For those of you who witnessed the beating I took on the Amazon "Help for New Sellers" Discussion boards for my post about "Chess Books" yesterday, prepare for round 2. It's OK, I'm a big boy and I can take it. Some might say I deserved it. Many of the jabs were quite humorous actually.
Forum Thread: http://www.amazonsellercommunity.com/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=194814&tstart=0
While the Flashpoint of "Chess Books" was admittedly a bit vague (the more specific the Chess book, the better- isn't this always the case?) today's online bookselling alert may seem even more ridiculous.
Be on the lookout for copies of John James Audubon "Birds of America"
Well "Duh," you might say.
Birds of America is one of the most desirable and talked books of all time (right after the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare's "First Folio"). as a major contribution to the study of natural history in America, and one of the most visually attractive books of all time to boot. The rare sets of hand colored illustrations were often broken up and sold piece by piece, so finding a complete copy of the original edition just doesn't happen very often. The book was auctioned by Sotheby's in early December and fetched just over $11.5 Million, about $9 Million more than the last Shakespeare First Folio, but not quite up to the level that Bill Gates shelled out for da Vinci's notebook, the "Leicester Codex"- a whopping $31 Million. So telling a bookseller to keep an eye out for Audubon might seem like a call to Captain Obvious, but what I'm telling you right now is this:
I can't tell you how many of these I have passed up over the years. Sure, they look pretty, but they are massive, don't fit in the confines of most shelving units, are a dime a dozen, or might fetch a twenty dollar bill at the Antique Mall on a good day. I have sold a few reprints online and offline over the years, but never for any amount approaching 3 figures.
Most seasoned booksellers know that when a book related story fetches front page news, it has some effects on the marketplace, and one recent trend I have noticed is a significant increase in the price of these once relatively common volumes.
Take a look at these search results and scroll through the first 50 results or so, playing close attention to some of the images. 3 Figures and Up for everything:
Birds of America Reprints on Amazon
Ebay sales figures over the last 90 day period confirm this suspicion, as the ASP price for the search string "Audubon Birds of America" is approximately $150. OK, yes, there was one 7 volume set which sold for $24K and throws off the average a bit, but get rid of this listing and we're still over $100.
I would recommend scouting the usual local haunts and bookshops (open shop owners can scour their shelves now too, of course) with the aid of your favorite scouting tool, whether it be your IPhone, your scanner, or just your good-old fashioned brain. This tip certainly doesn't mean that every reprint out there is bookselling gold (an As New copy of Peterson's Tiny Folio is in print and can be had for under $10), but it does mean that the odds are in your favor, and any Audubon book deserves a second look.
Now, I'm sure that all of my friends on the discussion boards have sold at least ten or twenty copies of Audubon reprints for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so this tip is for the booksellers who haven't yet, or are used to passing them up like I usually do. I want as many booksellers as possible to be able to capitalize on this trend before it fades away.
Finally, here is the copy I currently have for sale at $250 that started me down this path. It is a 1997 Laurel Glen (think Random House Value Publishing) that I would imagine may have begun its' life as a book on a Barnes and Noble remainder table at $29.95 at some point in time.
Now let the roasting begin!