Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2019 Issue

Collecting Choices: Buying where you find ‘em


For years I spent $7,000 to $20,000 a year on eBay but anymore hardly look.  To find collectible material at fixed prices I need not look further than sites like www.abaa.com.  eBay has long been a bargain bin dominated by sellers looking to cash out so when material from strong sellers shows up there it has often signaled a willingness to negotiate.  But not always as I recently found out.


A few months ago I encountered a seller on eBay whose material regularly shows up on the tonier websites.  I assumed this seller’s offers on eBay signaled a new flexibility beyond their norm but that proved to not be the case. 


This dealer was offering a fully priced, and also very interesting, manuscript letter at $1,500.  As the listing was on eBay I approached the item as a negotiation which is what it often is. In that case I made a 50% offer expecting to open a discussion.  What I got was an outright rejection and invitation to raise my offer.  I then contacted the seller and learned that, by their own description, they’re too busy to respond to insufficient offers.  That’s too bad.  I won’t try to buy from them in future.  I would have bought the manuscript but they went out of their way to be cursory, even unfriendly.  And it’s disappointing.


Another item came up at auction on eBay at the same time from a different seller.  The description looked intriguing if a bit unprofessional.  Here’s the description as it appeared in the listing:



a Semi-monthly Family Journal of health.

Edited by Doctor Thomas Lapham "Health the poor man's wealth, the rich man's bliss"

Thomsonian Theory and Practice of Medicine

Prevention & cure of Disease

every issue list people who paid $1 for the publication 

Also list of Agents for it. (many Doctors and towns)

Vol. 5 June 15 1842 No 1 Thru May 15 1843 No 23 

184 pages.

Here a rare collection of 23 editions of Vol. 5.


And the difference between the two lots?  I have possibly 25 bound volumes of 19th century Poughkeepsie newspapers.  They are difficult to find bound, very rare.  Such material appears once in a great while and there are no second chances.  Manuscript material relating to Ulster County, by comparison, tends to hang around unless it is very special.  So I paid the high opening bid on one and sought a negotiation on the other.  But I digress.


The bound volume of the Poughkeepsie Thomsonian contains 23 semi-weekly issues beginning June 15th, 1842 and continuing to May 15th, 1843, is a very nice survival.  It appears to be a magazine or newspaper but is probably neither.  Rather, it’s a promotional publication that markets a perspective on health along with remedies and cures the publisher sells.  A year ago I wrote about the Helfand auction of drug ephemera and quackery and was aware of the parallel lines that quackery and medicine trace.  Would he have pursued the Thomsonian?  I think so.


The seller put a seemingly rich [for eBay] starting price on their volume, $499.- and I bought it as no one else bid.


I paid immediately and messaged the seller if, after receipt and inspection, could it be returned?  He was clear, even steadfast that if I received the box and opened it, the sale was final.  This attitude and the marginal description gave me pause.  There would be no going back.  Subsequently I decided to open the box and keep it.  The description was a bit uneven and the start price high but this bound volume of promotional newspapers turns out to be a very nice thing to have.  So the seller needn’t have been concerned.   He posted a very good item, put a strong start price on it and received a favorable outcome.  It’s not going to be returned.  Looking ahead I’m reminded to pay more attention to the right to inspect and return.  I bid more when the seller offers a right to return as it suggests confidence in the item and description.


Subsequently the seller called to encourage me to return it anyway even after it was opened.  He said he had other expressions of interest and would be happy to have it back. 


On eBay I don’t mind high starting prices because many bidders won’t take the leap so if the start bid is acceptable you stand a good chance of winning.  Some of the best things I’ve bought were uncontested on a high start bid.


The better option, however, for that seller would have been to consign to Swann.  It would have brought at least $1,500 in their rooms.  It’s a rare survival that mirrors many aspects of today’s vegetarian theology


A few days later an ABAA dealer whose taste is superb emailed me two offers.


The one was for a short-lived magazine, The Pearl, published in Saugerties in 1875 with local images pasted into printed text, some 36 images spread over 12 monthly issues.  I already have a set as well as the publisher’s remainder [images included with this article] of various unbound monthly issues.  I bought them on Abebooks many years ago.


The other is a set of 87+/- 7” x 9” images of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.  The price is strong but I expect, because the dealer sells premium, well-researched material, there’s a reasonable argument for purchase.  We’ll see.  I’ll have to see the images.


Recently I also bid on several paintings and a watercolor.  The paintings came up at Bourgealt-Horan Antiquarians.  Five nautical examples by James Bard were appealing, several of them spot on to my collecting interests.  Alas, as sometimes happens, the prices were full and I watched as they sold to others.  But all was not lost.  A watercolor came up at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries on Saturday 24 August.  It’s described as an early sailing ship watercolor.  It’s appeal?  The Ship’s name:  Factor of Poughkeepsie by B. E. Howland.  It's framed size is 17.5" x 24.25."  The price?  $2,300 hammer.  It’s very, very good.


Finally, out-of-the-blue, Periodyssey, a long time AE/RBH member emailed me an offer of a 25” x 19.75” original color print of the Riverview Military Academy at Poughkeepsie circa 1872.  I’m grateful to have been contacted and of course bought it.  It’s a nice thing to have.


Taken altogether the collecting experience is remarkable.

Posted On: 2019-10-01 15:06
User Name: midsomer

As someone who has been selling online since 1999 I have to offer a different take on the $1500 item where you offered 50% of list price. To me if I were to list an item a fair retail price and then be offered half I would take that as an insult to my time and experience. I've gotten a very thick skin but after selling for 20 years I can tell you that lowball buyers tend to be problem buyers and are just not worth the effort to deal with. I keep hearing that "people" want used bookstores to continue but it seems that they have no problem trying to squeeze every last ounce of profit from the dealer.

Posted On: 2019-10-14 02:22
User Name: craigguiliano

I’ve purchased most of my collection via eBay and I am an avid visitor of the site. I’ve also sold plenty of books on eBay. I follow and participate in every major rare book auction via sites like Invaluable. In other words, I have a very good understanding of current market value. Some dealers’ idea of ‘retail’ prices are laughable. I often offer below asking (usually between 10 and 15-percent, but sometimes more). It’s the sellers‘ prerogative as to how to respond - it takes one click to decline... And I’ve taken no offense to buyers that offer me well below market price - and half those prospective ‘buyers’ are probably dealers.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, first issue, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Johannes Jacobus Canis, <i>De modo studendi in utroque iure,</i> first edition, Padua, 1476. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Pope Clemens V, <i>Constitutiones,</i> Nuremberg, 1482. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Panormitanus de Tudeschis, <i>Lectura super V libris Decretalium,</i> Basel, 1480-81. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Michael Faraday, <i>Experimental Researches in Electricity,</i> complete set, first editions, London, 1832-56. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> William Gilbert, <i>Tractatus sive physiologia nova de magnete,</i> Sedini, 1628. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> John Bulwer, <i>Philocophus,</i> first edition of the first book in English on the deaf, London, 1648. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> James Cook, complete set, 9 volumes, London, 1773-84. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Bertrand, <i>Opus de Tholosano[rum] Gestis ab Urbe Condita,</i> with the earliest known view of the city of Toulouse, 1515. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> RATZER, Bernard. <i>Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767.</i> London: Jefferys and Faden, “Jan.y” 12, 1776. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. COCKERELL, Sydney C. <i>Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century.</i> Hammersmith: The Kelmscott Press, 1897 [issued 1898]. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS]. KEATS, John. <i>Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems.</i> Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire: The Golden Cockerel Press, 1928. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [GRANT, Ulysses S.— GRANT, Julia, First Lady]. Carved Applewood and 18-karat Gold Jewelry Suite, Browne & Spaulding, Jewelers, New York City, 1865. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [LINCOLN ASSASSINATION]. GARDNER, Alexander. <i>Incidents of the War |Sic Semper Sicariis</i> [caption title]. Washington, D. C.: Philip & Solomons, 1865. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> A COMPLETE COLLECTION of 115 titles published in R. R. Donnelley's Lakeside Classics series. Chicago, 1903-2017. COMPLETE RUN OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING CONTINUOUS SERIES OF BOOKS IN THE WORLD. $5,000 to $7,000
    <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> GLEIZES, Albert. METZINGER, Jean. <i>Du Cubisme.</i> Paris, 1947. LIMITED EDITION, number 19 of 20 copies on papier d'Auvergne. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [THE LITTLE REVIEW]. ANDERSON, Margaret, ed. POUND, Ezra, ed. HEAP, Jane, ed. <i>The Little Review.</i> Vol. I, No. 1 through Vol. XII, No. 2. 1914-1929. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [MOUNTENEY, Leonard, binder]. LOUŸS, Pierre. <i>Songs of Bilitis.</i> Chicago: Argus Books, 1931. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [HANCOCK, John]. Partly-printed U.S. Loan-Office Transfer Certificate issued on behalf of Hancock. Sgn’d on recto by William Imlay, as Commissioner of Loans of Connecticut. 28 February 1793. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DE CORDOBA, JACOB. <i>Map of the State of Texas.</i> New York, 1866. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ARNOLD, BENEDICT. Autograph bookseller's receipt for Dr. John Dickinson, Signed ("B. Arnold"), February 1767. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. 4 Typed Letters Signed ("A Einstein") to Cleveland E. Dodge offering early reports on the meetings of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. Typed Letter Signed ("Dwight D. Eisenhower") to General Henri Giraud written from a secret bunker in Gibraltar on the eve of Operation Torch, November 4 [but 6], 1942. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> Early Broadside Printing of the GADSDEN PURCHASE, Puebla, August 16, 1854. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ALLEN, ETHAN. Autograph Letter Signed to Crevecouer during the Constitutional Debates in Congress, 2 pp, August 29, 1787. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> DARWIN, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> London John Murray, 1859. FIRST EDITION. THE VERY FINE MELLON-GARDEN COPY. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ECKERT, J. P, H. H. GOLDSTINE, and J. G. BRAINERD. <i>Description of the ENIAC and comments on electronic digital computing machines.</i> N.p., 1945. FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY GOLDSTINE. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> EUCLID. <i>Elementa geometriae.</i> Translated from the Arabic by Adelard of Bath. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 25 May 1482. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> [HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON and John JAY]. <i>The Federalist: A Collection of Essays…</i> New York: John and Andrew M'Lean, 1788. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> GALILEI, Galileo. <i>Dialogo...Dove ne i congressi di quattro giornate si discorre sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano.</i> Florence, 1632. FIRST EDITION. $30,000 to $40,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 100 COPIES SIGNED BY JOYCE. $120,000 to $180,000
    <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> KEYNES, John Maynard. <i>The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money.</i> London: Macmillan, 1936. FIRST EDITION. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> NEWTON, Isaac, Sir. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society, 1687. FIRST EDITION. $150,000 to $250,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ROWLING, J. K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. FIRST EDITION, SIGNED BY ROWLING. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> SMITH, Adam. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776. FIRST EDITION. $70,000 to $90,000

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