Online Book Fare

It disillusions a few people that the Newberry Library Book Fair offers some of its wares to the greater eBay public. I know you really want to come and find them on the shelves in July, but the point is selling them, not so much selling them where you get to watch people fight over them. Anyway, you can see that on eBay as well, can’t you?

See, among other things, it’s a great place to unload some of our more, er, awkward donations. One of our first big online sales was a very nearly complete 111-year run of National Geographic, including all but about a dozen of the original map and supplemental inserts, the work of a really dedicated collector. Many of the magazines were in their original mailing wrappers. It was bought by someone who gave it to her fiancé as a wedding present, and we were off and running.

Not only was it a nice beginning to our eBay career, but selling this at the Book fair would have been the stuff of nightmares. The collection was big enough to take up a whole table, for starters. We shuddered at the thought of trying to make sure some collector didn’t slip away with that one map that was needed to complete a collection elsewhere, or tear off a sixty year-old paper wrapper to find those dearly remembered photos of topless natives. You can see what a boon having eBay as an alternative was.

Then there’s the Christmas book by the Black Cat Press, a tale from the Depression of a book collector who sold off his books so his family could continue to live in a nice house and eat regularly, but found he couldn’t himself live without collecting books. So he collected books no one else wanted: rare but not expensive. He is saving up to buy one really expensive book on fleas when his wife finds his stash and spends the money on (wait for it) Christmas presents! For his horrible children, who will probably break them anyway when he could have had his book instead. (I didn’t say this was a heartwarming Christmas story, did I?) Anyhow, this rare book was obviously meant to be sold on eBay.

Why? Because it runs $50-$150 and measures less than an inch square. Yes, I know Tiffany’s manages to sell smaller objects that cost more, but they have access to better display cases.

And hey, that adding machine booklet from 1949 that you tossed in a box because you didn’t know what else to do with it? I tossed it on eBay for the same reason. I would have considered myself lucky to get a dollar at the Book Fair for a charming little piece of bygone technology like that, but the folks on eBay bid it up over $12.

That’s what we try to sell on eBay: the big, the small, the awkward, the fragile, and the truly bizarre (the black cat sculpture without a tail hasn’t sold yet, but it is useful in scaring small children away from the vault). Oh, and remember those boxes of books you’ve had in storage since your college days and decided to donate them without looking inside? I figured some of my volunteers would take offense at your complete collection of Booty Booklets. Thank goodness—or badness—eBay has an Adults Only section where I could sell those without risking the moral deterioration of my cast and crew. Don’t know quite what to do with those pictures you took in that photo booth at the airport…oh, that’s right: I wasn’t going to mention those ‘til I found out whether that was your Significant Other in the picture. Consider them not mentioned.

But you can look for them on Ebay. There are LOTS of pictures of people who dress up as iguanas.

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