August 20, 2008

What's a Book Worth?

So for the past week, I was watching this interesting item on eBay: A lovely, 750-copy limited edition reprint of William Allan's The Army of Northen Virginia in 1862. I didn't win and as you can see, the book sold for $113.50. My maximum bid wasn't anywhere near that high because I noticed that there are three identical copies currently for sale on ABE, all with asking prices at $75.

Am I missing something here? This clearly illustrates that any item is worth whatever someone is willing to pay. I'm not willing to shell out $113.50 when I can get the same item elsewhere for $75. On the other hand, perhaps Mr. Krick's signature commands a premium.

It also appears here that an 1892 first edition, rebound in quarter blue leather with blue cloth over boards, sold for $266 on eBay several weeks ago.

Nevins describes the book as "an early balanced documented study in detail of the operations of Lee's army in the year 1862." Allan served as a colonel and chief ordnance officer for generals Jackson, Ewell, and Early in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was referred to by a colleague as "the most competent man for all sorts of work I ever saw." Allan passed away in 1889, making this book a posthumous publication.


Francis Rose said...

I think it's a phenomenon known as "auction fever." There are folks out there who just don't know about these other resources, and they HAVE TO HAVE IT. It only takes two people to drive prices up like this, and usually that's all there are competing at the end.

Francis Rose

Paul Taylor said...

Good point Francis. I admit that I, too, have on occasion been caught up in the frenzy and probably ended up overbidding.