Most of us love books for much more than their commercial value, but how did we go from appreciating them to selling them? In many cases, collectors simply decided to specialize, weed, or trade up, and reselling is a logical way to make room and raise funds.
In my case, mother ran a weekend barn sale in rural upstate New York in the 1980s. The rest of us avoided this in one way or another, most notably my dad who didn’t like strangers on the property all that much and retreated to his huge sloping garden. Antiques were easily had back then, and Mom had an especially good eye. I did a lot of wood chopping at the back corner of this rambling barn, which now looked out on waving fields of hay rather than hops, and would slink up into the rafters of an adjoining room on occasion to eavesdrop on the transactions. Once a troupe of uninhibited theatrical types tried on lots of vintage clothing, which was great fun for everyone involved.
Anyway, it fell on me to price her books, and the whole process was something of a mystery. There were no booksellers around, no local libraries carried large sets that reported on prices realized at auction (not that these would have helped with this kind of stock), and no instant expertise courtesy of the internet.
One day a rare treasure came in though, and I pictured it financing future college educations. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, signed, and probably a first edition. I was crestfallen several years later to learn that it was a cheap reprint with a facsimile signature, and in particularly bad condition to boot. The other funny thing I know now is that even the best signed Whitman won’t pay for all that much college. It has a loving place on my shelf though, as a reminder of the first bibliohieroglyph I ever cracked, valuation-wise, and the shaky ladder between the love of books and making a living off same.
So, how did you get started, in one long paragraph or less? We will run some of these tales in a future issue. And on that subject, this is the fourth number of the Standard under my editorship, and I could use some help with content. If you look under Addenda/Solicitations at the rear pages of our online journal, the begging is more detailed there. You know you’re getting old when you bend down for something and think if there’s anything else you need to do while you’re down there, as the joke goes, so as long as I am begging about submissions, please consider joining IOBA if you don’t belong already.
In IOBA news, we have a new slate of officers and board members girding their loins for exciting progress. Thanks to outgoing President David Friedman of Bibliotique, and best wishes to new President Michael Watson of 20 Ants. Michael gets top spot in our membership directory as part of his extensive compensation package (don’t tell him he was at the top anyway because of the “20”). And check out the powerful new “Search Journal Archives” feature, which will find any word in all past issues of the Standard.
President Watson leads things off with an introduction. This is followed by an interview with one of the guides leading AuctionExplorerBooks out of South Africa; and a Joe Perlman expedition to the interior. The Reference Desk holds an ephemeral assay on high flying fliers and an artsy-smartsy bookselling book review. The Tool Box clanks with advice on how to improve your online sales; and the first (AbeBooks) in an important series of search service Pros and Cons from Chris Volk. The IOBA Bookseller Profiles feature fun in the sun, a serious case of building envy, and more Africana. Addenda ends.
The next issue of the IOBA Standard will be so great that it will be celebrated by fireworks, though it will probably take everyone about four days to organize that.