A few weeks back at the beginning of June I was watching BBC TV’s “Culture Show” which featured the work of British painter John Craxton (1922-2009).
The presenter David Attenborough was talking about a treasured possession of his – a book entitled “The Poets Eye” published in 1944 which he caressed lovingly as he showed off the wonderful lithographs of Craxton’s work that it contained.
He went on to talk about an exhibition of Craxton’s work at the Tate Britain Gallery, London running until 9th October 2011.
My first thought whilst watching the show was how much I loved Craxton’s style of painting, I’m no art critic or expert so I won’t try to impress you with my knowledge of artistic styles but I know what I like and Craxton’s stuff looked fresh and unique and interesting, I liked it a lot.
My second thought was –
“does this stuff sell on eBay?”
So I grabbed my laptop and did a quick “completed listings” search for “Craxton” whilst watching TV.
Sure enough, Craxton’s lithographs were selling regularly particularly those from the book featured on TV, naturally my next thought was whether I could find this book listed on Addall.com
One minute later I was perusing the Addall.com search results. I learned that the book contained 16 full page lithographs by Craxton and the cheapest copy listed was $125.
The eBay lithographs were fetching an average price of around $32 (un-matted) so I grabbed my calculator and multiplied $32×16 then knocked off 17% to take into account eBay and PayPal fees plus packing supplies (rigid envelopes and cellophane bags).
I reckoned that $424 represented a very satisfactory return on an investment of $125 and as the lithographs were selling un-matted I was looking at a time investment of maybe one hour to list all 16 (I don’t need to write a different title/description for each one just change the image) plus a couple of hours to address and post 16 envelopes (although in my experience buyers very often buy multiple copies from the same series of prints – so I probably won’t have 16 different addresses to mail to)
So in 10 days time (a few days for the book to land on my doormat followed by the 7 day auctions) I was looking at a nice little payday which involved very little work on my part!
So I clicked to “buy the book” and then sat back to enjoy the rest of the show.
Of course, life never quite works out the way you plan it and the following day I received an email from the book seller apologizing that the book had been sold moments before I’d bought it and they hadn’t had time to take down the listing.
I ran the Addall.com search again but all of the cheap copies had been snapped up probably due to the the media attention.
‘No matter’ I thought, there are plenty more fish in the sea!
I decided to keep my eye out for “The Poets Eye” and one way that I do this is to run an eBay search for the title then save the search in “My eBay”. This means that I will receive an email from eBay whenever a matching item is listed (eBay is a great place to pick up old books containing valuable prints cheaply).
Anyway, this all happened 3 weeks ago and I’d pretty much forgotten about John Craxton, one of the fascinating things about my business is there is always an exciting new artist or print genre to be discovered (I’d never even heard of John Craxton before watching the item on TV!)
Then a few days ago I received a saved search notification email from eBay, a copy of “The Poets Eye” had been listed. This is an auction listing with a start bid of £99/$158 (the auction is still live as I write this) it is a bit more than I’d originally planned to pay so I decided not to bid.
This started me thinking about the profit potential of this book again and I decided to run a quick search on Addall.com to see if I could further cash in on the arbitrage method that I teach.
Imagine my delight when I discovered a copy of “The Poets Eye” listed for $50!!
Needless to say that copy is now on its way to me and I reckon my original profit calculation needs revising upwards!
One of the GREAT things about my business model, and eBay in general is that at ANY point in time, if you keep your eyes and ears open new ideas, niches and opportunities present themselves on an on-going basis –
every minute of every hour of every day….
The only thing that YOU have to do is stay alert to all the good stuff happening around you, and be ready to pull out your laptop / smart phone / hop on your computer and just LOOK.
Curiousity might have killed the cat… but it certainly won’t take any lives away from YOU!
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my newest product Print Sorcery and you are looking for that extra bit of help and advanced training to get you “there” — I urge you to check it out! (be sure to use this link, it includes a special discount just for you!)
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If someone is listing a lithograph and it says its blank backed what does that mean?
Thanks for your question, Di!
Sometimes you will find text printed on the back of book plates although this is unusual, “blank backed” simply means there is nothing printed on the back of the plate
How did I miss this post. Excellent. It just shows you can get info anywhere. Imagine watching the box and all of a sudden staring at you from the screen is the source ofr your next book. Brilliant.
Christine Holroyd says
Oh thanks Stuart. I feel honoured that you stopped by my very unlived in blog. Much appreciated and thanks for the eBay info.
Christine Holroyd says
Hi Stuart. Great post and the info about postage was just what I was looking for.
It’s a bit unrelated, but when you do an auction for international buyers how do you go about setting the start time of the auction? I’m in Australia and you’re all behind us in time.
I’m off to check out The Poets Eye now 🙂
Thanks for your question!
It is impossible to time your auctions to suit everybody so I focus on timing mine to suit where the majority of my buyers are.
I sell worldwide but the majority of my buyers are in the UK and Western Europe which covers two time zones only one hour apart so it is easy enough for me.
I enjoyed reading your blog, by the way!
Love this article. Great info, and a great example. I have one quick question. When selling to international buyers, will it cost more to send things by international mail. Any info or tips you have on international shipping would be appreciated 🙂
PS – I finally purchased my first book after purchasing Prints for Profits months ago, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I’m super excited.
PPS – Thank you for the tip on keeping organized. This was a great question and a great answer. Who knew there was a snipping tool on Windows?!
Thanks for your comment, Michelle!
I quote 3 shipping rates in my listings: domestic, European and ‘everywhere else’. I always weigh my matted plates then use the post office website to accurately price the shipping cost. It is important that your buyers can see the total cost before they bid. I usually add on a small margin to cover the cost of the envelope but don’t overdo this as buyers are very sensitive to over priced shipping.
Matted plates don’t weigh very much so the shipping cost isn’t substantial (even to overseas destinations)
correction….I meant to say rarely will you find real lithographs in a book….not real offset lithographs….sorry for the confusion
Thanks for your clarification on this point, Nick
What your are describing with Jillian about lithographs can be a touchy subject. Lithography is an original print making method used by artists for hundreds of years…the artist draws on a stone or plate with grease pencils and the stone or plate is then inked and printed by hand one at a time. What has happened that confuses people is that modern books and posters were made using “offset lithography” which is a mechanical print reproduction process….the problem came when people stopped using the word offset…rarely will you find real offset lithographs in books unless the books predate “offset lithography” ….to be careful one probably should know whether the prints in question were original lithographs, or reproductions of some other art form using the offset technique….you can always tell by looking at the image through a loop….if it’s original the dot pattern will be random, or organic…if it’s an offset the dot pattern will look mechanical.
I wanted to ask you how you organise yourself with keeping notes on searches, screen captures from websites and lists of prints found on ebay etc that you want to search later?
I know that that was quite an ambiguous question and the reason I am asking is that I have little notes written down, and I would sometimes like to keep a picture of the print to jog my memory as well.
Thanks for your question, Karyn!
I use the Windows snipping tool http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipping_Tool to capture screen shots of completed listings and store these and my notes in a folder on my desktop.
I’m undecided on whether mount a picture or not from an artist specialised 1980’s art book where it’s not a book plate but a more modern version of a valuable image but with unrelated printing on the back of the page. What are your thoughts?
Thanks for your question, Sharon!
I often sell vintage/antique book plates un-mounted (un-matted) but I think if I was selling more modern pages particularly with text on the back I would be inclined to mount them.
Mounting them changes them from a page removed from a book to a piece of art work your buyer can display – there is a big difference here and this will reflect in final values (assuming your research has been thorough and there is a genuine demand)
Thanks Stuart. I hope my research has been correct. I’ll place a mount over the picture and let the market decide. You never mentioned in any of your programs whether you considered or tried cutting your own mounts/mats at home?
I’ve never tried cutting my own mounts/mats. I have found that I can get them done professionally and delivered to my door for an acceptable price so I never really had the incentive to try it myself.
I also feel that it would take a considerable amount of practice to produce the kind of quality that I want not to mention the additional investment in cutting tools, blades etc.
Sharon, I recently sold some images pulled from a modern book that also had text on the back. I didn’t bother mounting them (I’m a newbie) and sold them as is.
Just a word of caution, though. I had to pull the remainder of my listings when the artist contacted eBay through its VERO program and reported my listings as being in violation of copyright laws. I couldn’t sell for a week, and the violation will be on my record until the end of the year. I certainly hope this doesn’t happen to you, but wanted to warn you that you run the risk of this happening when you sell images from a modern, living artist.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Serena.
For our most up to date advice on this subject please read Deb’s post:
Nice post Stuart, interesting and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.
Wendy Carrier says
Stuart, Thanks for the reminder that opportunities are around us ALL THE TIME! This is a great example of keeping your eyes and ears open to ways to profit online. Your post obviously made an impact–good job and thank you.
Hi Stuart, great post and a real life example of the success that can come from investing in your methods.
Completely not related but I sent Deb an email on June 9th and had no reply, then sent you one to ask if she’s ok, but had no reply. Just wanted to talk to her about some possible work. Any chance you can pass on my details? Thanks, Stuart.
Enjoy the journey.
Thanks for your comment, Mandy!
I’ve passed your message onto Deb.
(I’m afraid I didn’t receive your email)
Fiona Blake says
Hi Stuart. Have a question for you having just read your blog about John Craxton. Looked at Addall and The Poets Eye 1944 of which there are two selling for £178. If the Lithographs go for around £18 and upwards and there are 16 of them would you consider it worthwhile buying this book at that price?
Look forward to your reply. Fiona
A couple of points by way of clarification; the Addall prices quoted in my screenshot are in dollars so the book is $178 or £110 GBP please also note that there is only one copy for sale currently on Addall (same book listed twice)
The completed listings prices in my eBay screenshot are in GBP, sorry for the confusion!
My advice is to take a look at eBay, there is a copy currently listed on eBay.co.uk, auction ending 28th June with no bids and a starting price of £99/$157 I notice this same copy has been auctioned before with the same start price and no bids received.
Set up a saved search on the UK and US sites (let me know if you need guidance on this) and wait for a few weeks, you may get lucky and pick up an even cheaper copy like I did, also keep an eye on Addall, new books are listed every day.
Whether you pay £99 or £110 there is enough value in this book to give you a healthy profit.
One final point is to sell your prints before the Tate Britain exhibition ends in October as buyer interest may wane after this time.
Very interesting article Stuart, i have recently started looking into this online income generation and have just launched a website but will have to wait and see how it goes.
All the information that you have spoken about in your Blog makes interesting reading but i’am very confused about all the “good” advice thats available and now feel as if i’am over loaded with information and don’t know where to begin
Thanks for your comment, George!
“info overload” is a very common problem experienced by people new to internet marketing. My advice is to sign up to a selection of marketer’s lists and follow their communications. After a few weeks you will be in a position to narrow this list down to a select few who talk your language and conduct themselves in an ethical way (ie. don’t fill your inbox with a constant stream of hyped up promos for a long list of totally unrelated products)
Your next task is to learn as much as you can from these honest marketers about how to really make money online then choose the path that best suits you and your strengths and take action with it.
Tread carefully in the IM jungle because there are many people out there who are more than happy to sell you the dream and take your money.
I do provide personal coaching so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to find out more.
I hope this helps!
I get a bit confused about the term “lithographs”, is the artwork that is in these books actual lithographs? As I said it seems that prints in books would be just that printed material on paper. Please clarify, I own you prints for profits and print sorcery but I am still confused. I don’t want to say something is a lithograph if it isn’t. Thanks
Thanks for your question, Jillian
The art works in the Craxton book described in my post have been created by the process of lithography – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithography
There are many ways to transfer art works to the printed page and lithography is just one of these methods.
If your source book is described as containing lithographs by the book seller then you needn’t worry about describing the plates you remove from it as “lithographs”
Reg B says
Stuart very good article. I just have one question. I went to eBay to check out the completed listing on John Craxton works and found that there was no listings at all. Strange. I did find there was two books even the one “The Poets Eye” that was sold from someone in England for $52 USD… So did I do something wrong in looking for his prints? Any way as always I enjoyed your blog…
Thanks for your feedback!
You searched on eBay.com, the items I found were all listed on the UK site and the seller obviously didn’t use the international visibility upgrade.
Remember, you can list your prints on either site depending on where the buyers are, in this example the current interest is in the UK so listing on eBay.co.uk makes sense.
This is an arbitrage opportunity you can take advantage of by buying the book cheaply in the US where interest is less and then selling the lithographs to UK buyers.