Connecticut River Book Auction (formerly CFA Book Auction) holds "list" and "shelf" auctions of good quality, used, rare, and collectible books, ephemera, artwork and other items suitable for Internet book dealers, shop owners, museums and individual collectors from across New York and New England.
Connecticut River Book Auction began business as CFA Book Auction in 2009 to raise funds for Child and Family Agency of Southeast Connecticut. Over the years, our good friends at Child and Family grew exhausted from the work running an operation such as this entails. Thus, CFA Book Auctions ceased operations in the summer of 2017 to be replaced by Connecticut River Book Auction. The founder of CFA Book Auction, Tom Gullotta, remains the man in charge of Connecticut River Book Auction and the charitable intention of the business continues. After expenses, the profit of Connecticut River Book Auction is given to Connecticut based charities. Our niche in the world of book auctions remains unaltered from the past - we are a book auction service that focuses on selling good used books and ephemera. Now, every auction house wants to offer the rare book worth thousands of dollars and understandably so. In contrast, we are interested in offering the re-sellable book whose value is between twenty and several hundred dollars. The clients attending our auctions are Internet book dealers, open shop owners, and individual collectors from across New York New England, and the mid-Atlantic states who seek good quality used and collectible books and ephemera. Our consignors are individuals downsizing their collections, estates, and book dealers.
One of the simplest ways to learn about buying books is to attend one of our "list" auctions!
Our auctions are located at the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, CT, at the corner of Main Street and High Street. The auction begins at 6:00 p.m., and most auctions are over by 8:00 p.m.
So, how do our "list" auctions work? Picture a large room with about a dozen long tables placed along the perimeter. On these tables are small groupings of books (typically consisting of one to ten volumes) called "lots." Each lot is assigned a its own number and is given a concise description on the listing sheet distributed to potential bidders. These descriptions are brief but accurate, for example: five American history books, eight books of poetry with two signed, or one art book. All bidders are invited to inspect these books prior to the start of the auction. Anyone who wishes to stay for the auction and bid on one or more lots will be issued a card with an exclusive bidding number on it. We are also available to execute advance bids left with us by known customers who are unable to stay for the entire auction.
The auctioneer opens the bidding with the first group of books (Lot 1). List auction bidding begins at $15 per lot, a second bid will go up to $20, the third bid to $30 and so on. For a book worth hundreds of dollars, the bidding could start at a higher opening bid and might increase in increments of $25, $50, or more. This is at the discretion of the auctioneer.
Terms of sale are visible below, and are printed on the back of each bidding card. They provide additional insight into how the auction operates.
The process of consigning your books to our auction begins with either a phone call to Tom Gullotta (1-860-908-8067) or e-mailing him at email@example.com. Tom will discuss your books with you and assist you in determining whether it is a wise decision for your books to go to auction. We know that you have many questions about the value of your books and have prepared A Primer on Bookselling to assist you in your decision-making process.
Connecticut River Book Auctions
221 Keeney Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Congregational Church in South Glastonbury
949 Main St, South Glastonbury, CT (map)
In the event of inclement weather call 860-908-8067 to confirm that the auction will be held.
CONNECTICUT RIVER BOOK AUCTION RULES
Welcome. Please read the following rules to this book auction CAREFULLY:
The minimum bid is $15.
Some lots may have a reserve. You will be notified of this reserve by the auctioneer.
Staff may bid on items for themselves.
Known customers may leave absentee bids that will be executed by the auctioneer.
Clearly hold up your bidding number so the auctioneer understands you are interested in a lot. If the auctioneer misses your bid and sells the lot to another person you are out of luck. It is your responsibility to indicate your interest in purchasing a book or books.
CONNECTICUT SALES TAX of 6.35% is charged on all sales unless you have a tax resale number on file with us. In addition, a 15% BUYERS PREMIUM is accessed on all sales.
Not responsible for errors or omissions. Use ONLY your judgment to determine if you want to bid on a lot.
CHECKS OR CASH ONLY. NO CREDIT CARDS OR CREDIT EXTENDED. ALL SALES ARE FINAL. DO NOT BID ON AN ITEM UNLESS YOU ARE SURE YOU WANT TO OWN IT.Back
For several years Connecticut River Book Auction (formerly CFA Book Auction) has been helping collectors who wish to downsize their collections and estate trustees who need to properly dispense a book collection. For purposes of convenience (admittedly ours) we have limited this service to the New England States, New York, and New Jersey with the rare foray into Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic States.
Connecticut River Book Auction is prepared to assist the bibliophile in downsizing or the trustee in selling a client's library. We will examine your collection and provide you with a realistic estimate of the value of your collection at auction. (Note: This is not an appraisal for IRS purposes). If your collection is determined to meet certain sale criteria, we will auction it for you. Alternatively, we can arrange for the charitable donation of the library. Within these two basic options are a multitude of variations that can also be discussed. Our experience has taught us several lessons that we will share with you as you decide what to do with your collection. If after reading this material you would like to discuss the matter further, please call Tom Gullotta at 1-860-908-8067 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: When do people call Connecticut River Book Auction for help?
A: People call when:
Q: How do I absolutely positively maximize my profit from the sale of a book collection?
A: Sell them yourself. The only way to assure yourself that you are getting exactly what you want for your books is by setting your own prices and dealing directly with potential buyers. There are large data bases to advertise used books for sale on the internet, including abebooks.com and amazon.com. They will offer your books worldwide, in return for a 20 - 25% commission on each sale plus (in some cases) monthly advertising costs. Gathering packing supplies, shipping the books, and handling any returns will be up to you. With this approach, some volumes will sell quickly and others may never sell. Once you have written descriptions for and competitively priced approximately 6,000 volumes, if the material is interesting and the books are in good condition, you can expect to sell 1 to 2 books a day on the various used book sites.
Q: I do not have the time or the patience for that approach. What are my other options?
A: If someone else now becomes involved, their compensation will mean that your own profit percentage will decline. On the other hand, if the sale of your books is done properly, the overall dollar amount realized may be much higher. In any case, you will have a return on your collection much sooner. Your options are: 1) holding a garage sale; 2) selling your books to a professional book dealer; 3) consigning your books to an uncatalogued auction; 4) consigning your books to a catalogued auction; or 5) donating the books to a charitable organization.
Option 1 - Garage or tag sale.
In order to hold a garage or tag sale, you or someone else will have to put prices on your books, set a date and advertise the sale by distributing flyers or putting a classified ad in your local paper, and finally display them for the public to examine and purchase. We have seen this approach work to the owner's benefit, especially when the books are newer (from 1960 to the present), and the seller's expectations are modest. You can reasonably expect to sell some hardcover books between $1 and $5 each with this approach, or paperbacks priced between twenty-five cents to fifty cents. It is quite possible that 50% or more of your books will go unsold. You must then develop a plan to donate or dispose of the remainder. Incidentally, some books will likely never sell. These include school textbooks, book club volumes, encyclopedias, worn paperbacks (unless from the 1950s or earlier and in decent condition), National Geographic Magazines, and any books which are moldy, badly stained, marked up or in generally poor condition. So do yourself a favor and get rid of these before the sale.
Option 2 - The bookshop.
The bookshop owner is becoming an increasingly endangered species. If your community is fortunate enough to have a used bookshop, you can invite the owner to view the collection. Do not be shocked if the book dealer expresses an interest in only a few volumes. He knows from experience which books are likely to sell in his shop, enabling him to recoup his investment.
Every used bookshop has its own method of arriving at an offer for a collection of books. There are many variables to consider, but in general you can expect a bookseller's overall offer to be between 20% to 40% of what they expect to realize when selling the books. The higher end of that range tends to apply if the dealer is choosing only the books he believes he has a realistic chance of selling fairly quickly. The lower end is more common if he's making a simple offer to clear everything out. Unfair, you say! But consider this. Our experience is that in even the best of collections one-third of the books are not sellable. On several occasions we have dealt with collections which were 95% unsellable. The bookseller must base his offer on an expectation of a return on his investment within a relatively short period of time, while keeping the store's rent paid and the lights and heat on. In today's economy very few bookstore owners can wait over a year to recoup their initial outlay.
Another factor to consider when a bookseller makes an offer or an auction house agrees to accept only a fraction of a large collection for consignment, is what will happen to the remainder. If most of the value of a collection lies in only 5% of the books, the remaining 95% may well prove to be worth next to nothing.
Option 3 - Uncatalogued auction.
An uncatalogued auction can be conducted as a "list," "pick," or "shelf" sale. The models we use at Connecticut River Book Auction are the list and shelf types.
The process here at CRBA is first to determine whether a collection of books is re-sellable. If the answer to that question is yes, then the collection is moved to our storage location and divided into groupings of higher (list sale) and lesser (shelf sale) value.
CRBA advertises upcoming book auctions through use of its mailing list, ads in the Newtown Bee and other appropriate venues both in print and online.
A list auction typically offers between 200 and 300 lots for sale, each lot containing from one to 15 volumes. Before opening to the public on auction day, all the books to be included in the list sale are placed on tables in small lots selected by Tom or his assistants and marked by number, beginning with Lot 1. The auction room is opened to the public at least two hours before the sale, at which point all books are available for inspection by the public. The auction begins with Lot 1 and continues in order. The minimum starting bid for any lot is $15. List auctions attract collectors, flea market dealers, bookstore owners, and internet book dealers. Books purchased at an uncatalogued auction are bought as is, and all sales are final.
Books of lesser value are sold at a shelf sale. At a shelf sale bookcases are filled with books (approximately 125 books per case) and sold to the highest bidder. Depending on the subject matter and various other factors, a bookcase can sell for $1 or hundreds of dollars. In our experience a bookcase of modern romance novels is lucky to bring a $1 bid while a bookcase of scholarly and/or recently published history books will do considerably better. The auctioneer's commission for a list or shelf auction is generally between 35% to 50% of the gross receipts,depending on the quality of the books in the consignment.
Option 4 - Catalogued Auction.
The next option is the catalogued auction. Catalogued book auctions include volumes of higher estimated value as determined by such factors as the title, author, edition, condition, scarcity, and established demand. Records of the performance of a specific volume and/or comparable volumes at past auctions are consulted and taken into account, together with the factors listed above. The auction house then assigns an estimated selling range for the book, along with a description which is included in the catalogue distributed to potential bidders.
While the auction house takes a gamble on the books at an uncatalogued auction (since most books in these sales are of modest value), in a catalogued auction the auction house has a much clearer idea of the expected income to be realized.
The successful bidder may return a book to the auction house after purchase if it is not as represented in the catalogue.
The auctioneer's commission for a catalogued book sale usually starts at 20% - 25%. This percentage may decrease for items of unusually high value or through seller/auctioneer negotiation on particularly valuable items or collections.
Option 5 - Charitable Donation.
The final option for the seller is the charitable donation. Connecticut River Book Auction is familiar with the mechanics of charitable donations and can advise you if you so desire.
Q: About book values - I've spent thousands of dollars at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other bookshops since 1960 on new books that I am now told are worth only a fraction of what I paid for them.
A: Unfortunately, this may be true. In some cases, the first printing of the first edition of a modern novel or art book with its dust jacket in fine (nearly new) condition will sell for more than a later printing without these characteristics. But every book has a first edition, and a far more important question is: Does this book have a buyer? A book is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay for it, and many excellent books for a variety of reasons have little to no resale value. Further, you need to recognize that you purchased your books at retail and not wholesale prices. Just as with cars and furniture, on the secondary market the best you can expect in most cases is a fraction of that original retail price.
Q: But wait, I have been told that the Longfellow and Whittier poetry I bought in a used bookstore in the 1950s is worth less than I paid for it, too!
A: With the advent of the internet many businesses, and especially the secondhand book business, changed dramatically. With a few exceptions, most books published since 1960 are readily available at prices far below their initial listed price. Other books, including those by the authors listed above, have in many cases declined in value as interest in the author has declined and the number of available used copies has risen to outstrip the demand. That said, there are exceptions to this general observation. For example, a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, which had a relatively small first printing, can sell for thousands of dollars if in its original dust jacket and pristine condition, as might the first edition of the British publication of Rowling's first Harry Potter adventure.
Q: Ok, I might concede your last point, but in checking prices on the Internet at used book sites I find that the book I own is listed for sale at $1,000, at $10, and at several other prices in between. What gives?
A: A variety of factors might be involved including condition (bumped corners, cover wear, interior highlighting, book club edition, etc.), whether or not the less expensive book has its dust jacket (in some cases, mostly 20th century fiction, a clean dust jacket can increase a "collectable" book's value by a factor of 10). Also, is the higher priced volume signed by the author or illustrator, and is that person Ernest Hemingway or Maurice Sendak? The list goes on, and in these times we must include the possibility that an inexperienced book dealer simply pulled his asking price for this volume out of his hat. In fact, more often than not this is the case. Over time other book dealers with the same item may choose to offer the same volume in the same or better condition at a lower price.
Q: How do I then determine the "true" value of a book?
A: If you have some items you feel are truly valuable and are willing to invest the money, you can purchase access to prior sales records from the auction houses that specialize in books for about $165 a year after an initial investment of $600-800 (see American Book Prices Current). These records are the best indication of what a group of people in a competitive environment (the auction) have been willing to pay for truly valuable books. A word of caution: As you research your book never underestimate the importance of condition, an intact dust jacket for modern books, and sought-after signatures to a book's value.
The state of the economy is important as well. Collectibles like valuable books, fine art, stamps, antique furniture and the like tend to increase in value during good economic times and decline in value in difficult times. If you are passionately interested in the subject areas represented in your collection, you probably have a pretty good idea of the actual desirability and likely practical selling price for your books. But if you are settling an estate or just want to sell "those books from the attic," you will probably best be served with some professional advice, which Connecticut River Book Auction stands ready to provide.
Q: You used the word "re-sellable" in the description of uncatalogued auctions. What does that term mean?
A: In terms of monetary value and marketability, books fall into general categories and it often takes experience and practical knowledge gathered over a lifetime to spot the differences. Surprisingly, age in and of itself is not often a major factor - literally millions of books were produced worldwide in the 1700s, and millions more just in America in the 1800s. The survival rate of these books is actually quite high compared to demand for them. The most desirable, "collectable" books are rather scarce. First editions of classics such as Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, and On the Origin of Species, some finely illustrated books, important works in history and science and the like make up this category. There is a known, well-documented market of buyers and a good history of prior sales records for books of this type. The number of books in this "collectable" category is quite small.
The next category is what we will call "re-sellable." These are books that, while not necessarily rare or particularly expensive, are attractive in appearance, may have unique qualities (limited edition, beautifully illustrated, etc.), or may be the works of respected, but more obscure authors in subject areas where there is continuing interest. In general, one rule of thumb is "the more specific, the better." A book called The History of Italian Art, although large and beautifully illustrated, may be a dud in commercial terms, while a much smaller book on Religious Imagery in Italian Textile Work between 1780 - 1830 is likely to be far more "re-sellable." "Re-sellable" books do not always command top dollar but a bookseller buying for resale knows that there is a good probability that if appropriately priced they will sell, and therefore he will be interested in buying them.
The last category is "disposable" books. These include book club editions, encyclopedias, most 19th century and virtually all 20th century textbooks at any grade level, most paperbacks, and most bibles. These are the books that often find their way into boxes labeled "free for the taking."
Q: You listed several options and then suggested that variations on those options existed. Can you give me an idea of what that might mean?
A: As an example, we recently worked with a family with a very large book collection. We identified several potentially valuable volumes that we arranged to send to New England Book Auctions to be properly researched and sold in one of their catalogued auctions. Next, we identified that part of the collection that would be more appropriately offered at one of our own uncatalogued auctions, and lastly helped to remove those books that could be donated or sold at a garage sale. Yes, you read that correctly. Our auction house works with other auction houses to help our clients maximize the sales potential for their collections at all levels.
Q: I am an internet book dealer who started my business several years ago and am no longer interested in continuing with it. The retail value of my inventory is $5,000 and I would like to sell them at auction and realize at least $3,000. Is that possible?
A: The answer is simply - Who knows? If you purchased your books at garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales and paid a few dollars per book, we would guess (and it is a guess) that you would be LUCKY to gross $300 at an auction. Why so little? Here are some of the reasons:
Q: I have had my books appraised for several thousand dollars. Should I expect that at auction?
A: Our experience and that of colleagues in this business are that appraisal values are almost never realized at auction. The reason for this is that the appraiser is using the retail price of the item to determine insurance replacement value rather than the wholesale market price. That said, anything can happen at an auction when two or more people want an item.
Q: I have been told that with the slow improvement in the national economy auction book prices are improving. Is that true?
A: For the very best in fine art, books, and furniture, the great recession had little or no impact on sale prices. For the low to mid end of the market, prices fell off the table and have not made a recovery. Indeed, for books, furniture, small collectibles, and even artwork, prices are up to 50% off what they were a decade ago. For most book dealers, their business remains 40% to 60% off of their peak years from 2005 to 2008. This is due not only to the slow economic recovery but to the growth of the e-book. Correspondingly, what dealers are willing to pay for less than perfect, yet sellable books has decreased significantly.
Q: What impact did Covid have on the book auction market?
A: For the years that much of the country was partially shut down, the used and rare book market took off with dealers reporting their business up by as much as 33%. Correspondingly, dealers were willing to pay more for books and ephemera. With the gradual return to more normal conditions, the used book market is down somewhat and prices at auction have declined.
Q: What is the most expensive book you have handled to date?
A: The most expensive book Connecticut River Book Auction has handled for a consignor was an 18th century travel guide. It sold for over $50,000.