Doug: Maybe I'll use my standard book review formula and frame this with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Let's:
THE GOOD: I have gotten much better at packaging books, both larger lots as well as single books or small lots that might go into an envelope. Let me give you some details --
- Do you know what makes great packing material for the USPS Medium Flat-Rate box? A four-cup cardboard carrier, like you get through the drive-up window at your favorite fast food restaurant. I'm serious -- that baby fits snugly right into the bottom of the box, giving nice, sturdy filler material for a lot of 10 books (or more). I try to use a magazine-sized bag and insert several books into that (so maybe the customer will find 2-3 of those, depending how many books they purchased). I'll then stack the bags and wrap them in a section from our local newspaper. Crumpled up newspapers then fill out the top of the box, followed by a closed shake to detect any inside motion. If it's snug, it's taping time!
- Do you know what makes great packing material for the USPS Flat-Rate envelope? All the corrugated cardboard that comes in a carton of furniture purchased from IKEA, that's what! There is so much 2- and 3-ply thick cardboard, that the seller is only an exacto-knife away from really stiffening an envelope. I'll admit to giving expensive books a little more care than something that sold for $10 or less.
- For the Megos I sold, I shipped them in a USPS Flat-Rate Small box. I used a foam bed pad as packing, cutting a piece large enough that would wrap around the figure. I then stuffed all that into a quart-size ziplock bag (it did not fit completely in the bag, but still had a snug form to it) and then into the box. Some taping around the edges, and it was almost the perfect container.
- Everyone loves a buyer who pays right away, and I try to ship same-day if at all possible. I don't think I've delayed any shipment past 24 hours, unless the transaction was completed on a Saturday evening. I also love buyers who leave me positive feedback; I always leave positive feedback right after I print the shipping label.
- The practice of writing details for a prospective buyer has forced me to take a hard look at the conditions of my books and their "guide value". Let me be honest in saying that I have not upgraded a book for a listing since I started this. I have sincerely tried to paint a picture such that I would feel like I was being treated well if I was the buyer. And that brings me to our next stop --
- Here's my standard operating procedure for listing a book --
- Look up the price in the latest Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, based on my original grade, and record that price on a spreadsheet.
- Take the book out of the bag and scan the covers (and also the splash page if it's a Silver Age book; just the front cover once well into the Bronze Age). After scanning, I go through the book's interiors, checking for the Marvel Value Stamp, any coupons that were clipped or filled out (yes, 10-year old me has been found "guilty!" of that on a few occasions), trying to catch the covers in the light to look for wrinkles, dents or impact marks, etc. Then I revise the condition and the price.
- When I do the listing, I will create a "Buy It Now" price that is around 80% of what I have determined the book is "worth". Then I start the listing at about half of that. And...
- ...this brings me to the real "bad" here. Buyers sometimes won't even bid on what should be considered a great deal, particularly on a high grade book. I have had a few sales where someone jumped on the Buy It Now only several minutes after the listing went live. But I have had some nice books offered for really swell prices that went all the way through eBay's 3x listings and did not sell. Let me be blunt -- that ticks me off. I am not going to give my collection away. Period.
- And don't even get me going on buyers who complain about paying shipping costs. I have begun to split costs with buyers if I have to use a box instead of an envelope. But c'mon... what do you ever buy mail-order and not pay S&H on? It seems everyone thinks they can get something for nothing.
- So what exactly is the purpose of the price guide? If no one is paying those prices, what is it a guide for? Who sets those prices? And are they only to create some formula such that dealers can make low-ball offers to dudes like myself (remember, that is the route I first tested when deciding to sell).
- One more thing here, somewhat related to the guide -- eBay's seller fees. I use their standard form for listings, and don't add any bells or whistles. I don't use reserve prices (my wife about puked when I told her that I started my first 20 issues of the Avengers at $1 with no reserve). That being said, the fees are right around 10% of the final selling price. So my first month's charges were around $430. Ouch. But then, it is a nice way to sell. I don't leave my house until I ship. The buyers come to me.
- Buyers who don't pay. I'm currently dealing with eBay to get a winning bid canceled due to a buyer not paying. He has never communicated with me, in spite of being invoiced three times and contacted by me two other times. The thing is, he had 100% positive feedback. However, when I looked at the actual feedback comments, there were 3-4 negative comments, each stating a situation similar to what I am dealing with. Not sure how he has that A+ rating. I think there's still another week or so until his 30-days-to-pay expires. The auction in question was my Mego Spider-Man, so I know I'll have no trouble selling it.
- Placing my books, and my reputation, in the hands of a third party. I have faith in the USPS, but hey -- every now and then accidents happen. All of my feedback has been positive, and many have commented on the packaging. But when I shipped Avengers #2 it did not arrive as it had left my hands. That's a helpless feeling!