Here are a few samples to illustrate what I'm talking about:
I discovered a small self-published paperback on rock climbing, and when I checked competition on Amazon Marketplace, I discovered that this title was currently unavailable -- a very good sign, as this copy could then wind up being the only copy up for sale, no matter what the long-trail ranking would turn out to be.
I moved a couple books around, and sure enough, there were two more books on rock climbing.
The thrift store was closing out their book inventory, and they had priced the books at 50 cents each.
I posted the first book, "Oklahoma On the Rocks II" for $27.50 in my Amazon Marketplace Sellers account. It cost me just 50 cents. Within 3-4 weeks, that book sold for the $27.50. I earned a $19.00+ net profit on it.
The second two books -- "Basic Rockcraft" and "Advanced Rockcraft" by Royal Robbins -- wound up getting posted to my Ebay account with a buy It Now price of $17.50, and I offered free shipping to boot. This book lot sold promptly, earning me a nice net profit of about $11.00 after deducting the fees, packaging, postage and the cost of the two books ($1.00).
Bottomline: As you can clearly see, the downside risk of buying books like this is slight, and the upside profit potential is very good.
I pushed and pulled through more piles of used books, when just as I was about to call it quits and head to the checkout counter, I came across a racetrack betting book. Again, what caught my eye was the self-published, no-frills look to the cover. I checked the competition on Amazon Marketplace, and the lowest price listed was $140.00!
The title combined with the cover artwork alone -- "Kinky Handicapping" showing a man reading a racing bulletin while sitting on the toilet -- was enough to make me think this 50 cent book could be a profit bandit.
And, I figured, certainly there had to be related books nearby.
Sure enough, within 30 seconds I found the rest:
Now the lowest prices on these three related gambling books were not as rich as the first, but they each could bring a nice profit should they sell.
So I added those to my buy pile. All four horse racing/gambling books cost just $2.00. Plus sales tax.
So let's see how I listed these online on my Amazon Marketplace Sellers Account later that afternoon.
"Kinky Handicapping" -- listed for $125.00 (shows as lowest price)
"The Unique Way To make Money At The Racetrack" -- listed for $37.50 (shows as lowest price)
"Money Secrets At The Racetrack" -- listed for $18.00 (shows as lowest price)
"Exacta Expose: How To Bet the Exotics In Horse Racing" -- listed for $75.00 (shows as lowest price)
So.... if/when they all sell, I could turn $3.50 into more than $280.00 in gross sales!
Even with all the seller fees, postage costs, etc., I would profit about $200.00!
Not bad for 20 minutes of book sourcing.
Now, this doesn't happen every day. But it does illustrate a common occurrence: when you find unique, profitable books when you're out there sourcing, keep digging. You might just find some more treasures lurking nearby!
One final thing to keep in mind. Here is a vintage book I found at the same time, same thrift store, same sales price (50 cents). It is a fairly decent copy of a book on U.S. Navy war-fighting ships from WWII
When I checked my cellphone lookup on the Amazon website, the lowest pricing came back as $29.99. I bought the book (of course). But when I went to list the book for sale online, I discovered that the initial profits I thought I'd pocket were actually an illusion. The $29.99 pricing was for new copies. The used pricing came in about $10.00. I listed mine for $9.99, and crossed my fingers for luck that maybe it would sell. If not, it might be an interesting read for the 50 cents it cost me, then I'll donate it to the local library booksale. In any case, it demonstrates how sometimes the look-up process is far from foolproof.
However, stinkers like this WWII Navy ships book are the exception to the rule. There's gold in them 'thar thrift stores! Get out their and dig for 'em... and remember that when you find one, there's probably related titles waiting to be be discovered!
Good luck! Stay positive on the hunt and keep growing your used book business!