September 13, 2007

eBay and Civil War Books

Of all of the new avenues that have opened up for booksellers (and collectors) in the last decade, eBay has to be near the top of the list for ease of entry. As I discussed in an earlier post on internet bookselling, this virtual auction house has had a significant impact on both booksellers and collectors. I know that I have bought and sold books by the hundreds over the past seven or eight years via this channel. Frankly, and I fear that traditional brick and mortar booksellers may not like to read this, but the vast majority of my used book buying purchases are now online via eBay or ABE. New books are also sold there as bookstores and small publishers realize that it’s just another channel of distribution. It’s also convenient plus the buyer usually gets to (or should) see a picture of the item when buying on eBay. Based on what I wrote in that prior post regarding supply and demand, eBay is in my opinion an excellent way to acquire desirable first editions at wholesale prices.

That said, eBay is really the “wild, wild west” of bookselling. Caveat emptor rules the day. Any idiot with a shelf of books, a computer, and an internet connection can now call himself a bookseller, though he/she may have little knowledge or understanding of grading concepts or first edition status. In fact, just last week I returned a book club edition in fair condition of a Civil War title that was listed as a “fine” first edition and which the seller had reconfirmed was a first! Yet, it was not. My advice is to make sure the seller has ample positive feedback and to get pictures of the item in question!

Despite the pitfalls, it can be an excellent source for acquiring rare books. As to Civil War books, there are thousands upon thousands up for auction at any time, from true rarities to stuff you'd never pay $1 for. As I write this post, I see that the current highest bid item ($455 with 15 bids) is a first edition of Grant's Memoirs in the scarce deluxe leather binding (see above pic). On a less common note, an 1865 first edition of Life and Death in Rebel Prisons by Robert Kellogg, who was the seargent major of the 16th Connecticut is being actively sought with 26 bids and a current price of $135. If you are a Civil War book collector and have never explored eBay, I urge you to check it out.


Brett Schulte said...


eBay and Abebooks are definitely major book buying sources for me. I usually only buy full price from publishers I want to support, like Camp Pope, Savas Beatie, Ironclad, and several others.

Brett S.

Paul Taylor said...

Brett, hey, welcome back to the blogosphere and thanks for stopping by! I agree with your sentiments.


Anonymous said...


What do you think of the search engine sites which purportedly look at many sellers? The ones I have found are;;

They usually list those sellers such as ABE, Alibris, Halfcom, etc., but not always. Have you tried eCampus?

I agree that some sellers especially on eBay, Halfcom, and Amazon Marketplace don't have a clue about listing condition. I've bought "like new" books which had highlighting!