Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Hunting Locally

I have this theory that eBay's decline will result in more series books showing up in local stores. I have read several message posts on eBay's community boards in which people have stated that they are once again selling their items in flea markets. I just read one today in which someone stated that people are now buying on eBay and selling the stuff at local flea markets and making a profit. It used to be the other way around.

The people who post on eBay's boards are just a small fraction of eBay's total user base. If a few people have stated that they are returning to local sales, then many others must be doing the same. This would be part of the reason why fewer good books are showing up on eBay.

I had completely quit going to local stores several years ago. In the previous five or so years, I still visited the stores occasionally, but I had finally quit going to them. As I recall, the good books began disappearing from local stores in around 1999. By 2003, the local stores were barren of good books. For at least a few years, I still visited local stores occasionally, but by around 2005 or so, I finally quit due to stagnant inventory. The stores never changed, and I could never find any decent books at all. It became apparent that nearly 100% of the good books were going straight to the internet and eBay.

In recent months, I began testing my theory about books returning to local stores. In December, I reported of the great cache of books I found in one local antique shop. I have been gradually making my way around central Oklahoma, checking out various local stores.

A number of stores have closed due to the economy. In the stores that remain, the prices for the series books seem to be generally lower than they once were. If I needed the books for my collection, many of them would be worth buying. For the purpose of resale, many of the prices are too high. Even so, I have found quite a few books that I can resell.

Last weekend, I found these books:

Thirteenth Pearl is the second printing while Crocodile Island, 99 Steps, and Crooked Banister are first printings. Fire Dragon has the $1 box. Red Gate Farm has the black suggested retail price box. Crooked Arrow has a dust jacket.

The three Bobbsey Twins books are high-numbered ones that I might be able to sell for slightly more than I paid for them. Those three books were out at the same time as Crocodile Island and Thirteenth Pearl, so they should be about as scarce as those two books. The problem is that few people want the Bobbsey Twins books, so the value should be fairly low even though the books are harder to find.

This weekend, I found these books:

Crocodile Island has the double oval endpapers. The red book is a Kay Tracey book. Red Gate Farm lists to Fire Dragon and does not have the suggested retail price box on the cover. The Vicki Barr book has a dust jacket. Haunted Bridge is a thick book with a glossy frontispiece.

I have not seen enough yet to know whether more books are showing up locally on a regular basis, but I am definitely seeing more books than I once did. I estimate that what I am now seeing is similar to what I saw in the early 2000s after most books disappeared from local stores but before they disappeared completely. I will continue to check locally in the coming weeks to see what the trend is.

The books are out there, and we just have to find them.


stratomiker said...

Do you go to estate sales? I have had great luck at them in the past, finding huge collections at reasonable prices. But not for a couple years or so. Last one was 2008 where I found all the boys series either in DJs or 1st PCs.

I was sort of moping around lately because I was not given a chance to purchase the large 1000 book collection of a late well-known collector (not that I need them, of course - I have them all and way more. But, you know, you always want to get more!) I was asked to help find buyers for this collection, which I have - but not permitted to buy any myself. Imagine that!

Anyway, I happened into an estate sale at a huge old 30,000 square foot mansion in Cleveland Heights last Friday, and way up in the third floor 'carpeted and silk-wallpapered' attics (I think it was a ballroom/library combo) found a series book collection right out of everybody's dreams, beautiful books from the 1930s through the 1960s, all the important series, over 1200 of them. I got them all and only $2 each! It's been over ten years since I've gotten such a good collection. It really made up for the one I was not permitted to buy, and more!

This house was full of people, probably about 200 or more. I had to wait a half hour just to get in. But absolutely no one else was in the least bit interested in these books!

It took me all weekend to get the books down from that sky-high attic and home, and I really haven't had the chance to check them out that thoroughly - but what fun. They are awesome.

I go to several estate sales every week. 99% of them are a waste of time, but there are those where you find complete collections. I wasn't going to go to this one, but made the effort because I've always admired the house and wanted to see the interior. I could have easily decided against it and missed out on the books!

Don't miss out on estate sales, especially at houses in the older neighborhoods. You'll be amazed at what you can find. It's also a good idea to get to know the liquidators. Some will call you before the sales and you can buy the books while they are still setting up. I used to do that back in the eighties and nineties when I was really at it.


Jennifer said...

Your find sounds fabulous, Mike! Wow!

I went to some estate sales around 10 years ago. Like with antique shops, I have not been checking anything in several years. I had just been thinking recently that I should start checking estate sales. I don't think I will check any until summer, but in June, I think I will.

Robert said...

I'm lucky to have many Half-Price Books locations here in the Dallas, TX area, and my partner and I made a long weekend mini-vacation to Austin. When I asked if he'd be okay with us checking out the Austin area Half-Price Books, he was enthusiastic, and we had a great time. I managed to find a Connie Blair with a dust jacket (I already had a copy w/o DJ) and a Dana Girls, as well as other Hollywood and Broadway books I keep an eye out for.

Used bookstores are hit-or-miss when it comes to searching, but it is one of the thrills of the hunt.