Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twelve Years Ago Today

I registered on eBay to bid on my first auction on March 17, 1997. My twelfth anniversary is bittersweet. I still loved eBay a year ago, even though I had concerns about its direction. I still love what eBay once was, but I do not like it so much now. Enough of that—the purpose of this post is not to dwell on the present but to revisit the past, and it was a fun ride.

The next portion of this post is reprinted from a post I made over two years ago to the Nancy Drew Sleuths group.

I began collecting in the summer of 1991. I was inspired by an episode of Oprah Winfrey in which she had people showing off items found in their attics. I remembered a stack of used books that my mother had bought me when I was around 10 years old, and I was so fascinated with the appearance of the older Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. I pulled out those books and decided to begin searching for old books at garage sales.

I subscribed to Yellowback Library and joined Phantom Friends in September and October of 1996 and the internet came right on the heels of the other two. I remember all the ads in those two publications there at the beginning and most people were trading through them rather than the net. I was searching the net for Nancy Drew books around late December 1996 or early January 1997 when I visited a site called The Internet Antique Shop. On the main page down at the bottom, I happened to notice a small ad for an internet auction site called "Auction Web." In fact, I just visited the Internet Wayback site to view the cache of a page from www.tias.com from late 1996 to see exactly what that ad looked like. The ad states "Auction Web - The most fun buying and selling on the web! Going once, going twice, click! Check out the on-line auctions going on at AuctionWeb. Click here!"

I had discovered eBay! eBay was called "Auction Web" or "eBay's Auction Web" in those days. I was so amazed that there were actually - gasp! - 50 Nancy Drew books up for sale at a time! And they were collectible ones with dust jackets and any type you could want! I remember how the search results were in random order and you could not order the search results by date or price or anything. And the searches would often take around 2 minutes or longer because eBay was growing fast and could not keep up with the rate that it was gaining new users. People would joke on the message boards that one could hit "search" and then go take out the trash or fix a sandwich and come back to view the results!

While I discovered eBay in around January 1997, it took me two months to get around to registering and bidding. I wasn't used to paying more than $5.00 for a book, so it took that long for me to change my mind about what I was willing to pay.

I remember that the very first book I bid on was on the afternoon of March 17, 1997, and it was a tweed copy of Larkspur Lane that had a chipped dust jacket. I'm not sure what I bid, but it was around $8-10. Of course I lost, since I was not willing to pay very much.

It was not until April 1997 that I was successfully able to win an auction, actually two of them. During the first four to five years that I bought online, I always made printed copies of the item pages. I'm now glad that I did, because I still have those copies, and they are very interesting.

I scanned the printed copies of the item pages for the first two books that I bought on eBay. In those days, our user IDs were our email addresses. I removed the seller's user ID, but I left mine, since I abandoned that internet and email account in 2001.

Click on the images to see larger versions. I have no idea why I printed the pages before the auctions closed. You will notice that it was not necessary to be a registered user in order to use eBay, or Auction Web as it was called, at that time.

In my printed copies, I also found an auction that I won on Amazon in 1999. I thought that it might be of interest since I mentioned Amazon Auctions in a recent post.

I wish I had printed copies of more web pages from those days. Very little can be found on the Internet Wayback Machine.


Lian said...

I joined ebay early April of 1997 a month after Jennifer did. I joined because I wanted to complete my Dana girl set that I had started back in the early seventies. I did complete the set within a year. Luckily, I had purchased the Phantom Surfer when I was ten in the Thalheimers Department Store in 1972. My mother had told me to pick out two books to buy. At the time, all the sets were there to purchase. It was very hard choosing but it was a good pick for now it goes for about a $100 when you can find it.

I also needed to complete my Happy Hollister collection which I had almost all the copies, but for some reason when I was very young, I didn't like the dust jackets and pitched them all in the trash. Now, I can't believe how stupid that was and I have had to repurchase them for the dust jackets alone. Luckily the last book Midnight Trolls was a picture cover or I would have thrown that away as well. This copy routinely sells for about $50-$60.

Ebay has been a fun experience and has helped me complete collections that would have taken me years to finish. Library sales are another thrill and my local one will be having theirs next month.

I was very jealous of the one you visited, Jennifer. That would have been quite overwhelming but exciting. I did pick up an idea from you with the rollaway luggage to put the books in. My paperbag is going to be upgraded!

I would love to hear what some people have picked up along the way whether by Ebay, libraries, yard sales, etc. You know, the treasures you can't believe you got. My best was a library sale thirty years ago for a copy of The Pink Dress by Anne Alexander. It is a vintage book about teenager love and problems. I loved the book and picked it up for ten cents. It now is on ebay for $650 and another copy recently sold for $350. Mine is a little beaten up but still a prize. My mother commented that she didn't understand why I didn't sell it if it would bring so much, but if I sell it, I wouldn't have it!

I'm eager to hear about some finds from you all.

Keep on collecting.

Jennifer said...

I did pick up an idea from you with the rollaway luggage to put the books in. My paperbag is going to be upgraded!

I think that the luggage is the easiest way to go. Some people use wagons, strollers, or shopping carts, but those all take up too much room. A lot of those people leave their carts unattended, so anybody walking by can see what they have and grab it.

I got so much stuff this year that I had to abandon my luggage against the wall for a time (I also brought tote bags), but I zipped it up so that the books were secure. I'm very protective of my finds, as I'm sure everyone is.

I would love to hear what some people have picked up along the way whether by Ebay, libraries, yard sales, etc. You know, the treasures you can't believe you got.

I have some good stories to tell. I'm going to hold off right now, and I think I'll make a few of my most memorable ones the subject of a few posts in the next week or so. My first story is kind of long, so I want to give it the attention it deserves.

Paula said...

I had promised earlier to report back about my first book sale as a collector. The sale was held last week - a semi-annual Friends of the Library sale. I volunteered to help with setup the day before the sale started, as all volunteers are allowed to purchase 10 books on setup day.

Since I am interested in Nancy Drew books, they put me to work in the Chidren's Juvenile section. There were many boxes of books under the tables and my job was to open the boxes, take the books out, and place them for display in rows on top of the tables, so that they could be easily browsed for selling.

To make a long story short, from a collecting standpoint it was a total disappointment. I didn't find a single Nancy Drew book worth buying! In setting up three long buffet tables of books for Juvenile, I came across only a handful of Nancy Drew books. About 5 or 6 flashlight books, and 2 or 3 old library books, both of which I'm not collecting. There was one vintage picture cover book, a copy of the Haunted Showboat in very poor shape. I checked later with the folks setting up the "Collectibles" tables, but they hadn't come across any Nancy Drews either. So after hearing Jennifer's adventures, it was a little bit of a letdown. However, it was all new to me to be involved in setup and I actually enjoyed it!

Apparently, everyone avoids children's because the wide variety of book sizes, shapes, etc. makes it a difficult area to set up. I kind of enjoyed it though, coming across books I remembered from my own or my children's childhoods. They are 20somethings now, so it was sweet reliving some of the fond memories.

Being very type A, I got into organizing the books a bit, keeping the series books together, e.g., all Dr. Seuss together, placing Caldecott winners in front where they could be easily found, putting big tall books along the wall in back and stuff like that. Since I was working alone, it was easy to do because I knew which books were already placed and about where, so when I came across another book from the same series in another box, I would just go back and place it with its partners. Everyone who went by stopped and said how great children's looked this year and it made me feel good....but I realize they were probably just happy they weren't doing children's! ;)

Anyway, you only have to volunteer for three hours to be able to buy books, so around noon, many of the volunteers left. My tables were finished, but I saw that the early children's books were not done, so I set to straightening those tables up a bit and placing the rest of those books out. I lost track of time and ended up staying another 3 hours! By then only the very loyal "Friends" organizers were left, and they appreciated my extra help. One of them, when she found out I had started collectiong Nancy Drews, took my name and number and said from now on she would put them aside for me. We'll see if she remembers...
Anyway, it was a worthwhile experience and I'm glad I went, even though my back was sore for two days afterwards. :} I did buy a few modern fiction books to read, and it was great being able to browse at my leaisure without the big crowds.

So I'm wondering why the big difference in availability of vintage children's books? Does anyone have a theory about that? I've noticed that many Nancy Drew books offered on ebay are from PA. I wonder if some people in certain parts of the country are more aware of the value of old books such as these. One lady even mentioned that many of the books they get as donations are thrown in the trash, due to their poor condition. On the other hand it could just be the local weather. I currently live in the New Orleans area, and as you may know we have a "little" humidity problem here as well as gross crawly things, so any books stored in attics or garages would become unappealing pretty quickly. And I guess Katrina destroyed many libraries also.

Anyway, there's my report. Although not very successful, maybe the contacts I made at the sale will lead to something in the future. Any further hints about finding books locally are appreciated!

Jennifer said...

So after hearing Jennifer's adventures, it was a little bit of a letdown.

My sale is definitely one of the best, and it is the only sale I bother to attend. They have always consistently stated that it is in the top three library booksales in the United States in terms of how many books are for sale. This year they claimed 500,000 to 700,000 books. They usually have around 400,000 books, and they definitely had more than ever before. I estimate that there were probably around 500,000 to 550,000 books.

My sale has gotten so large that they now box up some of the fiction, romance, and children's books and sell in October by the box at fixed prices to get rid of some of the extras. I don't bother with that since I'm sure that the children's books are the modern board books and such.

All of the libraries in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area send their books and any donations to this sale. What I noticed this year is that some of the library discards were from rural libraries that are far away from the city, for instance from Claremore which is northeast of Tulsa. Tulsa has its own sale, so I do not understand why Claremore sent its books to our sale. But if more of the rural towns are sending their books to us, then that might be why the sale has gotten bigger.

This year the sale was good for me, but last year was only so-so. I didn't find much last year. It all depends upon who donated during any given year.

I would think that there would be fewer books in New Orleans than there once were, simply because of Katrina. I'm sure some were destroyed. I have bought books from Louisiana in the past and have noticed lots of foxing, which is partly caused by high humidity. Most books that I buy from England are also foxed, and the humidity is high in England.

I have always heard that it is easier to find old books in the northeast since the northeast was well-populated before the rest of the country. Most of the books I buy on eBay are from the states in the northeast and midwest. I get very few books from states such as Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, the Dakotas, etc. I could name some others, but I'm going to stop at those. I get some from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, California, and Florida but the majority do come from the northeast and states like Ohio and Illinois.

Paula said...

Thanks for the follow up comment, Jennifer. Your book sale *is* much larger - the one I attended advertised 65,000+ books, which I thought was large, until I saw your numbers!

It's interesting that so many books come from the northeast. I grew up in PA so I guess that's why I notice so many Nancy Drews offered from there. I'll have to check out the thrift shops of my home town when I go back to visit! I was thinking also that perhaps because Grosset & Dunlap was in N.Y., the proximity to the publisher might have had something to do with it also.

Finally, thanks for the encouragement about some years being better than others. The Friends of the Library will be having another sale in the fall, so I'll look forward to trying my luck again!