Many esoteric publishers, such as Scarlet Imprint, Fulgur Ltd., or Ixaxaar publish finely bound variants of their standard publications, usually limited to under 100 copies. This can make acquiring copies somewhat difficult, as some books have been known to sell out in a matter of days or even a single afternoon. I'll give a recent example: Last weekend Fulgur Ltd. sold all 88 copies of the Deluxe edition of The Sacrificial Universe by David Chaim Smith. Pre-order began on Friday. By Monday all copies were sold. This is wonderful news for both Fulgur and Mr. Smith. I should also note that, as of this writing, there are still copies of the standard edition available here-- this one should not be missed. This clearly shows there is a large demand for fine editions. Unfortunately, high demand and enthusiasm has led to predatory purchasing practices by some shady individuals. Of the very limited copies available, a portion is snatched up by profiteers at the expense of legitimate readers. With such limited runs, it's a shame that an increasing number of copies are not ending up in the hands of worthy and appreciative book lovers, as intended. Instead they end up on ebay (as soon as the title is sold out) for a ridiculously inflated sum.
The Society of Esoteric Endeavour recently published Nigel Pennick's The Toadman: Lore & Legend, Rites & Ceremonies, and Related Traditional Magical Practices, limited to 150 copies and bound in toad skin. Naturally, a book this unique sold out quickly. The title is only weeks old and already someone is attempting to sell their half-leather copy on ebay for $1,263.50. This is mercenary book scalping at its worst. With a book this new, clearly the owner had no intention of keeping it, and only bought it to resell it for profit. It's one thing to decide years down the road that one no longer wants a book and sell it at the going rate; it's quite another to buy it with immediate resale in mind. Anyone can understand why a 20+ year old rare book may have a high price tag. However, it looks pretty shady when someone asks a thousand dollars for a brand new book. They're exploiting the publisher and reducing opportunities for genuine customers.
So what should be done to prevent this? Can anything be done? I think publishers may want to consider keeping track of who purchases their high-end editions. A quick glance at ebay's occult book auctions will reveal that many scalped titles are being sold by the same individuals/sellers, some even brazen enough to show or list the book's limitation number. This could easily be tracked to the buyer if the publisher wished to do so, and future sales could be restricted. Many publishers already have a 1 book limit. However, with so few copies, even a handful of grimoire scalpers can make a significant negative impact, leaving many legitimate buyers out of luck.
There could be a magical answer to this problem, though built-in curses designed to sabotage the efforts of would-be scalpers should be avoided (at least publicly). Official Melissa Press did something similar to combat illegal scanning and file sharing. Their newest title, Infernal Colopatrion, warns, "Also know that each copy has upon it a curse that will activate if someone steals your copy, or if the book is scanned or illegally uploaded." While I appreciate the magical LoJack, statements like this could create some legal issues, as it could be viewed as a threat. Throwing curses around in public generally isn't a good idea. Official Melissa Press may want to have a lawyer examine the statement for potential liability issues, if they haven't already.
Lastly, unscrupulous re-sellers do a disservice to the publishers, authors, honest customers, and most importantly, the books themselves by reducing them to a commodity rather than a sacred text or work of art. I urge all my readers to refrain from purchasing books from scalpers. Please, only buy books that are offered at a fair and reasonable price. Scalped books hurt the industry and its loyal readers. If we pull together we can reduce the demand. With our help grimoire scalpers will get stuck with pricey books they don't even want.