Finding Rare Books To Resell Online

Can you make money with antique books? Walt Kolenda thinks so. In fact, he's done it, and he shares his story here:

To be fair, I think you'll make more money in the long run NOT seeking out rare, antique books, but instead, focusing your search on good quality non-fiction, how to books. Mostly trade paperbacks that offer up good quality, usable information to readers and researchers.

But I have found rare books -- out-of-print books -- over the last three years I've listed and sold used books on the Amazon Marketplace, and I wanted to share Walt's article on doing the same thing, but selling rare books on Ebay.

How To Find Rare Books To Resell On eBay
By Walt Kolenda

Principles that work.

OK, so I'm assuming the obvious, that your here because you already deal in rare books or want to look into it, and for now, that you have at least a little knowledge of collectible books, if not, it may be helpful to review other posts first.

This article doesn't deal with identifying which books are rare, but rather how to expose yourself to large collections of books being offered cheaply, of which there are many gems and treasures buried among them.

The advice given here comes from more than 25 years of buying and selling books. I started out in the antiques/collectibles business buying and selling books to used book shops, then several other places and it became a staple of my picking era because books could be had for low money more often than not if they were being sold in big lots.

Big lots by the way, being what I was interested in as a re-seller. At least big lots to pick from, (don't forget, you don't always have to buy the entire contents) But not to worry, this post deals with buying single books and small lots as well.

It's common knowledge that you can get the best deals consistently from a reseller that sells fast and for almost any price, ahem... an auctioneer for example. Your probably saying 'now wait AW, auctioneers have to know about the rare books they're selling to auction them. I mean, you do professional appraisals so why would you sell a rare book cheap, even for .01 or .99. How could folks get a treasure out from under you?'

A good auctioneer knows how to sell and buy, but does NOT need to know everything about an item to sell it, or to appraise it for that matter, and often does not. I do professional appraisals, but many of the items I am able to research fast because I already have a basic idea of what it is and likely the name of it, which of course enables me to track, research and write the appraisal in what I consider a profitable enough manner to do them in a way that keeps customers happy and draws traffic to the site.

But of course I don't know every area of collectibles in depth off hand. The trick to buying off of auctioneers, is to make sure you buy from those that start it low and let it go, with no reserve. If you find your not among that type of auctioneer, walk away, unless you really want the item on a personal level, then make your bid and make it a point to look for an auction to stock up at.

But I'm getting off track, my point was that when you get a lot of things as an auctioneer, such as hundreds to thousands of items a month to handle, ... you don't have time to research everything, ya know what I mean?

Do you think some things have gotten away from me? Are you kidding!? I can't be doing my job if hundreds of great items DON"T go under the radar for the cheap. It balances out with the rest of the of items I sell, many of which reach a very high market price. It would be foolish and most likely, financial failure for an auctioneer to try to sell everything for a 'fair' price, you just have to accept that a lot of what you sell will bring low money or you have to be something else for a career.

So if I'm selling in that spectrum, which do you want to be? Well, duh, the low end, right? It's hard to get hurt when you buy a 99 cent or penny book is hard to do and I've had some STELLAR books go for one bid. And since I start my antique and collectible books .99 you never know which ones will bring only one bid.

Can you spot what others miss? I've held auctions in which multiple levels of inspection were done, me, my pickers, my customers, then my pickers again who are runners at the auction, and then me again and finally, the crowd one more time and I STILL see things in each and every auction where I honestly say 'Where'd THAT come from?

This phenomenon applies to yard, garage and estate sales also, so check and double check, your there already so don't waste your time by skimming the surface, find out what's there! The way I like to to it, is scan the sale fast to and go to what your most interested in right away, then, when your done with that, then get a closer look.

Auctioneers have plenty, sell fast, and will often take any price, doesn't that sound right where you want to be on the buying end of things. An auction will not work on a regular basis as a business model if you DO NOT let at least 1/3 of what you have go for single low starting bids. Oh sure, a charity, or special event may be the exception to this rule, but I'm talking about an auctioneer that makes income off of what he sells.

My unsold lots are dealt with in different ways sometimes I'll lot and bring books to book booths here in Barre MA and Gardner MA, which I also stock with fresh content as well. Sometimes I'll be contacted by a dealer and sell the lot to them. When you do find someone that appears to be selling cheap, such as all of my books that I usually start at .01 -.99, take a close look, if it's no good after a quick glance move on, but if it appears legitimate, track them for a bit and if verified, dig in and make some bids or buys.

Also antiques dealers, books stores with overstock or old stock, flea market dealers or anyone that thinks the books they have are cumbersome and a hassle are good prospects to approach. I love the shop out of market practice. It goes like this, you approach any dealer that buys house lots, but doesn't specialize in books. The odds are better than you think that they would have a lot of books hanging around or come across them often.

If your working with antiques of flea market dealer, often times it's possible to trade other items for books, so offer to make a deal that way if it seems appropriate at the time. Craigslist is a GREAT resource, but in most areas, the good deals are snapped up quick by dealers, auctioneers and eBay re-sellers so act fast.

Want to really expand the amount of rare books you find? Open your mind a little to the possibility of what is rare.We tend to think that we need to find leather bound, early 1800s to make any real money and I can assure you that is just not true. I routinely get $5.00 - $25.00 for a not so old cookbook or a sci-fi paperback and newer edition hard bounds, while many times a beautiful Gold Gilt covered Victorian book will sell for .99! You just don't know sometimes, you try to know enough to make a profit, get better and more efficient and the best way to learn is to buy cheap and/or in bulk.

If you know what your looking for or get lucky, many new and out of print books can bring very good money. I love the bulletin board for almost any kind of 'Wanted to Buy' ad. They're like passive income, keep 25 fliers in your car at all times, post whenever you have the chance and you WILL get people offering to sell you rare & collectible books, it's just math.

Small PennySaver papers and the like are still great ways to post Wanted to Buy ads, if your concerned with the competition, don't be, not everyone can get to every lot and you'll get your share of calls if you post the right ad. Of course, then there's learning about the books & the markets, and you can be sure there'll lots of future articles, appraisals comments and posts to deal with those subjects. You may ask questions or post your own book tips in the comment section.

Make a deal today, check out an auctioneer.


For more auction advice and information please go to

Article courtesy of Walt Kolenda