Collector finds $10,000 book for $30 with AbeBooks’ Wants matching
The book in question was a rare 1937 edition of A Gent from Bear Creek by Robert E. Howard, (better known for his Conan the Barbarian/Conan the Cimmerian series) and it seems that the collector exacted a search on AbeBooks some years ago and when he saw that no copies of his desired edition were available he would place a Want for it and wait. What happened then is best described by the collector himself:
Last Tuesday (April 20), a little before 6:00 pm French time, I received the email. I remember seeing A Gent from Bear Creek in the subject field, which surprised me because I usually don’t get notifications for the book, and then I saw the year – 1937. I don’t remember registering anything as to the condition except that it lacked the dustjacket, and the price: £20 ($30 American). It took me a few seconds to digest all this, and then I literally went dizzy, immediately clicked on the item, logged in, and bought it. The whole transaction took 30 seconds, tops. I didn’t know how much I had paid for postage, and was not really sure I hadn’t made a mistake.
I tried to cool down, re-read everything, took a deep breath and decided to give the bookseller a call. I told him I was simply inquiring if my order had gone through, because I had been looking for that book “for years.” I offered no further details. The bookseller said it usually took a couple hours before they get the notification, but he did some checking and thus the book was pulled off the ABE list within the hour. I didn’t ask him to confirm it was indeed a 1937 Herbert Jenkins edition, as I didn’t want to arouse suspicion. The conversation ended when he told me the book would go out the next day.
For the next 48 hours, the butterflies in my stomach were killed by the pins and needles I had in there. On Thursday, I received notification that the book had shipped and I became hopeful, but still remained wary. It arrived today in a plain padded envelope. Fortunately it made the trip safely and didn’t suffer any damage in transit.”
I love this story because it shows just how useful Wants searches can be. If you ever find yourself unable to locate something on AbeBooks remember that a well described Wants search can indeed unearth gold.
Just remember the key to a good Want match is including information that is as specific as possible, especially the Publisher, publishing date, and desired attributes (first edition, dust jacket, signed, price point) that you require that way you will not receive false positives from re-prints or incorrect editions.