The #1 Reason Why Many Collectors Sell Their Books, and How to Sell Yours

December 14, 2019

“My wife wants her living room back.”

It might sound funny, but you’d laugh at the overwhelming number of people we’ve talked to who have decided to auction their book collections because, quote: “My wife wants her living room back.”

Book collections obviously vary in size, but they can take up quite a lot of space – space that is valuable to spouses who’ve got their sights set on reclaiming the room where the library is housed, or who’d rather reinvest the value of the collectible books into something the couple can mutually enjoy.

Simply put – selling a collection of books is often about reclaiming shelf space.

Curated Collections vs. Shelf Scraps

Before we get started – let’s just note that there’s a distinct contrast between meticulously curated collections and ordinary bookshelf accumulations.

Curated collections are carefully assembled, with each book chosen deliberately to reflect the collector’s preferences and interests. These collections often feature first editions, rare finds, or a very specific subject matter, each selected with care and displayed purposefully.

On the other hand, shelf scraps consist of a mishmash of books gathered over time without much thought or organization. These collections are what most of us have lining the shelves, and are usually made up of less valuable books, resulting in cluttered and disorganized shelves.

When to Sell a Book Collection

So, if you’ve got a valuable, carefully curated book collection, there may come a time when you think about selling it. For collectors who are no longer regularly interacting with their libraries, selling the collection may be an option to consider.

Interests change and we all develop new focus over the years, so this may be a great time to reinvest in different sorts of collectible books, or into a different hobby altogether.

We hear from lots of collectors whose spouses want to reclaim shelf space!

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selling Your Books

It can be painful to part with carefully compiled and meaningful personal collections. Therefore, it’s wise to ask yourself a few questions before considering letting a library go:

  • Are you still actively enjoying your collection?
  • Do you have space to continue housing the book collection?
  • Are you in urgent need of cash?
  • Have your life circumstances changed in a way that affects the collection?

Recouping Your Original Investment

If you’ve determined that it is in your best interest to sell, your first concern may revolve around how to recoup your original investment in collectible books.

Many serious and even casual book collectors have invested heavily in their books, whether the collections are large or small, and have spent many years amassing the library.

Naturally, it is a priority for such collectors to attempt to recoup their original investment and if possible, make a profit.

Depending on your present circumstances, this is definitely a primary factor to keep in mind as you weigh your options.

“I’ve been collecting for about 30 years and every bookshelf in our house is packed. We’re planning to retire and have to get rid of a lot of things – the sale of my collection is going to go towards our move.”

4 Ways to Sell Desirable Book Collections

There are generally five options to choose from when deciding how to sell collectible books. We’ll touch briefly on each of these in this article:

  1. Sell the books privately to a collector
  2. Sell the books directly to a rare book dealer
  3. Sell the books online yourself using an online marketplace
  4. Consign the books to an auction house

1. How to Sell Books Directly to Another Collector

This is often the most desirable option, but isn’t always the simplest.

If you’ve networked with other like-minded book collectors and have contacts who may be interested in purchasing some or all of your collection, you’re fortunate! Talk with them first to see if you can strike a deal.

If you’re new to networking in this area, it may be advisable to join some online forums or Facebook Groups to see if you can track down an interested private party.

2. How to Sell Books Directly to a Rare Book Dealer

Certain volumes of your library may be suitable for selling directly to a rare book dealer who may have the opportunity to resell it to a specific private buyer.

Search online for “rare book dealers” in your area and contact the one(s) of your choice to find out if they’d be willing to buy your book. Remember that they’ll need to see the book in person to fully inspect it, and perhaps consider making an offer.

Keep in mind that rare book dealers run businesses which must operate sustainably, and thus can only offer you a percentage of the current market value of your book.

A good rule of thumb is that a dealer might be able to offer you, on average, around 40% of the current market value for your book.

Selling to a dealer is a preferable option if you’re looking for a quick turnaround or are in need of the cash, but you won’t likely be making a profit on your original investment.

3. How to Sell Rare Books Yourself

If you’re tech-savvy and have experience with online sales, it may be easiest for you to sell your collectible books online. This would be appropriate if your book is of lesser value but still has some collectibility.

Selling on eBay

In our opinion, the best venue for selling books online is eBay. eBay sometimes gets a bad rap by members of the rare book community who label it an online “flea market”, but there have been some incredibly valuable books sold there for high prices.

eBay’s reach extends all over the world, with roughly 167 million active users and 25 million sellers. That equates to a lot of exposure and possibility for a well-tailored auction listing.

Selling on AbeBooks

If eBay isn’t your preferred platform for selling rare books, consider AbeBooks as an alternative. AbeBooks specializes in rare and collectible books, attracting a niche audience of book enthusiasts and collectors.

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to start by creating a seller account. There’s a small listing fee per item, typically ranging from $0.50 to $2.50, along with a commission fee of around 13.5% per sale.

Selling on AbeBooks offers exposure to a targeted audience of book lovers and collectors, making it an excellent option for selling your rare books.

Selling on Biblio

To sell a rare book on Biblio, begin by creating a seller account on their platform. Biblio offers various pricing options, including commission-based and monthly subscription plans. You can utilize their marketing tools and promotional features to increase visibility.

As with eBay and AbeBooks, Biblio’s dedicated audience helps you effectively reach buyers interested in these sorts of books.

How to Best Present Your Books

No matter which DIY option you go with, it’s vital to include a detailed description of your book, and to provide high-quality, detailed photos. Ensure that you’re explaining the condition of the book to the best of your ability.

Lastly, if you’re selling books yourself, you’ll be responsible for packing and shipping the books to your buyer. Ensure that you’ve set up your shipping preferences in your platform of choice for prompt delivery to buyers.

4. How to Sell Rare Books at Auction

Selling rare or desirable books at auction has been a tried and true method used by bibliophiles for centuries. For individual volumes or larger libraries, auctions presents an attractive solution for high-end books.

Some auction houses, Britannic Auctions among them, specialize in rare books and manuscripts. You can consign your book to be sold at auction, reaching serious collectors and potentially fetching a high price.

Contact the auction house of your choice with details about your books and you’ll be put in touch with a consignment representative who will explain the process to you.

Auction tip: Be sure to carefully review a consignment contract for potentially hidden add-on fees.

Though some fees are negotiable and you’ll be informed when you carefully read the consignment agreement beforehand, it’s wise to note that you could potentially run into additional charges such as those for photography, cataloging, restoration, buy-back fees for unsold lots, storage fees, shipping, packing, storage, custom duties and import tax, if appropriate.

Ready to Sell Your Books at Auction? We’re Here to Help!

Auctioning desirable books is exactly what we do here at Britannic Actions. Since 2014, we’ve been helping collectors to sell their books at auction, although we auction a lot more than just books!

From our one-on-one interaction with you to the opportunity to sell your books in a reasonable timeframe on the open market, the benefits of consigning a rare book or collection with us are many.

Get a Free Valuation of Your Books

We welcome you to submit your individual volumes or entire collection to us and we’d be happy to review your items to discuss the possibilities. We offer complimentary valuations for rare books and collections of high-quality books.

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