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  #1  
Old 02-15-2011, 09:45 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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How to sell a 1911 Britannica?

I have a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition of 1911 (plus three supplementary volumes that update it to 1922) that I am considering selling, and I would like to ask people's opinions about the best way of doing so without it either turning into a huge hassle, or getting ripped off.

I have searched around a little bit online and have found several other apparently similar sets of the encyclopedia on sale for wildly varying asking prices, ranging from $3,500 (from a seller on Alibris) to $349.99 on eBay (so far as I can tell - I don't have much understanding of eBay - that is the seller's reserve price, but there do not seem to be any bids, which does not seem like a good sign).

Presumably the market is book collectors. The 11th edition is, I believe, considered to be probably the "classic" edition of Britannica, but it is out of copyright, and OCR scans of the actual content are available for free several places online. I believe in that market the physical condition of the volumes is very important. I think my copies are in very good condition, given their age, but they have been stored on open shelves, and I am not sure how they would be judged by a book collector's standards. The pages are nice and clean, but the leather (or fake leather) binding is a bit decayed in places.

It appears that, besides trying to use eBay, one can sell as an individual through Amazon (and perhaps through Alibris or other sites too), but I have no experience with that sort of thing, and, given the huge range of asking prices I have seen online for this item just this afternoon, I have very little idea what sort of price I ought to be asking for. I do not want to have to wait for years to make a sale, but, obviously, I want to get as much as I reasonably can for them. Would I be better off contacting a book dealer, or is that just asking to be ripped off? (Come to that, how does one go about finding the sort of dealer who would be interested?)

I am not sure if this is the best forum for this. If a mod thinks I might get a better response in CS or GQ, please feel free to move the thread.
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  #2  
Old 02-15-2011, 09:50 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Try searching completed auctions on eBay (I think you need to sign up to do so) to see what price any set(s) may have actually sold for recently.
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  #3  
Old 02-16-2011, 01:08 AM
DocCathode DocCathode is offline
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Zombywoof has it. Forget what people are asking. See what it actually sells for.

An antique dealer would naturally pay less. They have to if they want to resell the books for a profit. Expect to get one half to one third the price you could get selling directly to a collector.
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Old 02-19-2011, 08:10 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Old books aren't valuable just because they are old. They have to be rare and sought after for some reason. Old encyclopedia sets are outdated and, unless they are extremely old or focus on a very specific topic, aren't all that interesting. The big name ones were mass produced and are still quite common because people tend to hold onto them.

Just checked with my fiancée, who prices books that are brought in to the biggest local used bookstore, and she says they won't even take the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica sets at any price. They are still very common and would take up too much shelf space for how little they would be able to resell them for.
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Old 02-19-2011, 08:20 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Start it out on Ebay at $199. and pray that it sells. You won't get that from a bookseller. Make sure you adjust for postage.

Last edited by samclem; 02-19-2011 at 08:20 PM.. Reason: postage afterthought
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  #6  
Old 02-20-2011, 12:01 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I tell you, I got my set ridiculously cheap from Alibris - something like 50 bucks including shipping. So there may not be much in it for you. (I'd never let mine go - it's awesome!)
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  #7  
Old 02-20-2011, 02:49 AM
Kozmik Kozmik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Norder View Post
Old encyclopedia sets are outdated and, unless they are extremely old or focus on a very specific topic, aren't all that interesting.
Old encyclopedia sets are not outdated. A 1911 Britannica set would not be outdated in regards to philosophy. A 1911 Britannica set would not be outdated in another sense - in the sense that since everyone uses Wikipedia you would have an advantage with a 1911 Britannica set (The risk is that, of course, you might accidently use obsolete information for school or work, i.e. Pluto is a planet. But then with Wikipedia there is equally the risk of inserting inaccurate information by mistake, i.e. the moon is made of cheese.) I agree, though, that only old encyclopedia sets are interesting. For example, the 1911 Britannica set is a good example of a pre-World War I worldview. Whether that worldview is outdated is debatable.

A good selling point is that the 1911 Britannica set is a good example of a pre-World War I worldview. Remind the buyer that anyone has access to Wikipedia.
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  #8  
Old 02-20-2011, 03:21 AM
mhendo mhendo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kozmik View Post
Remind the buyer that anyone has access to Wikipedia.
Anyone also has access to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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  #9  
Old 02-20-2011, 08:50 AM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kozmik View Post
Old encyclopedia sets are not outdated. A 1911 Britannica set would not be outdated in regards to philosophy.
That's debatable, but even if we assume that it is true, philosophy is only a small fraction of the encyclopedia.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kozmik View Post
A 1911 Britannica set would not be outdated in another sense - in the sense that since everyone uses Wikipedia you would have an advantage with a 1911 Britannica set
So uniqueness of information in itself is a positive? If so, you might as well just make things up.

Incidentally, a good chunk of Wikipedia was originally based upon the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, as the text is in the public domain and freely usable. Of course it's been updated since then, largely.

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Originally Posted by Kozmik View Post
I agree, though, that only old encyclopedia sets are interesting.
Looks like the only thing you agreed with me on is something I didn't actually say and don't believe.
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  #10  
Old 02-20-2011, 10:48 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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The 1911 is famously well-written and (sometimes incredibly oddly) opinionated. It isn't outdated at all - it's full of awesome sauce.
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  #11  
Old 02-20-2011, 12:24 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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I have a 3-volume set of Brittanica from around then. I'm on the road & can't check what year it really is. Might have been a bit earlier, say 1895. Out of curiosity I bought it at a used bookstore for not much $ and thought it might eventually have some collector's value.

Turns out that 20-30 years after the original run somebody was reprinting that set for nostalgia and bookshelf-filler-that-makes-me-look-educated purposes. So I have a 1930s(?) nostalgia reprint of a 1910(?) encyclopedia. Not much real value there. Sorta like book club books; cheap reprints which physically age quickly due to inferior materials.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 02-20-2011 at 12:25 PM..
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  #12  
Old 02-21-2011, 09:26 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
The 1911 is famously well-written and (sometimes incredibly oddly) opinionated. It isn't outdated at all - it's full of awesome sauce.
One of us clearly either doesn't know what century it is or what "outdated" means as it applies to a general reference work on science, geography, history, politics and so forth.
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  #13  
Old 02-21-2011, 10:02 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Norder View Post
Old books aren't valuable just because they are old. They have to be rare and sought after for some reason. Old encyclopedia sets are outdated and, unless they are extremely old or focus on a very specific topic, aren't all that interesting. The big name ones were mass produced and are still quite common because people tend to hold onto them.

Just checked with my fiancée, who prices books that are brought in to the biggest local used bookstore, and she says they won't even take the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica sets at any price. They are still very common and would take up too much shelf space for how little they would be able to resell them for.
Right. Some old books have little premium value. A good example of an old book with no or little premium value is a King James Version Bible from the 1800's. These were printed in the millions and circulated all over the Anglosphere by Evangelical ministries as well as regular bookstores. Virtually every family that had any books at all would have had one. I went on a church retreat 5-10 years ago and our cabin had an 1800's bible that was just left out available for anyone to use.
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  #14  
Old 02-21-2011, 10:08 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Norder View Post
One of us clearly either doesn't know what century it is or what "outdated" means as it applies to a general reference work on science, geography, history, politics and so forth.
It depends on what you're looking for. If you want the latest, most accurate measurements of the depth of the Marianas trench or the most up-to-date estimates on causes of death among US Civil War soldiers that includes references to primary documents that were hidden in a basement in 1870 and not rediscovered until 1950 (made up example, you get the idea), then the 1911 edition may not be your best bet. But if you're interested in the history of thought and science, and how political opinions were viewed, it's a goldmine. It may have a lot to show on the biases of the writers both in terms of what they concentrated on as well as what evidence they cited as reliable.
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