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Re: Super Deluxe values
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Nice, Khamul! You are very right in pointing out something that I often overlook - the fact that an auction has to be driven by more than one person. This definitely falls into the supply and demand realm. Predicting demand can be quite tough. And, what you would really need to predict is how many serious buyers are out there who are willing to pay serious prices. The vast majority of people on ebay are bargain hunters not willing to pay high (or even fair) prices. So, how would a seller possibly gauge demand?

This is very interesting to me, first because I really only use ebay to sell, but also because I like to track things like number of page views, number of watchers, and number of unique bidders. Maybe there's a nice formula for determining which selling method is most effective using projected number of page views/watchers/unique bidders, maybe even factoring in how quickly an item attracts watchers and how many early bidders there are. Being limited to only my own ebay selling details (watchers, etc.), trying to do any sort of valid market research isn't going to happen. I'll probably stick to gut feelings. However, I am sure there is some line where one selling method becomes lower risk and produces better average results.

Anyway, I like using ebay to gauge values because it is a pretty active marketplace, with many transactions to observe. For example, there are enough sales of early edition Lord of the Rings sets of varied condition, presentation, auction style, etc., to get a good glimpse at what people (on ebay) are paying.

Finally, after writing this post, I am realizing a couple of reasons why we don't exactly see eye to eye. I got into this discussion when mention of my ebay auction was made and I think I am stuck in ebay seller mentality. I guess I tend to think of value as being what I can sell something for (again, with focus on ebay), not what I am willing to pay, or even what others have been paying. I recently sold a nice condition (no jacket) 1946 A&U Hobbit that I thought was worth around $700 for only $450. After selling fees, I probably ended up with less than $400 in my account. So, while others list this book for $800 to $1000, in the end, to me it was worth $400. Kind of sucks, because I'd probably pay that to get it back! On the other side, there have been (and probably will be again) times when I have paid a premium price, knowing that I could never get my money back if I tried to sell on ebay, but just had to have an item, or needed it to complete a set. So, as a buyer and collector valuing my collection, I really do agree with you.

Posted on: 2011/1/1 17:05


Re: Super Deluxe values
Shirrif
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A long reply to a previous long reply, deserves, well, another long reply! I agree with most of what you say too. A couple of issues though.

If [current] "market value" is what someone is willing to pay at a given time and place, then this term is without useful meaing, & worthless as a term for discussion, as so defined (altho' I will discuss it!); as this price can be (with very high upper limits only) absolutely anything! Any item could realise literally nothing on eBay under individual circumstances relating to the particular listing.

Also, to pick you up another point, you state: Whatever the case, if a book sells for a given price, then that it what it was worth at that time, to that audience. This, in my opinion, is incorrect.

Example: You put up one of your penny-start auctions. Bidder A knows he/she would happily pay £200, has no time for any eBay bidding nonsense (& in any case is away working, without access to their computer until after the auction will end), & puts their maximum (& their opinion of worth in this case) bid in --£200. With no other bidders the auction sits at £0.01 (the starting price). Bidder B, and another Bidder (C) throw in various bids, pushing the price up to £50. The auction ends. Bidder A pays £50 for the item.

This book is acquired for less than what the bidder (the winning bidder: Bidder A) thought it was worth. In all likelyhood an auction is always, by definition, going to end at a price that one bidder was willing to pay (either exactly i.e. they just won the item over another bidder) or (more likely) for less than what they were willing to pay --hence the attraction of this format. So the final price is not what someone thought it was worth (at the time) --it is somewhere between this, and what the next nearest bidder thought it was worth.

My point really is, that by bidding in auctions (assuming the bidder genuinely puts in their maximum, and ignoring for now bidding 'tactics'), the buyer is more than likely, if they stand any chance of winning at all (i.e. assuming their valuation is not seriously under the valuation of others), to acquire the item for less than their own valuation.

With Buy-It-Now this can still happen of course. The item price may be below the buyers estimate and they may snap it up. But assuming the Buy-It-Now price is really what the seller would want ideally, and they are also allowing Best Offer, then the buyer can only really hit the seller with what they're willing to pay, without the safety net of knowing what other bidders value the item at. Although, in reality, you do get to see other failed offers. With this format it is more about what the bidder & the seller think of the value (and nobody else), rather than what bidders only think. I suspect this is the crux of the matter --& what you truly mean by "market value". What the buyers think & not the sellers.

As for the penny-start listing working (& D. Miller agreeing "with this approach"); understandably sellers are going to favour the method which yields the best price for them --this goes without saying. However, this has nothing in particular to do with value or worth, & far more to do with preferred bidding habits --even when these make little sense.

You could have a Deluxe CoH at Buy-It-Now £250 & have no takers on a seven day auction; relist it as £0.01 start, no reserve, and watch the winning bidder PayPal you, say, £275. The very fact that this can happen is all to do with eBay bidding madness!, and not value. Why didn't the eventual winner, in this example, buy the item at £250? Maybe they missed it!; but, more than likely, they wanted the opportunity to (possibly) acquire the item for less than their own valuation of the item --& in the end, caught up in the bidding madness (& having not just punched in their maximum '£200' & leaving it), they end up paying more. Maybe they thought it was worth £275 in the first place...

BH

Posted on: 2011/1/1 15:35
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Re: Super Deluxe values
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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.

Posted on: 2011/1/1 13:51


Re: Your bookshelf
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Here are some pictures of my bookshelf. Not anything like most of the collectors on this forum, but nevertheless a collection where I'm proud of.
http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/collecting/collectors/Ononion.htm

Posted on: 2011/1/1 13:14
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Re: Super Deluxe values
Shirrif
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alpingloin, your impeccable honesty aside (which is not, genuinely, in question), I'd have to disagree with you regarding "You will not find a more accurate determination of value than testing the open market."

I think a couple of other posters (I'm thinking Beren & D. Miller) certainly (& naturally) have a different view of the book market --being book sellers, and not buyers like the majority. (You all buy too; but clearly the majority of us don't sell books regularly.)

Clearly there are some issues about the level of exposure a given eBay auction has to the public buying audience. As a market generally, eBay, I'd say, has huge online visibility. But the number of potential interested parties is highly dependent on the quality of the listing (e.g. how it is worded, the quality & number of photographs, & how easily the auction can be found), & how reputable & dependable & convenient the auction actually is (e.g. does the buyer trust the sellers description of fine.) There is also the issue of length of auction; the nature of auctioning forcing an end to the buying process.

For truly rare or scarce items (assuming a good listing, and therefore maximum exposure) I agree, a £0.01 or $0.01 start, does seem to allow the market to determine value quite well, because these items are small in number in comparison to the number of people wishing to acquire them --naturally people think very carefully about what they are willing to pay & bid accordingly. There are also a great many book dealers also looking & bidding (I've no doubt) on these items.

But for lower priced items, or items which are numerous this "determination of value" model simply doesn't hold up.

Example: Over the next few weeks dozens of standard hardback UK 1977 copies of The Silmarillion will list, run, & finish. Because there are so many of these, and so few people wishing to acquire a copy at any given time --many of these auctions will finish without anyone bidding. Some of these auctions will be for £0.01 or $0.01. Does this mean these books are literally worthless? I don't think so.

Example (hypothetical): Every single copy of the Super Deluxe CoH gets listed tomorrow. They all start at £1 or $1. Are these all going to go for hundreds of pounds? I'd say no. If some go for £1 or $1 does this then reflect their value?

Personally, although there are factors which inexplicably make many buyers dislike this format, I think Buy-It-Now with Best Offer option, at least confirms that someone was willing to pay £X amount of money for the item. Too many other factors relating to eBay open bidding auctions distort the determination of value.

Many bidders, for example, don't (I believe) have any notion of value & only bid (with any confidence) when they see other bidders doing so. Momentum also carries many auctions beyond likely 'normal' value. Likewise, a lack of bidders (for whatever reason) combined with a low starting amount (& no reserve) can lead to 'bargain' prices being realised.

All this said, value is, very much, subjective. I just don't believe penny starting auctions are necessarily a good guide to 'true' value; if such a thing can be determined at all.

BH

Posted on: 2011/1/1 10:01
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You drive a hard bargain – you can have it for £10 all-in – one consolation (for you) is that you do not have to hear the cries of my children, for bread...



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