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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 16, April 16, 2000, Article 6


In response to Mike Jones' comments on "Book Rate" fees, Numismatic literature dealer Charles Davis writes:

"In the early 80's, it was the old bugaboo Buyers Premium and the pages of Cal Wilson's Repository were filled with discussion pro and con. Now it's the Packing Fee. E-Sylum subscriber Mike Jones is entitled to his opinion, but his diatribe against book dealers is poorly taken, and I for one am offended by it. He is correct that the Post Office will provide free boxes, but he neglects to point out that these are Priority Mail boxes, not ones for book rate or parcel post, and even they and the free tape are so light weight, neither is recommended for book shipments. Most of my shipments are made in new boxes or padded mail bags which cost me on average 40c-$1.00 each. Peanuts and bubble wrap add to the cost, as does the considerable labor in correctly packing the box. A packing fee of $1-$2.00 over the postage charge hardly covers the cost and should not be the subject of much concern. Has Mr. Jones ever purchased an item from a mail order catalogue where shipping may be as much as 10%? I recently did, and on a $150.00 item I paid $15.00 shipping for an item that cost $3.20 to mail. Now that might be a subject of a discussion.

As for the comment "some dealers will charge only actual postage and those dealers are the ones that describe the condition of a book correctly", I guess Bergman, Lake, Kolbe, Grady, Moulton and I all misdescribe books because we all charge a little more than actual postage.

According to his analysis, we book dealers are lining our pockets at the collectors' expense. Perhaps Mr. Jones would care to join us in our profession. He could undercut our costs and put the lot of us out of business in no time."

Karl Moulton notes:

"Mr. Jones' comments about "book buying" are something we all share as bibliophiles. What he relates about conditions, shipping charges, packing fees, etc., are all part of the "hidden costs" involved with acquiring a library. It's similar to buying a new car with the destination charges, sales tax, license fees, and special "dealer prep coat" (another way of charging for car wax) added to the sticker price.

As a literature dealer, I leave every option open to the customer when it comes to shipping and insurance. In my price list there is a detailed outline explaining the postage and insurance rates from the USPS. Naturally, my customers pay only the charge needed to receive the package. As every literature dealer knows, the US Postal Service can be a terrible business partner! "

Finally, George Kolbe adds

"Whether it's shipping charges, buyers' premiums or other add-ons, the solution seems so simple, at least to me. Add everything up, use a calculator if math is not your forte, AND, if the total is appealing, go for it! If not, take a deep breath and think SERENITY!"

Well, George, I couldn't have summed it up better. Many is the lot I've reduced my bid on to account for the total cost of buyer's fees, shipping, etc. And many is the lot I've missed out on to more aggressive bidders. But the lots I win I'm generally happy with, for I have no one to blame but myself for paying too dearly.

From Mike's note he's already making those calculations and has passed up items due to their total cost. Also, lest our numismatic literature dealer friends get too worked up, his comments were directed primarily at the great unwashed booksellers across the internet, rather than any of our brethren dealers in particular.

As a collector, though, it can seem heartbreaking to pass up an item you'd otherwise purchase if not for the extra fees. But no matter how you slice it, the total cost is the only relevant factor. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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