There can be various reasons to sell your collection, or part of it. For some collectors it’s not about owning rare books but the thrill of the hunt, and once they have completed a collection they may decide to sell to fund the next biblio adventure. Other times a collector will trade up a copy in their collection after having found a more desirable copy.
While the most profitable avenue for selling your book(s) is often finding another collector whom you can sell to directly this can be difficult (just ask a bookseller who’s had certain items in their care for a decade). If you do not find your ideal buyer straight away other options open to you include:
Auction houses are easy to find. Again you will need to do your research. Commissions vary as do the levels of service. Large or specialist auction houses will even be able to catalogue a collection to be sold.
There is a huge array of options available. Anyone can sell on eBay or a local used goods website. There are Internet marketplaces such as AbeBooks, Alibris and Biblio that are used by professional booksellers. Amazon also has an established marketplace for third party sellers. Each website varies and requires high standards of professionalism.
Never forget that a bookseller is running a business and the price they will be willing to pay for your book(s) will be not be any more than 40% or 50% of the estimated value. They need to resell the book at a profit and pay their business expenses. In this respect, the rare book trade is no different to the used car business. If you have a specialist collection, you may wish to approach a bookseller who specialises in similar books.
A bookseller will only visit your house to look over a collection for sale if they think the books on offer have resale value – you will need to provide details of the gems in order to get them interested.
You may also wish to consider donating a collection to a rare book library at an academic establishment. There are several advantages to doing this - 1) the books go a good home, 2) the collection won’t be split up, and 3) people can view the collection long after you’ve gone to the great bookshop in the sky.