Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksThe California International Antiquarian Book Fair - 27 Feb 2015

  • Fri, 27 Feb 2015 02:52:12    Permalink

    I’m a little slower than most when it comes to writing.  Actually, a little lazier is closer to the truth.  But, I suppose, better late than never.  
    Earlier this month, we exhibited at our first ABAA book fair since joining a couple of years ago.  While we’ve done hundreds of book fairs and antique shows in the past, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair was different for us for a number of reasons.  It was certainly the most expensive show that we’ve done to date; the level of dealers and quality of their materials was universally top-of-the-line; it was on the west coast; we shipped our books to the show rather than driving; and it was exceptionally convenient and well-run.

    There was considerable angst in the book trade leading up to the show because it had changed locations from San Francisco to Oakland (Yes, Oakland!  The horror!), and many dealers were worried about the city’s perennial appearance on lists of the 10 Most Dangerous Places in America. As it turned out, those concerns were vastly overblown, and the venue was terrific.  The show was held in the Marriott City Center Hotel and Conference Center just north of Jack London Square, a little northwest of Oakland’s Chinatown, and a short half-block from a Bart station. 

    Set up was a breeze as within minutes of our registration, a man with a pallet-jack wheeled our cases right to our booth.  We couldn't believe our good fortune to have them delivered so quickly, but then we got quite a start.  Before we shipped the boxes, we had secured each with a padlock and a ziptie. 
    When the cases were unloaded from the pallet-jack; it was clear that one of our three cases, which we had packed so carefully back in Virginia, had been opened.  Both the ziptie and the padlock were missing.  When we opened the case, it was even more clear that some one had gone through the contents while in transit or storage.  Thankfully, once we had completely unpacked everything, we saw that nothing had been lost or stolen.  Apparently it had simply been a rough FEDEX trip and the padlock and tie had snapped off.  I must say, however, that the experience left me wondering if my stock wasn't even good enough to steal.

    Recovering our breath, we looked around and found that the exhibit hall was spacious with wide aisles and excellent lighting.  We were lucky to have drawn a corner location in the booth lottery and set up to take advantage of that.Although this was our first time exhibiting at an ABAA show, we’ve often shopped them in the past, and we are always amazed by the variety, quality, desirability, and range of value of the material on sale.  Our pre-show cruise around the hall showed this fair was no exception.  Our pre-show sales to other dealers started out slowly, but soon picked up.  With one exception (thanks, Tom) no single dealer spent a lot, but a lot of dealers spent some, mostly, of course, on ephemera and photographs.  By the time we finished for the day, our sales were well into five figures.  Then, throughout the show, sales to customers were robust.  Again, no single customer spent a lot of money, but many made purchases in the $200-$1000 range, some of them seemingly quite random and spur-of-the-moment like the couple whose eyes were caught by a 19th century accordion-fold book of watercolors showing leisure activities of Japanese women, or the nice, talkative lady who was drawn into the booth by some baseball ephemera and ended up buying a dust-jacketed copy of the Little Black Sambo and Arthur Conan Doyle’s non-fiction detective tale, The Case of Oscar Slayton.  
    Tear-down and pack-out was just as easy as set-up.  Within thirty minutes of show closing, a warehouse man delivered our cases.  Once they were packed and labeled, we took our paperwork to the warehouse desk and that was it.  It couldn’t have been easier.
    Oh, I forgot to mention the nearby restaurants.  The one in the hotel was what you’d expect, perhaps a little cut above most and a little more expensive, especially for breakfast.  However, a whole string of funky little ethnic restaurants that line Clay Street right next to the exhibit hall,  and there is a free shuttle that will take you down Broadway to Jack London Square, which has a host of nicer places.  One evening, we met up with our son and his wife and drove to nearby Emmeryville for dinner at the flagship Trader Vic's restaurant; I didn’t even know that any were left until doing a little web browsing before the trip, and I’ve always wanted to go there since I was a little kid fascinated by my grandparent’s accumulation of tikiware.  The food was good, atmosphere great, and drinks fantastic.  If you go be sure to get a Mai-Tai (Trader Vic invented it), and you can’t go wrong with a Gun Club Punch either.Next up for us is the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair on 6-7 March just outside of Washington, DC in Rosslyn, Virginia and then on to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair on 13-15 March in St. Petersburg.  The weather there should be a nice relief before we head up to Connecticut for Ephemera 35 on 20-22 March.  We hope to see you at one of those shows.

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