Thanks to those who shared their tales of good book finds. Since I enjoy hearing tales of good finds and I think I you will, too, I am posting a few of the stories of good finds here. There are lessons to be culled from these stories, from buying a good book on a hunch to selling a good book find at a lower price than you should have to the longing to become an antiquarian bookseller . Enjoy the stories and learn something as well, and thanks again to those who contributed!
First, from Benjamin at The Exile Bibliophile, another great book blog:
The estate sale was in an old part of town where I always loved exploring. The estate belonged to someone who never threw anything out. Treasures abounded! Except books. I bought some cheap fountain pens, enjoyed strange contraptions, flipped through vintage photos. I was a bit disappointed there was not much paper, and only self-help type books. I wondered if all the paper was thrown out before the sale, or a bookdealer already clean out all the good books? I did grab one WWII vintage Army manual. Nothing special, but we didn’t have this one at the WWII museum I was working at, at the time.
There were a couple sheds outside with people browsing through, though. I went outside, the first shed was exactly that. A garden shed full of gardening things. And bugs, which I suppose could be called garden things. The second ws quite different. It had mounds of paper heaped on the ground. Fortunately, this was in west Texas, and it was’t very damp inside. I sifted through the paper. Not much of interest. Mostly stuff from the mid-1970s forward. Medical related, bank statements, cancelled checks. Then there were a couple of staplebound booklets. These looked older. They said “Watchtower” across the covers. Well, cover. Only one had a cover still but it rang a faint bell. Looking for copyrights, they dated to the late 1910s. They were in pretty rough shape. Damp staining, wear to the edges, chipping. Eh, why not? I took them inside and paid my quarter for both. I went home and found out these were very early Jehovah’s Witnesses tracts. I don’t remember the exact amount, but I recieved over $200 for the two of them after a week on Ebay. I certainly won’t forget Watchtower again!
Next, from Jonathan:
A few months ago, after mulling the idea of getting a part time job, I decided to sell books online from my basement. Basically, I’m your [Book Hunter’s Holiday] antithesis. I had no direction or plan. I just thought I would go out to a few books sales and thrift stores, buy a bunch of books and sell them on Amazon. My first day out, I found an old German book called Weltriese. It was a 1912 travel guide for Germans traveling to Asia. Beautiful book with dozens of fold out maps. And like an idiot I sold it on ebay for $50 (ironically tosomeone on the Biblio list). That book, though, was the one that got me hooked.
Now I’m torn between being the guy who wants to make a quick buck to pay off a credit card and the guy that wants to invest in beautiful old books that make take years to sell. Your enthusiasm and obvious love for the business make me lean toward the latter.
When I asked him about using his story in this post, Jonathan had this to say:
I think there are there are a good number of booksellers who view books with a scanner and really only see them as a tradeable commodity. On the other end is the dealer who truly loves books, and buys and sells pieces of art. I think my bread and butter is the high turnover books that I make $10 on. That is me trying to make a buck. But every once in a while you come across a book that you know you are going to sell, but are sad to let go, especially when it’s something that you never knew anything about. My head is the guy with the scanner, my heart is the guy that is slowly leafing through obscure 19th century tomes.
Finally, Lahana at Pandora’s Books wrote:
Fingerspitzgefuhl, the term I learned from the ladies Rostenberg and Stern, is the exact word I use to describe my method for choosing books for my inventory or personal collection when people ask me: “What are you looking for?” I have a general interest in non-fiction, history, anthropology, and travel journals in particular. I love illustrated books, and pick up just about any folklore or fairy tale. I tell folks: “Sometimes I don’t know until I pick a book up.”
So far, my favorite find from that sale was a book I nearly put back. The title is FROGS INTO PRINCES, the subtitle being Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I found it in the self-help section. I picked it up because it was an unusual topic, and I really liked the groovy-looking illustrated cover. I didn’t actually research it before I listed it on eBay for 99cents. A few days later the bidding was up to $15 with 11 people watching it. Then I got curious, and saw that on Amazon the cheapest copy is listed at $37. That’s my favorite find, because it really didn’t look like much, and I just had a hunch.
Another recent sale in Colville WA: I was early, and found lots of good trade paperbacks. My best find though was a two-volume set of THE COMBUSTION HANDBOOK, 3rd Edition. I didn’t hesitate to pick them up, because of the very specific topic, and the good condition. I sold them within two weeks for a nice hundred dollar profit.
My favorite finds are the ones that prompt me to learn more about our world, history, and people. I love sending these little gems out into the world, and I am continually amazed that there is always somebody who is interested in some obscure subject.
Lahana, I couldn’t have said it better myself.