experienced this on a much lower level, where I am selling a book at 20.00 and there are other copies available, with the same condition description at 5.00, but mine sells before the others.

    There has been some speculation about crazy high prices being a money laundering scam. You, or perhaps a small team, have several buyer accounts on ABE, one seller account and several bank accounts. As a seller you list a book for 5000.00, which pretty much ensures that nobody else will buy it, but if some idiot does buy it then that's just fine. Otherwise it is purchased through one of your other accounts, effectively moving a large sum of money from one bank account to another.
    Sometimes the prices are the result of algorithms gone wrong: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384102,00.asp

    Books are increasingly illiquid, illiquid markets beget all kinds of pricing anomalies and erratic behavior.

    Looking up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a collectible quality 1st edition 1st printing was in the neighborhood of $400 it seemed, with signed copys commanding much more >$1k. Condition matters for collectors.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    I have this https://www.amazon.com/Fast-Bonnie-H.../dp/0859765660 I paid $15 for it. When I bought it Amazon was listing it for several thousand monetary units.
    It's a limited appeal book and I doubt those high prices were realized. I suspect that the sellers thought that a significant portion of the market for this book, were billionaire owners of restored Fifes.

    I tried selling mine, by undercutting the high prices by a fraction, almost immediately someone would beat my price. I suspect an algorithm at play.

    As for now, I'm enjoying owning the book.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    I like that "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" was in with the gardening books.

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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Quote Originally Posted by ron ll View Post
    I like that "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" was in with the gardening books.
    At the Goodwill one time, I found Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions in the sporting books
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    First of all, how do you know it's a first? I've seen book club editions passed off as firsts.

    Check the back cover for a blind stamp, a little indentation in the bottom right corner. That's one way of designating book club editions, which sometimes have the same information on the copyright page as the first edition. Check in Zemple's guide to firsts to see how the publisher designated firsts at the time of publication. Check a book of points to see which printing of the first edition it is.

    Points are things like mistakes fixed in later printings, sometimes even sentences recast at the request of the author.

    Once you've done all that, take a look at the condition. Is the dust jacket present? Does it fit the book, or look like something scavaged from a later edition and married to the first? And finally, condition is king. Descriptions of condition are a bit like the descriptions of eggs, where the average egg is classified as "large."

    Condition goes from new, to fine, to near fine, to very good, to good, to fair, to poor. Good, which you might think of as average, is less then average.

    ABE has a pretty good explanation of the grades on their site. Keep in mind, with collectibles, condition is king. The more expensive the book, the more picky the customer.

    Also keep in mind that most books on line won't sell for those prices. I once did the research to show that a particular edition of a book was the true first, presented the evidence in the description, and priced the book at $200. This caused other people to realize they had a true first, and list theirs a little cheaper than the book currently listed as cheapest. The price fell quickly, and by the time I sold the book, it was down to $50.

    So if you ever decide to sell the book, you'll find it doesn't sell for the median price on the internet. It sells for something closer to the lowest price listed for a price in that condition. There are algorithms for adjusting your prices, but you're better off repricing stuff yourself after it's been around for a while. Otherwise, you'll find yourself listing a really heavy book for a penny, and spending more to ship it than you've been paid.

    The internet, by the way, has not been kind to the prices of first editions. Most of what I sell on line is out of print non-fiction, where this is the best way to get the information. Most of the best information isn't on the internet, because it's under copyright.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Hey JohnW. Give us a lesson on First Editions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    At the Goodwill one time, I found Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions in the sporting books
    At least it wasn't in with the the cookbooks.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

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