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Re: A nice blog on collecting Tolkien books
Home away from home
2008/8/10 2:07
From Queenstown, New Zealand
Posts: 488
Beren Said (17/08):> "Want to talk about
- how they make profit from people selling fake items, overpriced items, so called rare items,... "

I think you have a legitimate point on fake items, and I personally believe eBay turns a blind eye to the extent of the fakes sold through it. Especially with autographed items, one only has to look at some of the regular purveyors of signed crap to see these guys are shifting thousands upon thousands of suspect items and clearly not getting brought to account.

However, I think it is any sellers prerogative to overprice an item, so long as that item is genuine and accurately described. A free market is just that. The seller is free to ask any price, and the buyer is free to utterly reject that price.

From a sellers point of view, the correct price of an item at any given point in time is simply what one person in the market will pay. Non-eBay sellers are every bit as guilty on asking daft prices for books. You (Beren) recently commented on putting the odd item up for sale at an excessive price that you don't really expect to sell. [Beren 17/08/10 wrote: "it indeed happens we list books at prices we do not expect to sell at. An example was the Cor Blok painting Rene had listed on his website, he did not expect to sell it at the asking price, but was willing to let it go if someone was crazy enough to pay 'that amount' for it"]

A quick search for "Tolkien" on ABE will list a whole bunch of overpriced tomes (which also typically won't sell). I stand by the right of any seller to request any price they feel like, just as I stand by my right not to buy the items. With regards to the classification as "rare", this is really just a totally subjective term which would be impossible to police the accuracy of. Is 500 copies rare, 100 copies, 10 copies? Depends on the item and the size of the prospective market for that item. I think it is up to the buyer to know what they consider to be an appropriate price and to be aware of how scarce or otherwise a book is. Information is power and it it up to the buyer to be informed.

> "- how they don't allow people to comment on items, and leave the 'seller' (including people selling fake items, overpriced items, so called rare items,... ) to decide to post q&a's on the items, while it should be the other way around"

I basically agree, although I'm not sure how you would stop competitors deliberately sabotaging each others auctions. I think making the display of Q&A along with responses appear automatically might be a possibility, though, subject to profanity filters being employed.

>" - how they undermine the book selling business by allowing this"

eBay couldn't care less about the book selling business and, honestly, why should they? The traditional book business (selling via means other than eBay) is a competitor. They *should* care about their customers and promote honesty, safety, transparency, etc. [which they claim to, but don't], but caring about a specific business is probably not in their remit.

All eBay cares about is taking a percentage on transactions, and it wants the highest volume of highest value transactions possible. The reason for all the postage changes with regards to books was quite obviously to bump the price of each transaction so they could make more money. It is important not to forget that eBay are in it for the money and absolutely nothing else.

>"- how they could change some things to make all better"

They don't want it to be better or it would be. They simply want to make as much money as possible. They don't care about buyers or sellers, just completed transactions.

Fundamentally, the only way to fix eBay is to vote with your feet and not use it. Personally, I have pretty much abandoned it as a buyer as prices are usually unrealistic (and I can't generally be bothered to sell books as it is too much effort for the handful that I would like to be rid of).


Posted on: 2010/9/3 15:40

Re: A nice blog on collecting Tolkien books
Home away from home
2008/5/21 19:36
Posts: 181
Christina and I still keep an eye on eBay and very occasionally pick up an item (I just bought an out-of-print classical CD), but the climate of the site has changed, with proportionately many more professional sellers and straightforward commercial goods, which translates into fewer bargains and unusual lots, less fun for the buyer.

As for overpricing - my apologies to those who have heard me tell this story before - there was once a book dealer who had a large number of Tolkien items and priced most of them very high (relative to the time, some thirty years ago, though some of the prices would be high even today). Somehow we came to talk on the phone, and I let him know that all of the Tolkien collectors I knew, as well as my impecunious self, couldn't possibly afford most of what he was offering (I did buy a few things more reasonably priced). He replied that he was deliberately pushing the envelope on Tolkien prices, having bought high at auction and now priced high in his catalogue on the basis of the auction values, so as to make as much as he could - it was going to fund his childrens' education, he said - and he could wait until he got what he was asking. Well, although a handful of very well-heeled dealers have been able to do so, this one couldn't, or wouldn't, wait too long. Within a year or so, I believe, I saw the remaining stock offered at Sotheby's New York, and it sold at a relative loss.


Posted on: 2010/9/3 16:56

Re: A nice blog on collecting Tolkien books
Just can't stay away
2010/7/23 2:59
Posts: 88
I suppose I should clarify what I mean about Tolkien books being a good investment: I am not buying these books for re-sale, and plan on keeping them forever. However, I also wont buy a book that I think is overpriced or lacks value. Somewhere in the back of my mind is a part of me which wont part with the money unless it seems (to me') like it's a reasonable price. My definition of reasonable price is basically buying slightly under the going Market price. So, you could say that most of my purchases to date are already good investments because I could sell them today for a small to moderate profit. I have, in fact, recently done this with one of the books on my blog- bought two and sold one for a 20% profit. I am not looking to make money out of my collection, but likewise I am not going to buy any books that I think are well overpriced.

Posted on: 2010/9/4 0:50

Re: A nice blog on collecting Tolkien books
2007/8/16 4:56
From Scotland
Posts: 1456
I just hate it when people have this much to say; it provokes too much thought! --I want to reply to so many (everything!) things others (everyone!) have said & I don't know if I have the stamina to type that much...

An aside to Bruffyboy: I think we probably all get what you mean regarding value, price etc. I think everyone likes to challenge their own collecting credentials; test them if you like --to make sure they aren't overpaying for items. (Paying market value is fine; paying under market value even better!) Inevitably this can appear as if one is overly preoccupied with price & money. I certainly can't deny thinking in this way on occasion, although, like you, I have no plans to buy & sell books. I haven't sold anything I've bought. So, I think I get where you’re coming from.

But, Beren! I read this a while back, & just can't let it pass without comment. Firstly, Stu --I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly with almost all of what you said. You quoted Beren at one point, and I'll put his comment up again (--from earlier in this thread.)

. An example was the Cor Blok painting Rene had listed on his website, he did not expect to sell it at the asking price, but was willing to let it go if someone was crazy enough to pay 'that amount' for it. It did however sell and both parties are happy. So does it mean this painting is worth this price? Not really, but some collectors do spent crazy money to obtain unique items like that.


I'm sorry, & I'm not having a go here at you guys as individuals [I'm only using how I've interpreted this statement as an example], but this is the perfect example of what should never happen when dealing with any seller. Buyers, especially when buying from reputable Tolkien specialist dealers (as in this case), trust you guys unquestionably to price honestly; as discussed, this would be in relation to the price you acquired the item for & what price you might reasonably think the item is worth. (Granted, the latter is subjective.) [Italics added for clarity -BH]

It is not [or would not be], however, acceptable (without seriously damaging your reputation as an honest, trustworthy, & ethically-minded seller) to put stuff up at 'crazy' [i.e. grossly overpriced even in your own judgement] prices & to pose this [a] disingenuous argument about market value. Unless the buyer went into this sale with their eyes wide (wide) open (& was fully aware of how overpriced the seller admitted this item was), then this kind of pricing policy is [or rather, would be] shameful profiteering & dishonesty by the back door. [Italics added for clarity -BH]

Let’s examine what was [or at least what I thought you] said. Your basically saying [this is what it sounded like] this: you buy an item for, let’s say (simplistically), £1000. You decide, what with all your overheads & your legitimate right to make money, that the item could be sold for £2000 --&, as well as making you a profit, this would also fairly reflect its current value. [This would be fine.] [But] Because you personally don’t want to part with the item (it’s nice; it’s unique etc), rather than just not listing it for sale, you list it for a grossly overinflated (overinflated in your opinion) price [e.g. £4000] with the delusional self-justification that if you are going to have to part with it --you’ll only do so if the up-side is great financial gain to yourself. [Italics added for clarity -BH]

This [hypothetical example] is wrong [if it were to happen] on many levels, but mostly because some buyers genuinely (& it is very hard, subjective even, to price unique items) have no firm idea of fair value --& are [would be] relying on you to adhere to reasonable practises in pricing items for sale. It is not justifiable to simply fall back on some old mantra that equates to: if people are willing to pay the price I list an item for, then it’s their own fault if they’re ripped off! --Why don’t [or rather, why wouldn't] you just not list it at this price? [Italics added for clarity -BH]

[Italics have been added for clarity to most of the above paragraphs, as they (originally) were clearly a mis-interpretation of what Beren said. Furthermore they were far too specific to the example Beren gave; the specifics of which I new nothing about --I should not have commented in this way. BH 5th Sept. 2010]

Maybe I’m over reacting slightly to this (casual?) comment. Does nobody else think that this is wrong? All I can say is, I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen with non-unique items too, where (to be frank) it is even less justifiable.

Second point:

Very important are dust jackets, for example the 1st US The Hobbit jacket is in itself more valuable then the book itself. Any flaw in the jackets can reduce the value of any book enormously.


I’m sure this is true, but can we concede that this is a decidedly modern phenomenon? And, that this is a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario. Clearly buyers, new to collecting, discover very early on that dustjackets are of extreme importance, simply because the market says they are important! The longer you are exposed to this concept of worth, the more you are inclined to believe it. In any case this is purely (hopefully) of neurotic importance to the collector only! (--& I’m a signed up member of this club!) Yes, the jacket can be of literary and bibliographical importance, but this hardly justifies its importance over the printed matter itself.


If you buy a brand new edition today and it looks *any* different in ten years time than it does today, then IMHO, you don't know how to look after your books!


Spines (of books like the big oversized 2004 Silmarillion) do struggle to hold the weight of the pages if standing upright. Ten years on your shelf and these are going to struggle to remain square & tight I think.

Anyway, it’s hot & I’ve got my fan out. It’s heavy; made of gold I think. But it’s wafting a terrible smell my way...


Posted on: 2010/9/4 9:27

Edited by Khamul on 2010/9/5 4:04:51
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...

Re: A nice blog on collecting Tolkien books
Home away from home
2007/4/29 5:29
Posts: 596
Khamul wrote just now -

"Maybe I’m over reacting slightly to this (casual?) comment. Does nobody else think that this is wrong? "

No, I don't think you're over-reacting. I wasn't too happy with this comment, either. I had thought about contacting Rene to see what his bottom price would be but, (saving yer honour's presence, Rene), in my experience Rene tends to be a bit immovable when it comes to asking price. Which is his right, of course.

I'd have liked to have bought one of Cor Blok's paintings because they are rare, and they have a certain style. But in the end, I decided against purchasing this example, or making an offer for it, at least partly because it was (to my mind) overpriced . I'm dismayed to see that both Beren, and Rene himself, felt the same way.

Posted on: 2010/9/4 9:45

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