High and low historical pricing data, and how to profit from it with Amazon trade-in arbitrage
An update since this was posted:
- Amazon suspended its trade-in program in 2020. I have redirected all links to Zen Arbitrage, which is still active (and has a similar underlying concept).
Part 4 in a 5-part series on Amazon trade in credit arbitrage.
In Part I to III of this series, I covered a lot of ground:
- How Amazon’s trade in program works.
- Upsides and downsides to mining Amazon for trade in opportunity.
- The three ways to profit from Amazon trade-in credit.
- Top 5 tricks to profit.
- Only two major mistakes you can make.
- Using a prep service to streamline trade-in mining.
- How to make cash off trade-in by using trade-in values to identify underpriced books.
Amazon trade-in book arbitrage: The basics
In this article, I’m going to reveal something I’ve never talked about before
The premise is a simple one, in two parts:
Premise #1: Trade in values are fluctuating all the time. Amazon is one giant algorithm, and that algorithm is constantly adjusting trade in values based on numerous factors.
If you can hold your books and trade them in when you know historically trade-in value is highest, you can get the highest return.
Premise #2: Prices of third party offers on Amazon are fluctuating just the same. Going up, going down. Not because of Amazon algorithm, because of normal buying and selling activity.
If you buy your books when you know historically they are lowest, you can pay the least.
What if you knew when trade-in values were about to rise?
It gets better…
What if you could both buy books when they’re cheapest and “sell” when trade-in value is highest? What if you could increase the gap between the buying price and the trade-in price to the widest possible spread, by knowing historical pricing data?
There is a little-known pattern to trade in values – both when they tend to go up, and when they tend to go down. If you know what these dates are, you can time both your purchases and trades to buy low and then trade in when the prices peak.
Yes, this can be done.
How awesome would be it be if we knew the exact date books were cheapest, and the exact date trade in values are highest? Then we could do all our buying on one day, all our trading on another day, and make a killing?
It’s almost that simple, but not quite. Because pricing trends affect various books differently, we can’t just memorize a couple dates and exploit this trick to the fullest.
While textbooks tend to have peaks of trade in value and valleys (no pun intended) of price in the same windows of time, there are many textbooks that don’t follow these rules. Certain textbooks have different peak sales and low sales windows, and naturally that affects their trade in value and price.
One example to illustrate the complexity: Test study guides for the “Multistate Bar Exam” (MBE). At a glance these appear to be regular textbooks, but they peak (and valley) at totally different times than other textbooks. This exam only happens at the end of July and January, which affects their pricing fluctuations. Trade in values tend to peak a little before the test, and prices tend to plummet after.
Every book has its own pricing history. So there’s way more than can be shared in one article (or one book).
The best you can hope to memorize is the broad strokes. Which I’m about to reveal…
How I got deep into Amazon pricing and trade in history
I mentioned this in a previous article, but over at Zen Arbitrage we have a massive data harvesting system churning through tens of millions of products on Amazon daily. Among it all is trade in data for virtually every book in Amazon’s trade in store, not just at the moment but going back over two years.
When the Textbook Money scandal hit, I began looking more closely at the data to assess just how profitable (or not) Amazon trade-in arbitrage could be.
A year later, here we are – with some cool data to share to help you get the highest returns on your Amazon trade in mining (should you choose to venture into this world.)
Historical pricing history gold #1: When Amazon trade-in value are highest.
Highest trade-in values for textbooks:
First 12 days of August.
Analysis: The numbers here are sightly weird in that there is no single “big date” within the first two weeks that is far and away the one where trade in values spike to a crazy degree. It’s mostly even across the beginning of the month.
Second place: December 26th.
Analysis: Trade in prices the day after Christmas surge to levels 70% above normal. As far as single days of the year, December 26th is THE day to submit books to Amazon’s trade-in program.
Both of these windows / dates makes sense, because textbook sales peak shortly after each of these ranges, and Amazon wants to stock up just before (not during) the sales rush.
Sidenote: As a quick example of how wildly this varies depending on the type of book, I noticed with “Gift”-type books (box sets, etc) trade-in values are highest the first week of December
Historical pricing history gold #2: When Amazon textbook prices are lowest
Trade-in credit mining and arbitrage is not just for textbooks. But the Amazon trade-in store leans heavily towards textbooks, so historical textbook pricing data is of chief relevance to trade-in.
In our database, we store pricing data a little differently than trade in, so I pulled up the top 30 dates where textbook prices were lowest.
Lowest textbook prices: 11 of the 30 lowest days of the year were in December.
Before pulling these numbers, I suspected December had the lowest prices (sales of textbooks are also lowest in early-to-mid December) but I didn’t know it was so severe that 1/3 of the examples of a book’s lowest price were in a single month.
What does this mean?
Two actionable (and profitable) takeaways here:
If you’re buying textbooks, the time to buy is:
If you have a textbook, the times to trade it in are (usually):
December 26th. (More generally, late-December).
If its not obvious already, I timed this series of articles on Amazon trade in around these dates, because they point to one thing:
December is the best time to hunt for Amazon trade in arbitrage opportunity: Prices on textbooks are lowest right now, and trade in values are highest at the end of the month.
So there you go, you can make a lot of money with that one.
S/he with the best data wins.