Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksFour Book Fairs in Five Weeks - 14 March 2017

  • Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:31:33    Permalink


    It’s been a busy month, but we’ve now returned from New York, and things should be back to normal by the end of the week.

    This year we decided to do both California book fairs and follow those up with the two New York satellite-shadow shows.  Gail and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results; we sold well into the low five figures at each of the first three book fairs and did very well in the fourth. For the first time in a long time, customers--to include average collectors--weren’t timid when it came to buying.  What did they buy?  Well, for the most part it wasn’t books, at least not from us, but that’s because while we do sell some books, we specialize in personal narratives, i.e., unique items like diaries, journals, photo albums, correspondence collections, and scrapbooks that tell personal stories related to important or interesting aspects of American history or culture.
    Some of the types of things we sell: diaries, photo albums, journals, scrapbooks, correspondence, etc.Normally, we ship our stock and fly out to California, but this time we were a little concerned about getting our pelican cases back in time for the New York shows, so we decided to drive and do a little sightseeing (Beale Street, Cowboy Hall of Fame, Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Santa Fe, Big Sur, Saguaro National Park, Tombstone, Marfa, etc.) and visit with old friends in Texas along the way.Beale Street, Big Sur, Tombstone, Painted Desert-Petrified ForestThe first show up was the Bustamante Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo and Paper Fair held at the Sheraton-Pasadena Conference Center.  We checked into the hotel the day before, and load-in the next morning was painless.  Parking couldn't have been easier, and a porter delivered our boxes to the booth within minutes.  The tables and bookshelves we had ordered were positioned perfectly, so after taking about an hour to set up, we were out shopping the floor.Our booth in PasadenaThe snack bar food in the show was just okay, but the area is chock full of nice restaurants.  We managed to make it to a few of our favorites, Le Grande Orange (nice atmosphere and super Old Fashioneds), Lucky Baldwin’s (if you want to watch a Premier League match with a dozen or so local ex-pats, go early in the morning for a full English breakfast and a pint or two), and, speaking of breakfast, Russell’s (the best breakfast in Old Pasadena).

    The show brought in a nice crowd on both days, and among our better sales were

    A manuscript mining journal from the Mother Lode region kept during the California Gold RushA World War I infantry officer's diary and papers with detailed descriptions of trench warfareAnd two photo albums,

    One documenting life in the first Marine aviation squadron to be stationed in the Pacific and its deployment to protect the International Settlement in China during the 1930s andThe other chronicling a 1934 Arctic cruise of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northland, the last cruising cutter equipped with a tall-masted sailing rig.The most interesting thing we bought at the show was a collection of a decade’s worth of brightly colored hand-illustrated official U.S. government desk calendars kept by an anti-Reagan, pro-Gorbachev, anti-Israeli, Wiccan who worked as a mid-level civilian analyst for the U.S. Army.  His calendars were an astonishingly complete amalgam of the important (and not so important) international, national, military, and pagan events that occurred during the 1980s.One month from a decade of folk-art calendars/daily diaries kept by an anti-Reagan, pro-Gorbachev, anti-Israeli, Wiccan who worked as a military analyst at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Combat Development Activity (CACDA) Then it was on to Oakland where the Northern California Book Fair Committee and White Rain Productions put on another excellent show at the Marriot Oakland City Center  It, too, was a painless set-up.  In fact, to unload our minivan, we didn’t even have to leave the hotel parking garage, just drive down a level or two, and by the time we finished registering, our stock was already in our booth.  Once more, all of the tables, bookshelves, and display cabinets were positioned just as we’d requested.
    Our booth in OaklandFood at the on-site concession stand was okay, and the nearby restaurant scene a little sparse.  We pretty much split our dinners between Le Cheval, a very good Vietnamese place, and the Pacific Coast Brewing Company, a decent brewpub with much better than usual bar food.  And, we made our biennial Tiki pilgrimage to Trader Vic’s in Emeryville for original Mai Tais and old-timey Polynesian fusion dishes.

    We didn’t buy much in Oakland, but then again we seldom do at ABAA fairs.  On the other hand, even though the crowd seemed to be a little light, our sales—especially institutional sales—picked up where Pasadena left off, and we sold a number of exceptional things including

    An association copy of Black Manhattan inscribed by James Weldon Johnson to Julius Rosenwald (the philanthropist who had funded his research)A photograph album documenting the Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910, andA Milton Bradley Historiscope (an early educational toy from the 1860s) complete with box, pamphlet, tickets, and crankSince we just can’t convince ourselves to spend the money necessary to do the New York ABAA book fair, in the past we’ve opted to exhibit at one of the two satellite/shadow shows. This year, since one of those book fairs was on Friday and the other on Saturday, we did both, and it was much easier than expected.  After Marvin Getman’s show at St. Ignatius Church closed at 7 pm on Friday, we loaded up, quickly crossed over from Park to Lexington and were at Tina and John Bruno’s show at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in a few minutes.  We dropped off our boxes and came back at 7 am on Saturday to set up and be ready for opening at 10 am.  Easy Peasy.
    It's never a problem finding a good restaurant in Manhattan, and there were several around our hotel, The Franklin, on 87th. (It's only a short four block walk from St. Ignatius.)  The hundred-year-old Heidelberg Restaurant in Yorkville claims to be the best German restaurant in New York and serves about two dozen German biere, about half vom fass.  The Bocado cafe, which is less than a half-block from the hotel at the corner of Lexington, is a good choice for lunch or dinner, and Parlour Steak and Fish is where we wind down after a good show.  Its Sazerac cocktail is terrific; they make with rye but will substitute cognac if you ask.

    As usual, everything about the Getman show ran like clockwork. Marvin really does have this stuff down to a fine art.  Marvin also knows how to take care of his dealers: coffee and bagels in the morning, the opportunity to join a collective order for delivered box lunches, and a complimentary lasagna dinner during load-out. If anyone identifies any type of a problem--no matter how small--Marvin is personally all over it until it gets resolved.

    This year, based on dealer input, Marvin changed the day of his show from Saturday to Friday in response to the turmoil caused by the ABAA fair's date-change.  As a result, there were fewer dealers than usual, probably folks with other jobs who couldn’t break loose, and the crowd wasn’t quite as large as it’s been in the past.  But . . . sales were still strong.   Our booth at the Marvin Getman's show at St. Ignatius ChurchSales at the Bruno’s show on Saturday were good as well; not as robust as the day before, no doubt partly because we made no sales to those ABAA dealers who had already shopped our booth uptown.  We’re hoping that next year, the Getman-Bruno show schedule stays the same.  We’ll be back for both if it does.

    We sold a number of nice things at these shows including the collection of folk-art calendars kept by the Wiccan army analyst that we'd bought in Pasadena and a great World War I album from Hawaii with about 200 real photo postcards documenting life in the 4th Cavalry Regiment and the 25th Infantry Regiment (a Buffalo Soldier unit) that had been stationed there in 1914 to defend the islands from possible invasion.
    One of the real photo postcards from the Hawaii albumHowever, absolutely the best thing we sold was something we brought to New York for our good friend, Adam Schachter of Langdon Manor Books in Houston.  It was an amazing archive of World Trade Center material with over 50 blueprints, drawings, letters, photographs, and ephemeral pieces relating to the construction of the Twin Towers that were kept by the Mosher Steel Company, the contractor that furnished core columns and box beams for 14 floors of each building.
    Some of the documents from the World Trade Center archiveOn the buying side, we picked up a nice grouping of 19th-century sheet music including several minstrel pieces
    One of pieces from a lot of sheet music that we bought in New Yorkand a compelling World War II diary-memoir written by a young infantryman while convalescing after his liberation from Stalag 11B where he had been imprisoned following his capture during the Battle of the Bulge.  In it, he describes the horrendous combat he faced since landing at Normandy and the savage treatment and execution of American soldiers at the hands of their German captors.  Included is a sketch of a dead comrade lying dead on the ground with blood pouring from a gash across his throat, his "first buddy of Malmedy. . . .  This is how I remember him. . . . I do not know his name, therefore he is my 'unknown soldier' and I know a gallant one indeed."  Strong and brutal stuff . . . a side of the war we seldom hear about. Things like this help you understand why Tom Brokaw called these kids, "the Greatest Generation."Private First Class Bernard L. Bourgeois's World War II Diary-MemoirSo, now we have almost a month to rest up and reset before out next round of book fairs begins in April.  We doing the Virginian Antiquarian Book Fair in Richmond on 7-8 April, the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg on 21-23 April, and the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair in downtown DC this year on 28-29 April.  We hope to see you at one of them.

    R/Kurt

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