RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

25 July 2008

Where do you get these books? 2



THE SOURCES OF OLD BOOKS (continued).
Auctions are a good source and a place of learning. You see what books sell for, what sort of books sell best and who is buying them. Amazingly, despite the incursions of the behemoth Ebay there are still as many sales as before. Online auctions are a dodgier source and authenticiy and ambitious descriptions are a problem. One can keep a weather eye on top flight sales at Ebay at Rare Book Finder - where I note that the loony with the upside down Harry Potter now has it as a 'Buy it Now' at $19000, about a thousand times its true value. Do not click that button.

3. Bookshops. Second hand bookshops, although an endangered species, still exist and can be found in side streets of many sizable towns. People still sell their books to the owners in house calls (see 4) or by bringing them into the shop (1.) Most shops have too much stock to look everything up, so bargains can be found--also they are anxious to shift the stuff in a lousy economy - so deals can be made. Bookshops are a great source. We have punters who come in three times a day, so it must be true.

4. House calls. These are mostly only available to dealers and have been covered extensively in previous posts. Occasionally collectors sell to other collectors in the mistaken idea that they are paying less to one another than from a dealer -sometimes large collections. This is a parallel market and one hears of collectors paying one another mind boggling sums. Occasionally collectors buy or are given large collections. They usually devolve down to the trade in the end. Conversely one of the mysteries of the trade is that a dealer will often buy a book for more than a collector. In our shop we say 'if a dealer won't buy it the public certainly won't.' In a house in Barnes we bought a large collection of books that had been left (along with the mansion) to a local librarian. So keen as collectors were they that there was evidence that they had bought three substantial collections of books from other collectors. The librarian retired and proceeded to lead his life according to Riley.

5. Garage sales. Yard sales. Less common in the UK but a great source for our American cohorts. A friend in California scans the local paper and presents himself at selected sales at crack of dawn Saturdays and Sundays 51 weeks a year. He has made incredible finds including many boxes of superb pulps (Black Mask etc.,) also the tail end of the library of Robert Heinlein. He goes to the flea market before the yard sales open sometimes with a torch. These sales are also the source of an incredible amount of utter crap - some days he returns empty handed or has to make money on non book items such as records, art, posters and vintage Levi's.

6. Book Fairs. Plenty of these, especially in the UK, and a great source of books for collectors. Resellers are less well catered for although a good deal of cross trading always goes on before fairs start. It was at a book fair in London that someone found Melville's 'The Whale" (UK first 3 vols 1851) for £5, about a thousandth of its true value. Bargains known.

7. Boot Fairs, flea markets, jumble sales, library sales. Plenty of these for the active punter. Often disappointing but as before - 'bargains known.' The general idea is that books for sale should be devastatingly cheap and those charging ambitious prices should be ignored, unless their prices are not ambitious enough. Library sales are more common in America and are the main source of stock for many dealers. Some sales have as many as 500,000 books and dealers come in from surrounding states and fight to the death for the best stuff, a sort of clash of the tight ones.

They are also populated with a new kind of dealer, mostly listing on Amazon, who check their prices with handheld devices such as Neatoscan, ScoutPal and SellerFusion. Fascinating stuff, so far tied to ISBN books but watch that space. These devices work very fast, some old geezer checking ABE on his Blackberry would be left way behind. One good tip with these sales is to watch out for the books that dealers decide to put back on the tables in their final cull- many a bargain there. to be continued
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