Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksLet Me Introduce Myself - 20 Jun 12

  • Thu, 19 Jul 2012 01:11:08    Permalink
    My name is Kurt Sanftleben, and I am a part-time bookseller.  I'm a member of the Independent On-Line Booksellers Association (IOBA), the Virginia Antiquarian Booksellers Association (VABA), the Washington Antiquarian Booksellers Association (WABA), the American Philatelic Society (APS), and the Ephemera Society of America (ESA).  I often get asked if ReadEm Again Books has a "specialty." The truth is that there really isnt one. I buy and sell things I like. That includes hard-to-find find titles in childrens series, photoplays, fairy tales, illustrated books, pop-ups and moveable books, scouting items, and unusual or hard to find non-fiction, especially baseball and other sports, cooking, military, and Americana. I also have  trade cards, postcards, stereoviews, billheads, advertising covers, maps, prints, and a variety of assorted ephemera available for sale.  Additionally, I buy and sell some other collectibles--primarily antique children's toys and games, breweriana, and tobacciana.
    I started out as a collector of pop-up books many years ago, and my transition into a seller was gradual.  As I hunted for additions to my collection, Id find duplicates that I knew I could resell at a profit to support my collecting habit.  As I learned about other types of books, Id pick them up for resale as well.  At the time, I was still in the Army and was spending lots of time in the field. Where I Used to Work
    I just didnt have time to do book fairs, and the web didnt yet exist.  So, Id occasionally sell my duplicates at weekend flea markets or to other collectors Id met through USENET, Compuserve and aol.  I didn't start setting up booths at a few antique shows each year until after I retired from active duty and took a less hectic civilian job working for the Marine Corps as the Director of the General Alfred M. Gray Research Center. Where I Work Now
    After I discovered eBay early in 1999 and found my way to alibris shortly thereafter, I was hooked as a seller and gave up collecting entirely.  By 2003, I had about 4,500 books listed on-line at the major sites, and Id begun to spend more weekends doing not just antique shows but book fairs as well.  After a few years, it hit me that I was spinning my wheels.  I was putting in a lot of effort and time, but my profits werent increasing.  So after thinking about what I was doing, I made some changes to my business model.  Today, I limit my on-hand and on-line book inventory to around 750, stock lots of ephemera, and only exhibit at shows that usually provide decent sales (either on-site or follow-on) or good buys.   Read'Em Again Books Booth at a Book Fair
    Ive also increased the average selling price of my books.  When I started out, it was $5-10 per book.  Today, it is closer to $225 and steadily increasing.  Ive found its just as easy, if not easier, to sell an expensive book as it is to sell a cheap one.   There are a number of other things Ive learned along the way too, either from the school of hard knocks or from booksellers and antique dealers whom I respect. For what its worth, heres a list of ten things that I try to keep in mind, and I think they apply to both sellers and collectors.

    Buy the nicest material you can find and afford; dont buy something that youll feel a need to apologize for when you later try to sell it.  
    The Internet has revealed that many books, which once seemed scarce, are plentiful.
    Prices you see on the Internet are for items that havent sold.
    Most people dont check the Internet for price comparisons; the same item can often sell for far more or for far less at a book fair, antique show, or through a catalog than it does online.
    Different venues attract different types of buyers and sellers.
    Buy things people want.  Simply being old or rare or beautiful, does not make something valuable. There has to be a demand for an item to create value. 
    Dont buy common items.  Unusual, esoteric, and especially unique things are in much higher demand.
    Presentation is important.  If people dont know what you have, they cant buy it.  In the same vein, if you are trying to sell something nice and, for whatever reason, it presents poorly, you won't get its full value.
    Knowledge is important.  Potential buyers might not know why something is important to them; it is the sellers job to explain this.  Sellers, also, may not know why something is important; this, of course, works to a buyers advantage.
    Dont be reluctant to bargain over price, and dont worry that the other person is getting the best of a deal.  As long as the final price is fair, completing a sale makes both the buyer and the seller happy. 

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