Chapter 158 Book Buying Tips for Booksellers from Susan Halas, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, click here. Susan Halas of Prints Pacific Ltd. in Hawaii has generously shared her experiences buying books for resale. Hope it helps those of us who are new or who have recently become booksellers. Thanks, Susan!

Q. I am at a yard sale, garage sale, swap meet, auction, place where there’s lots of stuff and I don’t see any interesting books, what else am I looking for?

A. Boxes of old paper of any kind, pictures, photos, maps, magazines, letters, deeds, cards, valentines, train schedules, recipes, poetry, dixi cup lids, anything handwritten, anything signed, anything SMALL, anything colorful, wierd, lurid, anything that looks like it was printed in limited

Q I see some boxes of stuff that might be interesting but I don’t have time to go through them then and there. What do I say to the seller?
A. What do you want for the whole box? If a number under $10 is named take it, no questions asked. A box of paper that is older than the 1960s will almost always have something of value in it, the investment is not in the stuff, it’s in your time to go through it.

If the number is over ten dollars say, How about $10? If they say no, ask if you can come back and help them dispose of whatever is left (almost always all of it, especially if it’s messy).

Q I’m offered a set of classics, an old encyclopedia, book of knowledge, bible study books, self improvement books, all with beautiful shiny gold leaf and gilt edge, all weighing about 100 pound each, should I buy them?

A Seldom, rare exceptions, but almost always the answer is NO (exceptions is it signed or limited, is it illustrated by a well known illustrator). Follow up question — did your father, uncle, grandma have any other books, photos, scrapbooks, do you have anything else to offer? Sellers are offering you
what they think is rare, but often have things that are really interesting they think are junk.

Q I’m looking at a bunch of old atlases and geography books, school books, what am I looking for?

A If American I’m looking for the period from the Civil War to the 1950s maps that are of particular interest to particular geographic regions. Hawaii and Alaska did not become a state until 1959, Arizona did not become a state until 1912. Many of the late 19th century atlases have particular maps that are of regional interest. The more specialized the better, look for town plans, pictures of places as the looked then, explanations that today would be politically incorrect, especially racist or sexist or indicate a point of view that has changed dramatically. Interesting pictures. Anything about the Civil War from just slightly later, anything about the West, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Pacific Northwest. Don’t pay any attention to condition. Ratty condition is ok, make an offer for the lot, don’t indicate to seller that some are more interesting than others. If it’s older geography take it all, sort it later.

Q. I don’t see that much older stuff, what could I be looking for in newer books/paper?

A Early Computers, technology, scientific advances, shifts in attitude – gay, new age, zines, comics, motorcycles, technology that bloomed then failed, scrapbooks, poetry, real photos pre digital, SMALL is good, regional stuff — back to the earth, burning man, performance art, posters especially the kind of posters that were stapled to telephone poles for readings, performances, protests, clubs, etc., cartoons, humor, small, small, small, small, small. Repeat, small is good.

If you find this info interesting or useful and want to repost elsewhere
permission granted. Please credit Prints Pacific, Ltd.

Susan Halas
Prints Pacific, Ltd.
1939A Vineyard St.
Wailuku, HI, USA 96793

(808) 244-7777

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