As a bookseller, I rely heavily on tech (in my case, a database program and Bluetooth scanner) to help me make fast purchasing decisions that I can use to turn a profit.
But the longer I make money with books, the more I realize that I love much more than just the eventual cash flowing into my bank account – I love the art of selling a book in and of itself. I love the scent of books, the feel of books, the promise books hold. And I love the treasure hunting aspect – finding that diamond in a pile of worthless paperbacks. In many cases, to find that diamond, you have to go beyond tech to develop professional bookselling expertise. It’s something I’m definitely working on – despite a career of being around books and publishing, I’m a newbie bookseller. Here are a few BOLOs for books that you can often find easily that have shocked me with their value (especially considering how much I pay for them – often 25 cents). Who knew?
1. Kids’ Counting/Math Books That Involve Popular Food Products
I used to ignore kids’ books totally – I aim to sell books on Amazon FBA for $9.95 or more, so why would I bother? But the market and sales rank for many children’s books is great, and if you can get a nice-looking hardback children’s book inexpensively, they’re great to pick up. I lot these books together and sell the bunch on Ebay – this works particularly well with themed books, such as Disney or Christmas.
But one niche in particular I’ve found is food-related counting books. I live near Hershey, PA, so I often find this book:
and this one:
I’ve sold multiple copies of both, and the first one for $25-35. I think teachers must use these books in preschool classrooms, along with a few kisses, to motivate their students. The author of these two books, Jerry Pallotta, also has books about counting with apples or Reese’s pieces, which I’m sure I’d pick up if I found them.
2. Older Alcoholics Anonymous Books/Editions
I like to look on Ebay for completed listings in Books, searching by Highest Ending Price, and recently I ran across a listing for a first edition, signed version of the Alcoholics Anonymous Red Book in mint condition that went for $14,0000! After digging around a bit, I found that even second and third editions can go for close to or more than $100. I don’t think your average thrift store or book sale worker knows about these little gems, so you can pick copies of these up cheaply. They’re worthwhile even if they’re missing their dust jackets. Personally I’d sell on Ebay rather than Amazon, since at least from my experience, it’s a better venue for collectible-type books.
3. Old Books About Dogs, Cats, Birds, Insects, and Plants with Nice Artwork
Find a tattered, cover-falling-off copy of an old book about dogs from the early 20th century? Don’t be quick to discard it. Books about animals illustrated by Diana Thorne or Margeurite Kirmse can fetch major money on Ebay. If the book itself is in poor condition but the illustrations are good, you can remove the bookplate illustrations and sell them off individually. I’m new to this area of bookselling but vintage prints suitable for framing are popular sellers. If you have any names of illustrators to be on the lookout for, please leave a comment below!
4. Vintage Teen Girl Books From the 1960s
Vintage is hot right now, even on Amazon FBA. One category of books often overlooked by your bookselling competition are vintage teen girl books. I’ve sold this one for $39.95 (purchased for a quarter):
Collectors may be trying to fill out a set, or a mom might be looking for the perfect nostalgic gift for her daughter, one that she enjoyed as a girl. Another popular vintage teen girl series is Peggy Lane – some of her earlier books in particular are quite hard to find. These books are often cloth covers without dust jackets. You’ll want to check the condition/spine carefully to ensure the book is in good enough condition for you to sell.
If by chance you come across several volumes of the same series, jump on it. You can sell these books individually or collectively (for much more) on Amazon and Ebay.