Look to Auctions for your Book Inventory

auction hammerThe topic of finding stock is a never ending one.  You’ll find many articles about this topic on this blog and on other blogs worldwide.  Each country/region has it’s different challenges and Australia is no different.  I find my books in so many different ways: op shops; garage sales; online auction sites; deceased estates; and on one occasion, by the side of the road.  One place I’ve never tried as I presume I’d get really carried away is real life auctions.

I was reading an article in a blog about sourcing quality inventory and it got me thinking.  Now, I’d love to try his method of seeing the list of books online, checking out their prices and then putting the bids in or just ordering them and it’s unfortunate that the cost of postage is too prohibitive to make his methods worthwhile for me.  Unless you’re buying in a whole container load of books then it’s just not worth the money and even then you need to know that each book in the container is worth a decent amount of money and only cost you peanuts as it would cost a lot of money to ship a container load of books from USA to Australia; it’s such a long way.  I do have friends who do this but I suspect it’s not for me as yet.
The article did get me thinking about buying books at a real life auction.  I started doing a little research on auction houses in Melbourne and immediately found a rather famous one (well, famous in Melbourne) which moved into an old school in South Yarra a few years ago.  I’m going to digress for a few moments; it’s such a lovely idea to house your auction house in an old school.  It would make it possible to separate your particular lots away from one another and to also have separate offices of a decent size.  I often wonder what type of building would make the best bookshop and I think an old school would do quite nicely.  I like to imagine horror having a room to itself with science fiction, fantasy, children’s picture books, children’s chapter books and all the other genres having a room to themselves.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be given a map of the school with the particular rooms with labels appropriate to their genre?

Anyway, back to the auction house.  They have an auction on tomorrow morning which I’m not going to be able to get to and some of their lots are for shelves or part shelves of books.  The descriptions include: shelf of hard covers includig (sic) biographies; shelf of hard covers including Australiana and so many more.  Then there’s one list for Norman Lindsay The Magic Pudding The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum Angus & Robertson 1918 First Edition Hard Cover with Dust Jacket for which they expect between $1200 and $1500.  This is a wonderful fantasy book and I’ll have more to say about it on my blog in due course as it relates to books and not bookshops.  It would be possible to pick up some wonderful books at some quite decent prices and then sell them in your bricks and mortar bookshop or your online bookshop.  While I won’t be attending tomorrow’s auction I do intend to visit them on some other occasion with someone under tow to make sure I don’t spend too much money.

[editor’s note: Do you have some experience or expertise with buying books at auction? We’d love it if you could share a story or some advice with us.]

3 thoughts on “Look to Auctions for your Book Inventory”

  1. I buy a lot at auctions. The key is to set your price and try to stick to it. Remember there is a commission on top of what you bid running anywhere from 10-25% + any tax’s that may apply. And of course the kicker if you don’t attend is shipping.
    Recent example I purchased a lot of 65 books for 22.00 +14% commission and shipping was 89.00. I have recovered my investment but I still have several to sell.
    Another example I purchased a box lot of books for $10.00 15% commission I was there so no shipping. Turned out to be a great lot the book I had purchased it for more than paid for the lot and my expenses for the day, the sleeper that was in the bottom of the box unnoticed by auction house or myself to be frank, sold in a few days for 4 figures.
    Yet another example is a total waste of money lot. A book that is hard to find, advertised as in very good condition, with very good dust jacket was a pile of crap and sits on my shelf to remind me of what can happen.
    So its Buyer beware but you can get some great deals if you pay attention to business.

    • Yep, that illustrates it perfectly. You need to know your prices and saleability of the books you’re buying before you buy; this only comes with practice.

  2. Hey book fans!
    Auctions can be a very tricky thing and play havoc with your wallet for sure. Especially when your emotions run high because you just have to have a certain volume, and and the deal is, its mixed in with other volumes that someone else wants which is not particualrly the ones you want. let the bidding begin!
    Preview, Preview,Preview, at least one or two days before the auction and the day/night of the auction simply because book(s) get moved from one box/pile to another.
    Keep notes, and sometime keep notes on something your not interested because eyes are watching to see what your interested in.
    My personal best deal (sort of) was a lot of Audubon books which most folks thought, was below thier standards at this particular auction, beacuse of some mildew and a tad bit of yellowing/foxing around the edges.
    Well to make a long story short with a little work and a good paper trimer the prints brought a handsome profit after breaking up the volumes.
    Well that my two-cent worth, y’all have a great day and happy book hunting.

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