Thursday, June 21, 2018

Outboard Boys #1 Mystery Island and #2 Shadow Lake

Roger Garis was the son of prolific series book writer Howard Garis.  Roger was also a writer and even published his own magazine for a time.  Roger wrote the Outboard Boys series which was published by A. L. Burt.  Some Burt advertisements refer to the series as the Outboard Motor Boys series.

1.  The Outboard Boys at Mystery Island, 1933
2.  The Outboard Boys at Shadow Lake, 1933
3.  The Outboard Boys at Pirate Beach, 1933
4.  The Outboard Boys at Shark River, 1934

The original Burt books are quite scarce.  Modern reprints are available for purchase at  Additionally, the text of the books can be found available online for free via online searches.

In Outboard Boys #1, The Outboard Boys at Mystery Island, Terry Blondel, Warren Finn, and Martin Hazzard decide to purchase a boat.  They would also like to purchase an outboard motor for the boat, but they do not have enough money.  The boys learn about an essay contest where the winner will receive an outboard motor.  Martin wins the contest, and the boys get their boat ready.

The boys decide to explore Mystery Island, which is an island that attracts lightning due to a heavy content of metal ore.  Unfortunately, the boys' enemy, Jake Lawson, is staying on the island with a man who acts crazy.  Soon, the boys learn that the man is at the center of a mystery, and they work on solving it.

The book starts out a bit slow, but then it gets good.

The size of the island as compared to the lake confused me.  The lake is large and is said to be around five miles wide.  Many islands are scattered all over the lake. Mystery Island is said to be five to six miles wide. The island sounds like it is about as big as the lake!

In Outboard Boys #2, The Outboard Boys at Shadow Lake, the boys learn about Shadow Lake, which is said to be haunted and contains some kind of large creature.  While at a circus, the boys learn that the circus wants to find a new curiosity for its sideshow. The boys tell the men about Shadow Lake, and the boys are hired to capture the creature for the circus.

Jake Lawson is hired by a rival sideshow and will also attempt to locate the creature.  Jake and his accomplices sabotage the Outboard Boys' efforts in finding the creature, and the boys must work fast in hope of being successful.

On page 129, Warren is lost in the woods. While trying to find his way, he witnesses a lion killing a deer.  Later, Terry and Martin are looking for Warren and view the scene from a cliff.  They see the carcass and at first think that it is what is left of Warren.  How gruesome.

I noticed that "swell" is used often in this book.  I think of "swell" as a word that was used more towards the 1950s, but clearly, it was already in use during the 1930s.  I do not recall seeing "swell" used in other series books of this age.  In any case, I feel like Roger Garis was a little ahead of his time.  As I read the books, I also was struck by how intelligent he was.  For instance, in one passage in one of the books, the binomial theorem, which is a theorem in mathematics, is mentioned.  That's not something that most juvenile series authors would have included in a book.

This is a good book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Mercer Boys #5 Beach Patrol and #6 Summer Camp

In the Mercer Boys #5, The Mercer Boys on the Beach Patrol, Woodcrest Military Institute closes down temporarily after a dam breaks, and the school is flooded.  The Mercers and Terry receive an invitation from Harry Douglas to come visit his family on the coast of Massachusetts.  After the boys' arrival, they get an opportunity to help the coast guard patrol the coast looking for ships in distress.

The boys learn that the Douglas family lost their original estate years ago when a man named Odell presented what appeared to be the deed to the property.  The boys learn that the deed was fake and that the real deed is missing.  The Mercers and their friends try to find the real deed.

This book is good until around page 100 when the mystery of the missing deed is revealed.  From that point, the story is excellent and very engaging.  I greatly enjoyed reading this book.

In the Mercer Boys #6, The Mercer Boys in Summer Camp, the second and third classmen of Woodcrest go to summer camp.  Don, Jim, and Terry have recently advanced to the second class and will attend the summer camp.  Before the young men depart, Dick Rowen makes his intense jealousy of the Mercers known to all, and he causes them endless trouble during summer camp.

After the young men become established in summer camp, they learn that the surrounding area is said to be haunted.  True to the rumors, strange figures are seen at night, and vandalism occurs.  Dick Rowen gets Jim in trouble by blaming him for one act of mischief.  The Mercers and their friends must find the true culprit so that Jim's innocence can be proved.

I was amused as I read this book and characters keep using the phrase "go chase yourself."  I thought of what people say nowadays.

This is an excellent story.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Series Book Discussion and Sales Groups on Facebook

First, I want to remind everyone that I have books for sale on eBay and Etsy.  I have extended my promotion for 10% off all orders on Etsy.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy
I have recently listed many Cherry Ames, Dana Girls, and Trixie Belden books.  I have also listed many British and French Nancy Drew books.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay
On eBay, I have a wide variety of series books.  I also have quite a few bulk lots that are priced to sell.

Jennifer's Series Books on Facebook
I regularly post interesting links and information on my Facebook page.

We have groups for selling series books on Facebook including one new group.

Sleuthing for Vintage Children's Series Books
This first group is often mistaken as a discussion group, but it is solely for sales with no discussion.  We have had problems with people joining and not reading the rules, so the group photo now consists of rules in order to get more people to notice them.

Books for Sale Roundup
This new group with looser rules has recently been created.  This group was created by a series book fan but allows other types of books to be offered as well.

We also have series book discussion groups on Facebook.

Modern Children's Series Books
This group is for modern children's and young adult books.

Vintage Teen Books
This group is for vintage teen and young adult books.  Currently, the group is mainly focused on teen books from the 1980s and 1990s like Sweet Valley High, R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and other similar books.

Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books
This group focuses on juvenile series books from the 20th century.  Think Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Judy Bolton, Dana Girls, and all of our favorites.

Nancy Drew Book Fans
This group is for fans of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

Nancy Drew Game Fans
This group was created for fans of the Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive.

Trixie Belden
This group is all about Trixie Belden.

Judy Bolton Fans
Members of this group love Judy Bolton.

Vintage Stratemeyer Syndicate Series
This group is focused on the books created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Stratemeyer Syndicate
This is another group devoted to the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Maltshop Romance Roundup
This group is dedicated to teen romance books of the late 1940s up through the 1960s.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Problem of Pricing Books

Sellers often face the dilemma of wondering how to price books for which they do not know the value.  This happens to me fairly frequently when I sell books that I do not collect or do not actively follow on eBay.  In this post, I will detail two recent experiences in which I had to guess at prices.

Some sellers are paranoid about pricing and price books at consistently steep prices in order to avoid ever selling a book at below cost.  Unfortunately, this practice keeps the books away from people who would like to purchase them.  I prefer for my books to sell, even if I sometimes get less for a book than it might be worth.

A few months ago, I purchased a large number of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books locally.  The books were cheap, but they were also library discards in rough shape.  I was aware that CYOA is a popular franchise, which is why I purchased the books.  However, I had no idea how to price the books.

I spent around an hour researching the different sets of CYOA books.  The original set was published by Bantam Books in the 1980s and 1990s.  Random House purchased Bantam Books in 1998 and somehow let the trademark for CYOA lapse, thereby losing the rights to publish the series.  It's amazing that a modern publishing company was so careless.

One of the authors of the original CYOA series, R. A. Montgomery, gained the rights to the series and founded the Chooseco company, which has since issued multiple reprint sets and sets consisting of new titles.  The Chooseco sets are also quite desirable and sought by fans of the franchise.

I figured out that the books I purchased were a mixture of original Bantam books and books from two different Chooseco sets.  I separated the books by type, then checked eBay sold listings.  I could not list the books for as high as other listings, because mine were in rough shape.  I went with bulk lots and priced accordingly.  Here are some photos that show the rough condition and the library stickers.

All sets sold quickly within a few days of being listed.  I kept wondering if I had priced the books too low.  I don't think so.  Condition is important, and I couldn't ask as much for the books as if they had been in nice shape.  I assume that the people who purchased my books wanted to read them, and rough condition library discards read just as well as more expensive nice copies.  My bulk lots served that purpose fine and saved the buyers some money.

I am also not very knowledgeable of past Ken Holt prices.  Each time I have extra Ken Holt books, I check eBay sold listings and come up with prices.  Auction prices tend to be below value.  Fixed-price listings that have not yet sold tend to be above value.  Fixed-price listings that have sold indicate what someone was willing to pay but are not necessarily indicative of the actual value.

I look at both sold and unsold listings and come up with a price that is usually above the auction results but below the fixed-price listings that have not yet sold.  My price is also heavily influenced by the condition of the book.  Condition is important, and when books have certain flaws, they must be priced lower than books that do not have those flaws.  Most of the Ken Holt books that I listed in early May had sticker scars on the front panels and/or spines of the dust jackets.  Sticker scars reduce value.  The books also smelled of cigarette smoke, which does fade in time but is a significant flaw.

Most of my Ken Holt books sold rather fast, which is what always happens when I list Ken Holt books.  Here are the listings that have sold.

Here is another picture of The Mystery of the Sultan's Scimitar which shows the faded spine.

I would have priced the book higher if not for the faded spine.  The book sold almost immediately after being listed, and I am pretty confident that the book was purchased to resell.  I guess that means that I could have gotten more for the book, but I did not feel that a higher price was justified.

I was asked to reduce the price of The Mystery of the Plumed Serpent shortly after I listed it.  I ignored the request since my book was in a tie for the lowest price online.  The prospective buyer later purchased the book at my original price.

Two books did not sell in the first listing cycle but have sold in the second listing cycle.

During the first listing cycle I was asked to reduce The Mystery of the Invisible Enemy to just $20.  Considering how fast the other books sold, I was not about to do that.  I did end up getting my original listing price of $34.99. 

Two books, seen below, are the only ones that have not yet sold.

Even though all of the Choose Your Own Adventure and many of the Ken Holt books sold fast, I don't regret how I priced the books.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Continuing the Search for Hardcover Nancy Drew Digest Books

I have written of my quest to find the hardcover library editions of all of the Nancy Drew Digest books from #57 up through #175.  I have been working on this set for over 17 years.  My earliest hardcover Nancy Drew Digest books were acquired on May 21, 2001.

Building a Set of Hardcover Nancy Drew Digest Books

13 More Nancy Drew Digest Hardcover Books Left to Find

On August 8, 2017 and December 22, 2017, I acquired three more of the books taking the total I needed down to just 10 books.

I continually tell people that eBay should be checked every single day.  Even if eBay has nothing of interest for 30 or more straight days, keep checking.  eBay is my primary source for these books, since typically all sellers photograph their books.  They can be spotted easily.

By the way, I do not have memorized which of these books that I need.  I know I need #175, but I do not know the other titles offhand.  I have to look at my list or check my shelf.  So...

In the late afternoon of June 13, I was checking eBay and spotted a hardcover library edition of Nancy Drew #114 The Search for the Silver Persian.  It had just been listed.  As I stated, I do not have the titles that I need memorized, but this one seemed like it might be one of them.  I dashed to the other side of the house to look at my books.  Sure enough, my books skipped from #113 to #116.  I dashed back to make the purchase.

This seller only accepts credit cards, so I had to enter a credit card number.  Annoying, but whatever.  The card failed due to an eBay glitch.  On June 13, eBay had glitches everywhere.  I could not even look at many of my own listings because of errors.  I tried again, feeling a bit stressed because I did not want someone to get the book.  The card failed again.  I then tried another card.  Yay!  It worked.  I got the book purchased.

The book arrived today.

I now need just nine more hardcover Nancy Drew Digest books.  The following books are the ones that I still need.

115. The Suspect in the Smoke, 1993
122. The Message in the Haunted Mansion, 1994
130. The Sign of the Falcon, 1996
148. On the Trail of Trouble, 1999
158. The Curse of the Black Cat, 2001
160. The Clue on the Crystal Dove, 2001
169. The Mistletoe Mystery, 2002
170. No Strings Attached, 2003
175. Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland, 2003

Here are all of my books.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Even though I am building a set of the Nancy Drew Digest books in hardcover, the books were not issued in a set.  In fact, not all of the books may even exist in hardcover.  Notice that my books are an eclectic mixture of different types of bindings.  Binderies rebind books that libraries send them.  There is no guarantee that a softcover copy of every Nancy Drew title from #57 up through #175 was sent to a bindery to be rebound as a hardcover.  That is why I do not know if I can ever complete the set.  I do believe it quite likely that the lower-numbered titles that I need were rebound as hardcovers.  I am not so sure about the higher-numbered ones, but I will continue my quest.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Roy Stover #3 Cliff Island Mystery and #4 Circle of Fire

In Roy Stover #3, The Cliff Island Mystery, John Brackenbone has been defrauding gullible people around Lakeport for years with shady real estate investments.  The victims each have paid Brackenbone thousands of dollars as investors in a housing project which seems to be on permanent hold.  Roy learns that Brackenbone included a clause where he has no time limit on when he can begin the housing project, so no one can force Brackenbone to make good.

Brackenbone goes to Cliff Island, which he owns.  Roy follows him there to get information and discovers a suicide note.  Roy finds some of Brackenbone's clothes scattered on the cliff, and all evidence indicates that Brackenbone is dead.  Furthermore, Brackenbone's money is missing.  Roy has a hunch about what really happened and hopes that he can learn the truth.

After Roy finds the suicide note, he searches the empty house.  This portion of the book is quite foreboding.  On page 102, Roy, while inside the dark house, concludes that Brackenbone might have shot or hanged himself inside the house.  Roy then begins to search the house for the body.  On page 105, Roy is "fearful of some dangling object that the searching light might at any moment expose."  This story is definitely for older readers.

Roy is alone on Cliff Island during much of the story.

In Roy Stover #4, The Mystery of the Circle of Fire, Roy is sent to the old Boswell mansion to find out about strange events that have transpired.  While on the property, Roy sees a circle of fire on the front porch.  He also hears a scream, and he discovers a girl who has fainted.  Roy spots a gorilla roaming around the property and discovers that a professor is in the basement doing experiments with large rats and that a group of men believed to be criminals have been seen on the property.

This is a weak and ridiculous story.  Three different groups of people are hanging out on the Boswell property for different purposes, and the three groups have nothing to do with each other.  Each group also doesn't seem to know that the other two groups are on the property.

On page 219, Roy finally figures out how stupid this story is when he remarks, "This mystery is not at all what I thought it would be."  I was disappointed as well, but I figured out much earlier in the story that the mystery would end up being stupid.  Poor Roy takes it seriously up until page 219.

When Roy discovers the professor in the basement, a bunch of barrels fall down, and the professor is hit and presumably is knocked out.  On page 52, Roy thinks that the professor might have gone crazy.  Roy tells himself that "if the old 'bugologist' is in here with me, I'm getting out, and I hope he is unconscious.  This is no place for a healthy lad who wants to stay that way."  Say what!?  Roy hopes the man is unconscious when there is nothing to indicate that he is a criminal.  This is bizarre.  Roy then leaves without checking on the professor to see if he is okay.

While I did not enjoy this book, it is overall very good and comparable to the Hardy Boys books of the same time period.  The story would have been better as a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book and simply doesn't fit with the other Roy Stover books.  To clarify, the major series of the Stratemeyer Syndicate often have ridiculous plots but are still quite enjoyable to read.  The first three Roy Stover books are masterpieces.  The fourth book falls far short of that level.

The Mystery of the Circle of Fire does not strike the same tone as the other books in the set.  Roy is very introspective in the first three books and does lots of investigation alone.  He investigates alone some in this book, but he spends much more time talking to others about the case and is often accompanied by others.

I never cared about the story in this book and felt that it was a bit stupid all along.  Of course, the book has a different author, but I presume that whoever outlined the story was not the same person who did it for the first three titles.  I usually like books written by Walter Karig, but I did not enjoy this one because of the flawed story.

The first three books in this series are excellent to outstanding.  The fourth book is a disappointment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Mercer Boys #3 Treasure Hunt and #4 Mystery Case

In the Mercer Boys #3, The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt, Don accidentally hits a baseball through the window of a small house that belongs to Professor Scott.  When Don goes to pay for the window, Professor Scott invites him inside.  The boys learn about a letter that Professor Scott just received from his son, Ned.  Ned lives in Lower California and is in search of a sunken Spanish galleon.

The professor plans to join Ned in search of the galleon, and he invites Don and Jim to go with him.  Terry later joins the expedition.  In Lower California, the boys soon learn that others have heard about the missing galleon.

It is an extremely unlikely coincidence that Terry meets the professor on page 38 in San Francisco.  The world is a large place, but the Mercers' best friend just happens to encounter them during their trip.

I am sure that many of us can identify with this passage from page 81.
The professor enjoyed his day of solitude.  Long years of serious study and instructive reading had made him one of the men who prefer being alone to mixing with a noisy crowd.  Not that the professor was the least bit snobbish or unsociable, but he loved the quietness of inner thought and the companionship of a book.
Captain Blow, who is a character in The Mercer Boys' Cruise on the Lassie, makes an appearance on page 183.

This is a very good book.

In the Mercer Boys #4, The Mercer Boys' Mystery Case, Don and Jim begin their second year at Woodcrest Military Institute as third classmen.  Colonel Morrell assigns the boys the task of locating all of the old cups received in previous years for various achievements.  The boys are unable to locate the 1913 cup.

Morrell tells the boys how Arthur Gates won the 1913 cup in an academic contest in which he had bested William Long in an earlier round.  After Gates won the cup, Long had some type of argument with him and seemed bitter.  Long was to present the cup to Gates, since Long was the senior class captain.  Long kept the cup overnight in his room, where it vanished.   Long was widely believed to be the person who took the cup and has since lived in disgrace.  The Mercers believe that Long was innocent and set out to prove it by finding the cup.

On page 5, the boys are said to be in their early twenties.

On page 48, Long remarks that some of his classmates "are resting in France.  I was there, too, and it is just by the mercy of the Almighty that I am not resting there now."  This quote gave me pause to reflect on the death toll of World War I.

This is an excellent and highly engaging story.  I was captivated as I tried to figure out the solution to the deeply engaging mystery of the 1913 class cup.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Roy Stover #1 Lakeport Bank Mystery and #2 Snowbound Express

The Roy Stover series is a Stratemeyer Syndicate series that consists of four books.

1.  The Lakeport Bank Mystery, 1929
2.  The Mystery of the Snowbound Express, 1929
3.  The Cliff Island Mystery, 1930
4.  The Mystery of the Circle of Fire, 1934

The first three books were written by John W. Duffield, and the last book was written by Walter Karig.  The first three books were originally published by Barse and later by Grosset and Dunlap.  The fourth book was published by Grosset and Dunlap.  The Barse books are extremely scarce, and the Grosset and Dunlap books are scarce.

This series was aimed at young adults rather than children.  The language and content is more mature than that of the average vintage series book.  The stories are of high quality.

In Roy Stover #1, The Lakeport Bank Mystery, Roy starts working as a cub reporter on his father's newspaper.  Roy hopes for a big story to cover and soon he gets one when the Lakeport bank is robbed.  Roy's big story becomes personal when Joe, who is going to marry Roy's sister, is accused of the robbery.  Roy sets out to find the true culprit and thereby prove Joe's innocence.

Roy comes up with an idea to help the women of the town.  His mother is stressed out by the process of mailing out checks for all of the bills at the start of the month.  Roy's idea is that the women can give all of their signed checks to the bank along with their bills.  The bank will make out the checks for them and send the checks to the creditors.  I thought that this was a smart solution to a problem that has been solved nowadays with electronic payments.

The subject content is aimed at slightly older audiences.  The story mentions liquor and narcotics.  The expression "one of the biggest scoundrels yet unhung" is used.  The text contains lots of slang, like yegg, which is not usually seen in series books.

On page 239, Roy has cornered the culprits in a cellar.  As the men try to get out, one of them begs Roy, "Say, bimbo, have a heart."  This shows how language changes over the years.  "Bimbo" meant "fellow" or "man" in the early 20th century.  The meaning is now quite different and no longer applies to men.

In Roy Stover #2, The Mystery of the Snowbound Express, a train has stalled in the snow near Lakeport.  Roy goes to interview the passengers.  On Roy's way to the train, he picks up a case and carries it with him, little aware of the significance and trouble it will cause.

While Roy is on the train, a theft of valuable diamonds is discovered.  The case is found on Roy, and it is the case in which the diamonds had been kept.  Roy is accused of being the thief!  Roy unwittingly has provided the key evidence against himself, but he knows that he did not steal the diamonds.  Roy must now prove his innocence.

On page 19, Roy suspects that a man is a "dope fiend" because of the look in his eyes. 

Both of these books are extremely good.  These books are excellent mysteries.