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Re: Super Deluxe values

Subject: Re: Super Deluxe values
by Elwë on 2011/1/1 13:51:23

Khamul, thanks for your detailed response. I agree with nearly everything you say. In my first post I was trying to be concise, and in retrospect, I suppose I should not generalize as I did. Sorry for this long post, but I think the topic is quite interesting and worth discussion. I love reading everyone's opinions and viewpoints on this forum, so I hope mine is a contribution and not just a bunch of rambling. Anyway...

Markets are fluid, so that makes it very difficult to pinpoint value. With that notion in mind, please allow me thus clarify my views.

I have had more personal success selling with a minimum starting price and no reserve. As you say, the outcome of an auction (or any sort of sale) depends on a large number of factors. For me, I typically shy away from selling (or buying, for that matter) books like the UK 1977 Silmarillion, of which dozens of copies are on ebay at any given moment. Unless I am buying to fill some particular void in my collection, I tend to stick with books that I know will garner interest at resale (early editions, limited, signed, deluxe, etc.). When I do sell items, I am also usually trying to sell them fairly quickly, which means I do not have time to price high and wait (possibly for many months) until the right buyer comes along. Also, while I admit that when I set up my recent Deluxe CoH auction I did not spend a lot of time on it, I usually try my best to present auctions very well. So, I am speaking from my own experience when I say that a low starting price with no reserve has netted me the best results. I am not saying that I have had no success with 'buy-it-now' sales, but for the types of books I sell, the amount of time I am willing to wait for a sale, etc., etc., the $0.99 start auction has served me best. (And, I also happen to know from conversation that Mr. Miller agrees with this approach, IF you are using ebay to sell. Obviously, both he and Beren have put tremendous effort into freeing themselves from the shackles of ebay by developing beautiful retail websites and utilizing venues like Abebooks..)

When it comes to valuation of books, we must clarify whether we are talking about current market, appraisal value, or "pricing guidelines."

1. If we are talking about appraisals (say for insurance purposes), you probably want to use pricing from Abe or the Tolkien Bookshelf. Say you lost a copy of the Harper Collins 1999 Limited Deluxe Hobbit (first printing, of course) in a fire or theft, you would want to say it's worth $403.75. Then, when you get your insurance settlement, you can go straight to the Tolkien Bookshelf and buy your replacement copy. However, if you weren't in a hurry, you could watch ebay for a few months and you might get one for $200 to $250 (or less, if you are lucky), but that is not guaranteed.

2. My general view of market value is very simple. Something is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay at a given time and place. This is really what I was eluding to in my last post. Depending on how all of the factors line up, the price can go high, or it can go low. Whatever the case, if a book sells for a given price, then that it what it was worth at that time, to that audience. It's only a snapshot, but I think it is pretty true and honest. I do not think this is specific to any particular sales venue, though. Ebay seems to be a pretty decent place to sell mid to mid-high priced books. Low priced books probably do better in used book stores, or sold in lots. Very high priced books are best suited to sites like Abe (or the Tolkien Bookshelf!) I would never try to sell a 1982 Signed Super Deluxe Silmarillion on ebay (not that I have one to sell!). You really do need to find the appropriate target audience in order to sell. In the end, though, I stand by my view. (And regarding the 1977 UK Silmarillion (please know that the Silmarillion is very near and dear to my heart and I wish it no harm, and I own several copies of the 1977 UK myself).... If they are being listed on ebay for $0.01 and not selling, then, well, they're not exactly worthless, but they are worth less than $0.01+shipping cost. Maybe they are not reaching the right audience, but I don't think this is the case. I think most people who really want a copy of the 1977 UK Silmarillion are going to check out ebay. The problem with this book is high supply and low demand. While I would probably buy 20 more copies if I could truly get them for $0.01, I am not willing to pay the $10 to $20 to get each one shipped to the U.S. And because I already have so many copies, I do not see myself needing more anytime soon. Nice book, but too many exist.)

3. For general "price guide" type values, there are simply too many influences (scarcity, condition, etc.) to use anything but a range of values. You can track recent sales on ebay and other venues and know the lowest and highest prices and get a sense of this range. (If you really wanted, you could record every sale of a given book, calculate the mean, go up and down three standard deviations, and know that 99.7% of all sales of that book will fall between those limits!)

Practically, however, I think most people on this forum have a decent idea of what things are selling for, and what is a fair price should they decide to buy an item. That is reflected many times in this forum, and most recently in this very thread (I'm thinking of Stu and Laurel, specifically on p4 and p5). All factors considered, though, supply and demand are still the kings. With the poor economy, demand has been down, so prices trended down the last few years. With Peter Jackson, the audience gets bigger, demand goes up, so prices go up.