Sunday, December 28, 2008

Score de December

December seems to be the month to score inventory windfalls. . Last year it was the Jazzman, the year before it was The Bookman. December, 2008 ended with the Shady Doctor buy.

Shady Doctor was a psychiatrist who made a pile of money back in the1990s as a proponent of "Repressed Memory" syndrome. A Google search of the dearly departed showed he was most controversial, involved in a number of lawsuits and that his license was at times, questionable.

Shady Doctor apparently had a number of mental problems himself. He was anal to the extreme - every one of his hundreds of CDs was alphabetized, he had a 5 foot stack of binders with the warranty papers for every electrical appliance he ever bought and his shirts were arranged by color. He was a compulsive collector - multiple DVD players, VCRs, exercise equipment, camping equipment and enough Pfaltzgraff dinnerware to outfit a small department store.

His house was in a very sketchy part of town, one where even I felt compelled to lock my car doors. It once belonged to his mother and started out as a simple 5 room workman's cottage.
For reasons known only to him he left it entirely as is (and it needed a makeover)and built a sprawling garage and second story addition. Other than the library (which was a secret room) the addition was all white paint and grey linoleum. Very drab, very depressing.
The library was amazing- it had 2 secret entrances - one from the master closet and the other from the wet bar. The walls were lined with custom made library shelving and the shelves were filled with books. One side held his 30 year old medical books and 20 years worth of bound issues of Newsweek, the other side was full of Easton Press Books. Easton Press is one of the Holy Grails of bookselling. And these weren't just any Easton Press Books, these were all signed first edition Science Fiction Easton Press books.

The sale didn't attract many buyers with interest in custom leather books. Many of shoppers were neighbors who bought armloads of CDs & sports memorabilia but just rolled their eyes at the books. The book room was filled with very overweight young men, wearing backwards baseball caps & baggy pants and in need of a shave, accompanied by their girlfriends who wore very tight, very low cut pants that showed off their “muffin tops” and thongs all talking on their cell phones and trying to describe what they were seeing. In their words the room was full of “old books and other old s----“!

Science Fiction isn't my forte though I know it sells. I called a fellow bookseller, who prowled around on E-bay and we zeroed in on 17 books with potential. At $25 each I didn't want to buy any duds. Come Sunday everything would be 50% off so a return trip was in order.

Turned out that most of the Easton Press books were still there. I bought 10 and some audio books for Lou and left.

Upon delivery of the audio books Lou asked me 'Why didn't you make an offer for all of them?"

"Humm" I thought upon arriving home, "why not"?

I e-mailed the estate sale proprietor and offered to buy and haul away all the remaining Easton Press books at $10 per book. I estimated maybe 100 books were left. Wrong. There were 210 volumes and she accepted my offer.

Gulp. Very Big Gulp. Very, Very big Gulp.

Didn't think I could back out without incurring the wrath of the Estate Sale Dealer. Whose wrath I could not afford to incur - she's an important cog in my inventory strategy wheel. Oh well, I'll just pay the minimum on my Visa bill this month.

13 boxes later I was the giddy but scared owner of 250 Easton Press Books.

I think I've just advanced a step or two above my usual bookselling rank of bottom feeder.

They are all headed for E-bay. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 15, 2008

By Their Books Ye Shall Know Them...

I think a person's books can tell more about them than almost anything else in their household. Saturday I went to an estate sale in search of books to sell.
The ad promised "1000s of books". There wasn't even 1000 but there were a great many. I find that estate sale givers always overestimate the number of books.

The former owner was a life time member of Weight Watchers, a Methodist, a diabetic and had a superficial interest in architecture, decorating and drawing. She was very fond of anything published by Rodale Press (a notorious publisher of penny books) , dabbled in natural healing and did a bit of travel, all of it domestic. At one time she'd practiced law and officed out of her home. Given the number of "how to succeed as a solo lawyer" books she wasn't very successful.

She also spent more time at Half Price Books than I do, which meant the bulk of her books were worthless on the resale market. Oh well. I did find a few gems but some days are like that.
Even in Australia.