Sunday, October 31, 2010

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House

The Penny Allen series is about the adventures of the Allen family: Philip, Penny, Jimmy, and Marjorie. Sound familiar? The Adventurous Allens are Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie Allen.

The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery
, which was written by Harriet Pyne Grove and published in 1932 begins as follows:
Almost too greatly surprised to believe in their good fortune, the four Adventurous Allens stood at the door of what had long been denominated by their uncle as his "Michigan Shack," while Philip, now the actual legal proprietor, tried to fit a key in the lock. It was well, perhaps, that none of them knew all which would attend their present adventure; but their anticipation was as keen as their surprise was pleasing.
Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House written (more like "edited") by Jean McKetchnie and published in 1950 begins like this:
It was almost unbelievable to the four Allens to be standing on the doorstep before Uncle John's "Michigan Shack." For, in spite of its name, the shack in the Michigan woods appeared to be quite a large house. It was built of logs, but it was such a cabin as money builds, with all the beauty that can be given to it, primitive only in the sense of unfinished timbers, a product of skill, artistic in its fitness to the surroundings. Large, strong, with a wide, hospitable porch in front, it welcomed them, a home for the adventurous Allens! Nineteen-year-old Philip, who had inherited the property from their uncle, stood fumbling to fit the key in the lock.
We have a clear case of plagiarism here, even though the wording has been changed. In this case, the plagiarism much improved upon the mess that Harriet Pyne Grove wrote. It is helpful that McKetchnie placed the proper explanatory information in the first paragraph. She then placed all of the information needed to understand the Allens' past history in next few pages of text.

Some of the explanatory information is copied from Grove's first Adventurous Allens book. Page 18 of The Adventurous Allens states:
Philip Allen was a well set up young collegian of nineteen years. Dark brown hair curved back in the latest college style from a good broad brow. This was equipped with very nearly straight black eyebrows, which separated at a proper distance from a very respectable nose, neither too large nor too small. That with clear, dark, blue-grey eyes and a pleasant mouth which could be quite firm when occasion demanded, gave character to Philip's young face. His height was above medium, probably five feet ten, and possibly he might yet reach the six feet he found desirable. He was brown from the summer's exposure and the usual hatless idiocy of fall days about college. At his uncle's, and about the little city, which numbered about fifty thousand inhabitants, he was accustomed to wear a hat. His face beneath it was rather long than round.
Pages 13 and 14 of Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House describe Philip as follows:
Philip Allen was a well set up young man. Dark brown hair curved back from a broad brow. This was equipped with very nearly straight black eyebrows, which separated at a proper distance from a rather respectable nose, neither too large nor too small. That, with clear, dark, blue-gray eyes and a pleasant mouth which could be quite firm when occasion demanded, gave character to Philip's young face. His height was above medium, probably five feet ten, and possibly he might yet reach the six feet he found desirable. He was brown from the summer's exposure. His face was rather long than round.
The content is remarkably similar. Even though the content is not original, it greatly improves upon the original form. I can understand the text without getting confused! When I wrote about The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery, I mentioned my confusion when the Allens decided to go for a ride in their uncle's boat. In this book, the conversation and events flowed nicely, and I knew exactly what was happening and when! It was so nice!

Some minor details are different, and the text has been greatly condensed. One detail that stands out is when Patrick Ryan has to leave unexpectedly. In Grove's original story, he leaves to look after a drunk relative who has gotten into trouble. In this revised story, Pat has to guide four men on a fishing expedition.

At around page 135, the story begins to deviate from Grove's original story, and the change matches up with around five pages before the end of the original story. The Allens plan to stay in Michigan for the winter, whereas in Grove's book, they decide to take a cruise. The final five pages of the original story concern getting ready for the cruise.

In the Penny Allen book, Philip gets a job, and Jimmy and Marjorie attend school. None of the young people attend school during the five Adventurous Allens books. Around page 147, the winter comes to a close, and the Allens decide to take a cruise on their boat during the summer to check out their Florida property. Once again the plot begins to converge with the original story, except the text appears to have been completely rewritten during this part.

At page 151, the Penny Allen book resumes copying Grove's narrative, this time from the beginning of The Adventurous Allens Afloat. The book diverges from the plot of the Grove book at page 183, and the mystery about Adra is solved through a slightly different means, although with the same result. After a few pages of different text, the book resumes copying the text of the Grove book.

Most of the last 150 pages of The Adventurous Allens Afloat is not used in the Penny Allen book. The book concludes with the Allens preparing to cruise the Caribbean in their boat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nancy Drew Shadow at the Water's Edge

This post is spoiler-free. I know how important it is to Nancy Drew game enthusiasts that details about the games not be spoiled.

The Nancy Drew game which was released this summer, Trail of the Twister, disappointed me. I found it to be a bit bland. There was not much interesting dialogue with the characters, and about all that happened was that the characters kept giving Nancy chores to do.

The farmhouse setting was boring, and so was the general store. There was nowhere to explore, so the game was lacking.

I live in Oklahoma, and I found some of the characters' accents to be annoying They don't sound like people from around here, at least not in central Oklahoma. I detected what sounded like an accent from the Deep South. Most people in Oklahoma do not have that type of accent. A Texas accent would have been much more appropriate, especially since the game is set in western Oklahoma, rather than in eastern Oklahoma.

It also didn't help that I felt like the characters were portrayed as kind of stupid, so it seemed like another slam at my home state.
I rank Trail of the Twister and Haunted Carousel as my two least favorite Nancy Drew games.

That said, I had high hopes for the newest Nancy Drew game, Shadow at the Water's Edge, which was released this month. Shadow at the Water's Edge is set in Japan at a riokan, which is a traditional Japanese family inn. By the time I was around one-third of the way through the game, I already knew that this game would rank as one of my very favorite games.

The game is very spooky, and Nancy gets to do a lot of exploring. The recent games have lacked the exploring that Nancy does in the early games, and I have really missed that. Nancy gets to interact with four characters in person and with two characters by phone, in addition to Bess and George.

The character interactions are well-done and natural, and the dialogue exchange is extensive and possibly the most of any Nancy Drew game to date. I absolutely loved talking to the characters. This game truly told a story, and I was kept on edge wondering which character was the culprit. It is not obvious like it is in some of the games.

I read reviews of Trail of the Twister after I completed that game. The reviews were lukewarm at best, and people complained about the endless chores. I just read the early reviews of Shadow at the Water's Edge by people who have just finished the game, and quite a few people are referring to it as the very best Nancy Drew game.

Shadow at the Water's Edge is a good game to try if you have never played a Nancy Drew game and wish to try one out. You can always go to Her Interactive's website to get hints, and you can also find a walkthrough online to help you out.

One last note: The game has a glitch that may not affect everyone. Some of us have run into a problem with needing to delete EVP recordings, and the game does not allow the recording to be deleted, even though the player has listened to it. You need to take any available second chance. That was how I was able to overcome my problem and continue with the game. It caused me to have to do a few things over again, but it was better than the alternative of starting the entire game over.

November 4 Update: Her Interactive has now released a patch for the glitch with the EVP recordings. Go here to get the patch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adventurous Allens Final Thoughts

After I finished the fifth Adventurous Allens book, I felt traumatized and like I had dementia. It was agony forcing myself to read the final book. All five books are poorly written, but the first three are still pretty good stories in spite of that fact. The fourth and fifth books are very weak and difficult to get through. I skimmed parts of both books, especially the fifth book, since all I wanted by that point was to put an end to reading a series that I no longer enjoyed.

I searched the archives of the Girls' Series Group on Yahoo! Groups, and I was a bit horrified that years ago someone stated that Harriet Pyne Grove was a pseudonym of Mildred Wirt Benson. The writing of Harriet Pyne Grove is nowhere near the level of that of Mildred Wirt Benson. In fact, I suspect that Mildred Wirt Benson's practice writing from back when she was very young would have been much better than the books of Harriet Pyne Grove.

To make clear to anyone who is not aware of who wrote what in series fiction, Harriet Pyne Grove had no connection to Mildred Wirt Benson. All of the books written by Mildred Wirt Benson are listed on this page. Benson was one of the very best writers of juvenile series fiction, and all of her books are very good.

On a funny note, someone read one of Grove's books years ago (The S.P. Mystery, I believe) and thought it was so awful that he suggested an annual Harriet Pyne Grove Award for Mediocre Writing. Ha. That's actually a good idea. I nominate Roy J. Snell for the award since I have read just one of his books, Jane Withers and the Phantom Violin, which is an awful story.

I will probably never read another one of Harriet Pyne Grove's books after this experience. I have this idea that the Adventurous Allens series might be Grove's best work. The reason I think this is because someone took the Adventurous Allens series and edited the books into a two book series called Penny Allen, which I will review shortly. Wouldn't some of Grove's better books be chosen rather than some of her worst?

If the Adventurous Allens books are Grove's best, I cannot stomach the thought of reading her other books. Fortunately, I have held back from buying any other books by Grove due to a suspicion that the books might not be good. Some of the dust jackets are pretty, but I like to collect books that are good, not just books that have pretty artwork. As always, if anyone has read any of Grove's other books, I would love to read your opinion.

Does anyone wish to mention a series book that is so bad that it messes with your mind?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt

The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt begins with the Allens' return to their Michigan lodge after spending many months marooned on an uncharted island. The Allens plan to take in many guests this summer as a means for raising money so that they can keep the lodge, the ship, and many other possessions which they inherited from their uncle.

The Allens take out advertisements in newspapers to let people know about the lodge.
The reply to their advertisement had been surprising. "Exclusive, references, families, no young children, rates reasonable but not low, cruiser and boats," and some other catch-words had been prominent in the notice which they had sent to several papers on their way to New York from Miami.
The Allens advertise in multiple newspapers around the country, and they think the response is "surprising." What did they expect? Of course they are going to get people if they advertise everywhere!

Not only do the Allens get guests from their advertisements, they invite everybody they know. What I cannot figure out is whether all of their friends are also paying guests like the people who responded to the advertisements.

The Allens have so many people staying at their lodge that it is impossible to keep track of them. I have to wonder exactly how big this lodge is. Grove never describes the size other than stating that it has two stories. How large is it? Grove also never states how many people are at the lodge, but I gather that they have at least two dozen guests. The lodge must be some kind of mansion if the Allens can entertain so many guests comfortably.

Like the last book, this book was also excessively boring for large portions of the text. I did not find it that interesting to follow Nancy around as she performs mundane chores and makes plans for her guests.

Not too long into the story, a prowler is chased off soon after he begins digging a hole in the Allens' garage. The Allens wonder whether he might have been digging for something valuable. They park their vehicle over the hole so that the prowler cannot come back to dig. The Allens fail to think about the hole again and seem to have no curiosity about it. Hey, if someone were to come dig a hole in my yard in the middle of the night for no reason and then run off when spotted, I'd be a bit concerned about it. Wouldn't you?

The last 50 or so pages of the book was the most interesting part of the story. A treasure is finally found, but with no effort on the part of the Allens. It is kind of like the Allens' rescue from the island in the previous book. By no means can the content of this book be described as a "treasure hunt" as the title states. The title of this book should have been The Adventurous Allens' Vacation Resort.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Adventurous Allens Marooned

In The Adventurous Allens Marooned, the Allens travel around in the ocean in the vicinity of Florida. During one of their jaunts, a storm blows up unexpectedly. The Allens are pushed ahead of the storm, and the Nancy Allen is at the storm's mercy.

After the storm, the yacht comes to rest near an uncharted island. The ship is not damaged, but is nearly out of gas. The Allens have no choice but to anchor and explore the island.

The Allens soon discover that the island was once the site of a plantation. The plantation house has burned down, and there appears to be no sign of human life on the island, at least at first. The Allens have a couple of narrow escapes from snakes and mongooses as they explore the island.

I greatly enjoyed the first half of the book, but in the middle of the book, it began to lose me. The Allens explore the island on several excursions, and they cut through the brush, look through the sugar house, see a few snakes, see some of the old crops, explore again, look through the sugar house, see a few snakes, see some of the old crops, repeat, repeat. Boring!

We even get an entire chapter where Marjorie writes a long entry in her diary telling of their adventures up to that point in a rambling fashion. Meaning, Marjorie tells the story of the book over again in a chapter but in a rambling disjointed conversational fashion. I confess that I began skimming the book at that point. Boring!

We then get another chapter later where Marjorie tells of one day's events in her journal in the same fashion as above, then the next chapter gives the events from the perspective of the other characters. The trouble is that none of it is that interesting. I skimmed a lot of that part of the book as well.

The book was true to life as far as how events would actually transpire if one were to land on an island in the ocean and then explore it. Except this is a book, and the events need to be a little more exciting than in real life. Cutting through the brush over and over again did not do much for me.

Ah, but the book had so much potential. There was mention of cannibals, but nothing came of that. The Allens were never in any real danger, aside from the snakes.

I was annoyed that it takes months for the Allens to get around to making sails out of sheets so they can sail back to Florida. Seriously... the Allens are stranded for months, and all they do is cut through the brush over and over again and explore the sugar house, and so on and so forth. So little happens that it feels like no more than a week or so, but it is actually supposed to be months. (!)

The next paragraph spoils how the Allens get rescued from the island, so skip it if you don't want to know. I hardly think it matters, since the frontispiece and the title of a chapter give it away.

And then, in the end, the Allens do not need to make sails because an airplane crashes into the ocean right by the Allens' boat. The Allens rescue the pilot, tie his plane to the boat, and transfer his fuel to their boat. They then take off for Florida. I expected for the Allens to have to work to be rescued. It is not acceptable for them to miraculously obtain fuel without any effort. Lame!

I got confused during some of the excursions because the events were poorly described. There is an earthquake, and then Pat tells the others, "We can look for the sea, folks. We'll have to risk the hills!" I did not realize at first what the statement meant. After reading a bit further, I finally realized that that they were going to higher ground in case of a tsunami as a result of the earthquake. It was awful trying to interpret the poor writing at times. I'd quote a bunch of it so you can see, but it is not worth my time. Ugh.

I really enjoyed the first three Adventurous Allens books, but this one was a bit mediocre. This is why I'm afraid to buy any additional books by Harriet Pyne Grove.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 5

Some insightful comments were made about the auctions in this unrelated post in this blog. One person commented that it would be hard for most collectors to come up with thousands of dollars in one week, so it might have been better for the seller to have staggered the auctions. Another person made the point that it was unfortunate that Hidden Staircase closed first, because someone might not be willing to bid the full amount on it in hopes of having a chance to get Old Clock. I want to add my thoughts.

I had the money in my savings account, and this is the first time that I have had a large enough amount of money on hand in order to be able to have a chance at this level of purchase. I was pleased that two sellers offered the books and close together. This could have worked in my favor.

As far as ending times, I prefer it when a seller uses a software program such as Turbo Lister to list auctions, because what happens is that the auctions end simultaneously. When multiple auctions end at the same time, then no one can be tipped off about my level of interest. Unfortunately, that was not the case with these auctions.

What happens when the end times are a few minutes apart is that I have to throw everything at the first book and hope for the best. I know that in most cases I won't have a chance at the second book because the other bidder will raise the final bid amount for the second book in reaction to my bid on the first book.

In the case of the first set of auctions, I was lucky that the book I wanted was the last one to close. I was not willing to pay much for Shadow Ranch, so my final bid did not register. No one knew that the book I really wanted was Bungalow Mystery or how much I intended to bid. I strongly suspect that my high bid took the runner-up, a reseller, aback greatly, and if he would have known about my bid ahead of time, I would not have won the auction. I have been in communication with him, and he has asked me if I have an extra of the Bungalow Mystery dust jacket. Therefore, it is apparent that he regrets not winning the auction.

In the second set of auctions, a Nancy Drew collector was able to win both auctions for Old Clock and Hidden Staircase. I have a limit as to what I will bid, so I had to let those auctions go. I also knew both books were available in the third set of auctions. Since I knew I had another chance, I was not willing to go all-out.

The third-highest bidder for Old Clock in the second set of auctions bid $6,788.00. That person is the same person who bought the $11,700 copy of Old Clock a couple of years ago and is presumably buying these books to resell. He was the runner-up bidder for the Bungalow Mystery book that I bought. I am assuming that he did not realize that the bidding would go higher on Old Clock than what he bid. I think he would have bid higher if he had known.

In the third set of auctions, I wanted both Old Clock and Hidden Staircase. I was only able to successfully win the first one to close, Hidden Staircase. Once again, I took the same bidder, the reseller, by surprise. I am sure if he had known of my great interest beforehand, I would not have won Hidden Staircase. I also believe that my bid for Hidden Staircase caused his bid for Old Clock to be higher than what it otherwise would have been. So if the auctions had closed simultaneously, I would have had a better chance at Old Clock.

I also was thrilled that the books were in such bad shape, since I knew many people would refuse to bid on them for that reason. I do not understand that reasoning, since the books can be found with a little searching, and the dust jackets are about impossible to find. People who have large sums of money on hand would certainly not bid on damaged books, but people like me try to piece together the first printings however we can. We are willing to buy the damaged books and trade them with other books.

If some of you have never understood why some of us snipe auctions, perhaps now you might understand. We do it to have a better chance of winning the auctions. We do it in order to have a chance against the people with deep pockets. It is the only way to go with high-profile auctions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nancy Drew First Printing Auctions Part 4

I was the buyer of the first printing Hidden Staircase mentioned in my previous post. First off, I want to make clear that the book is as disgusting as I knew it would be from the seller's pictures. This is why I am appalled that someone told that seller that his Old Clock book was worth $1,000.

These people quote huge values and gush to no end about how wonderful the books are even when the books are in horrible shape. If a book is trashed, then it is only worth a small fraction of the Farah's Guide value. I have to sell the Hidden Staircase book, and while I want to get as much as possible to offset my cost, I know I cannot get that much for it. I have quite a dilemma on how to price it.

The Farah's Guide value for the first printing Hidden Staircase book is $600. I figure mine is worth no more than 25% so maybe $150. However, that might be too high. My plan is to try to sell it and see what happens. Poor condition books that would otherwise be valuable are very difficult to price. This is the Hidden Staircase jacket that I just purchased.

 I am pairing this dust jacket with a Hidden Staircase first printing book that I've had for probably around eight or nine years. This is the book.

The book has spine slant and a scuff along the top edge, but it is in fantastic condition compared to the book that came with the dust jacket I just purchased. This is the Hidden Staircase first printing dust jacket that I've had for 11 years.

Pretty horrific, right? However, it has been my pride and joy for 11 years, and I will actually regret to see it go. The stain on it is not a water stain but some type of chemical, and it came from a seller who sold old television parts. I have always wondered if this jacket and its book were in with old television parts. It came with a book that had the same chemical stain, and I sold the book many years ago.

I also have a great dilemma on how to price the partial first printing dust jacket. My gut feeling is that it should be priced at somewhere between $500 and $1,000. $500 is probably how I should go, but I am torn. These jackets rarely show up even in trashed condition.

I will most likely pair the horrible condition book I just purchased with this partial dust jacket and then put the combination up for sale. I may go with eBay in order to reach the greatest audience. My first attempt might be to try for around $1,000 just to see what happens. It can't hurt since my listing will be free. I can then lower the price gradually. I am very mindful of people buying to resell, and I would prefer for a book like this to go to someone who actually wants it.

I tend to think the value is roughly $500, but like I said, I will probably start at $1,000 and work my way down. I want as much as possible for the extra book and jacket to offset my high cost for the two books just purchased. People who are willing to settle for a poor condition dust jacket would never pay thousands for a nice condition dust jacket, so $500 may be the actual value. I'm okay if a few of you want to give your opinion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 3

The seller of the Nancy Drew books from round one then listed his 1930A-1 Old Clock book with dust jacket and his 1930A-1 Hidden Staircase book with dust jacket. These auctions overlapped with the auctions mentioned in my previous post. This is the first time that two copies of the 1930A-1 Old Clock and 1930A-1 Hidden Staircase dust jackets have ever been sold on eBay at the same time. Normally, years pass with neither surfacing, yet we saw two of each simultaneously.

1930A-1 Old Clock with dust jacket

Old Clock sold for $7,633.88, once again, far short of $11,700.

1930A-1 Hidden Staircase with dust jacket

This book sold for $4,361.00.

We have two differing opinions about the overall value of the books and jackets in cases like this where the books are in rough shape. Some people feel that the books are worth less than the Farah's Guide values while others seem to think the books are worth more than the Farah's Guide values.

I have been in communication with the other bidder on these two lots. Neither one of us wanted the books and only wanted the dust jackets. A lot of people assumed that the horrible condition of the books made these particular auctions to be undesirable. I saw this as an opportunity. Those of us who are actively bidding on these first printing books and jackets already have the books and only desire the dust jackets.

The dust jackets that list to Bungalow Mystery are so extremely scarce that collectors have to settle for whatever condition dust jacket comes up for sale. There are only eight known examples of the Old Clock first printing dust jacket in existence, and two of them are the ones that just sold on eBay.

The dust jackets are very scarce and desirable, but these particular examples are not in excellent condition. They are valuable but worth somewhat less than the Farah's Guide values. The books are in horrible shape and are not worth much at all.

Someone told the seller regarding Old Clock, "Do you know yet that this book is valued at $10,000 for the dj and $1,000 for the book?? It is noted in Farah's Guide that 'the first edition dust jacket is extremly rare with, probably, less than ten existing copies in any condition.' Your dj is perfect! I hope you will get what you should for this unbelievable find!!"

The book is trashed. How can it possibly be worth $1,000? The Farah's Guide values are for books and jackets in great shape. The seller was told that the jacket is "perfect." As I told Jenn Fisher, the jacket has a "huge freaking water stain! It's not perfect!" The jacket is not worth as much as Farah's Guide states since it is not perfect!

By telling the sellers the very highest values, the sellers are guaranteed to be disappointed when the books fail to reach those values. It happens every single time one of these books goes up for sale. It happened with the Bungalow Mystery first printing book and jacket I purchased recently.

In the Bungalow Mystery auction, someone told the seller, "Wow! Awesome book! This is the true first print for this book and worth around $5000! May go higher, its in such great shape." Most people who commented publicly about that auction and who are the same people who desire these early first printings pointed out the mildew problem and felt that the book was worth somewhat less than the Farah's Guide value. Why do other people who are not interested in bidding tell the sellers that the books are worth more than the Farah's Guide values?

Jackets aside, the water-damaged Old Clock and Hidden Staircase books are of low value, which makes the comment about the Old Clock book having a value of $1,000 to be completely ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 2

The second round of early first printing Nancy Drew auctions began when a seller listed the 1930A-1 Old Clock and 1930A-1 Hidden Staircase books with intact first printing dust jackets.

Nancy Drew Old Clock 1930A-1 with dust jacket

This book closed at $7,257.98.

Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase 1930A-1 with dust jacket

This book closed at $6,233.00.

These auctions were interesting, because the seller did not know what she had. Before I continue, you should read Jennifer Fisher's blog post, "A Tale of Two 1st Printing Nancy Drew Books Part 1" if you have not already done so. Jenn summarizes quite nicely the usual sequence of events that I will confess to me is a "major irritant."

I freaked when I became aware of these auctions for several reasons. I wanted them badly, knew that I did not have much of a chance, and knew the seller had created a situation inadvertently that would cause some people not to be aware of the auctions. I also knew that a few people would try hard to get the auctions closed early, and others would advertise the auctions to the entire world.

I immediately contacted the seller with the following message.
You will have people try to get you to close these auctions early. The big bids will not come in until the final ten seconds of the auction. You would be well advised not to accept any private offers for these books. Those people will be trying to get the books for a bargain, at your expense. You are better off letting the auctions run to completion.
The seller understood and acted accordingly. Hey guys, that's all you need to tell these sellers. Whenever I send this type of message, they get the point. They don't need to be told some huge value that the book will likely not reach and then be bitterly disappointed that they didn't get $10,000 or more.

The seller had already received offers and received additional offers throughout the auctions. I was unable to win the auctions, but I tried. We did learn from the winning bidder that the seller had been given the books by a friend who was dying. The friend told the seller to take a nice vacation with the money. The seller had no idea of the books' value, but apparently the original owner did.

It should be noted that Old Clock fell quite a bit short of the $11,700 auction close of a couple years ago. The vast majority of collectors do not value the first printing dust jacket at $10,000 or more. And because nearly all collectors do not feel that the dust jacket is worth that much, or perhaps are simply unwilling or unable to pay that much, it is quite disturbing that people contact all of these sellers and tell them that their books are worth $10,000 or more. Even when the book is in horrible shape, people tell the seller that the book is hugely valuable! More on this in my next post.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 1

I have been keeping quiet about the recent high-profile Nancy Drew auctions on eBay because of my interest in them.   Most of what follows was written over a week ago, but I felt it was best to wait to publish my comments.

Jennifer Fisher has already written about the first auctions in her blog post, "Nancy Drew Format One Printings Sell at eBay."

I had been holding back on commenting until I had Bungalow Mystery in my possession. I was the person who bought it. It sold for $3,305.00.

This is the first time that I had ever bid high on one of these books and successfully won. I had the money on hand in my savings account, so I went for it. I was shocked that I won, and I thought it went below value.

Several people have already commented about these books and seemed to think that they were not very desirable due to the condition of the books. I disagree. The first printing books, though very scarce, are not that hard to find as compared to the dust jackets.

Shadow Ranch was the first printing book and jacket and sold for $2,130.00. It went for about what Farah's Guide states that it is worth. For me, the jacket was too age-darkened to be worth that much, although now I am second-guessing myself since I do not have that first printing dust jacket.

Red Gate Farm sold for $2,130.00, which I feel was a bit steep since the dust jacket is not that hard to find. It closed well above the Farah's Guide price, and I recall one in recent months closing at around $800 and not meeting the seller's reserve.

The Red Gate Farm first printing book is very hard to find, but the jacket is the easiest one to find of the early first printing dust jackets. The first five printings all have the identical dust jacket, so it is approximately five times easier to find. Many people take the jacket from the 2nd-5th printings and place on the first printing book in order to get the true first printing. That is why the jacket is not worth $2,000.

Years ago, I bought the second printing of Red Gate Farm with dust jacket for around $150. The second printing of Red Gate Farm has the identical dust jacket as the first printing. I later bought the first printing book for Red Gate Farm for around $90. I placed the dust jacket from the second printing book on the first printing book and created a matched first printing for the low price of around $240.

Lilac Inn sold for $2,330.00, but it was not the first printing book or the first printing jacket.

I do not think that the mold/mildew problem had any impact on the auctions considering how high the prices were. In fact, the comments about the books in the Nancy Drew Sleuths group and on the eBay Bookseller's Board have centered in on the mold/mildew situation and have completely missed the point that the first printing dust jackets are approximately 90-95% of the value.

Take the first printing of Old Clock with the intact 1930A-1 dust jacket that sold a couple years ago for $11,700. The first printing book without a dust jacket seldom sells for over $500, regardless of what Farah's Guide states. Take $11,700 and subtract $500 to get $11,200. $11,200 is 95.7% of $11,700.

I took the time to look at my very early blank endpapers books. Nearly all of the blank endpapers books with jackets in my possession have books that have some significant problems. The jackets are so important to me that I do not care if the book has a mildew stain on it. I cannot see the mildew stain when the jacket is on the book. I see the condition of the jacket as far more important, and I am certain that the other bidders felt the same way.

I have sought the first printing books and jackets now for nearly 14 years. I have not found it very difficult to acquire the bare books, with a few exceptions. The first printing books for #4 and #9 are the hardest from my perspective. #6 and #8 are next. The others are not very difficult to acquire, relatively speaking. For instance, I have the 1930A-1 Old Clock book in my collection, have sold three extras over the years, and have a fifth copy for sale right now. While the first printing Old Clock book is very scarce, it is infinitely easier to find than the dust jacket.

The Bungalow dust jacket for the book I bought is very nice. The spine and back panel have darkened with age, but how many of these jackets show up without the age-darkening? How many of these dust jackets show up at all? The main problem with the book is that it is warped. Aside from that, the book is in very nice shape and does not have the usual major problems that books have when exposed to moisture.

The book only smells very slightly musty so that the smell is not even bothersome.  Be aware that I absolutely hate books that have a strong odor. I have to hold my nose very close to the book to smell it, so the smell is not a problem.  There are no water stains inside or outside the book. The book has no price stickers and no writing inside. The illustrations are all there. The condition of the outside of the book is excellent except for the spotting on the back of the book. It is very surprising that the book is nearly undamaged except for the warping. Most all books that I have ever seen that are warped have noticeable damage. Aside from that, the book is very nice.

I own a book press. I placed the book in the book press, and it will remain there for an indefinite period of time.

If ultimately I want a better first printing book that is not warped, it can be found for no more than a couple hundred dollars.   For now, I have the 1930A-1 Bungalow dust jacket on my 1930A-1 Old Clock book to keep it safe.

If I wanted to do it, I feel that I could put this book and jacket back up for sale at double the price and get a sale within six months to one year.   Of course, I'm not planning to sell the book and jacket.   As many of you already know, there is a lot more to this saga, and I will write about the other two rounds of auctions in the coming days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Adventurous Allens Afloat

At the beginning of The Adventurous Allens Afloat, the Allens hasten their departure from Michigan in their new yacht in order to protect a runaway girl. Adra Spencer has amnesia and believes that mean Mr. Spencer is not her real father. Adra remembers being in the hospital due to some type of accident but has no other memories of her past.

Under the cover of darkness, the Nancy Allen departs for its ultimate destination of Florida. On board are Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie, who are the four Adventurous Allens. Adra Spencer is hidden in one of the cabins. Newlyweds Pat and Ann Mary Ryan also depart on the yacht as the Allens' crew.

The Allens remain cautious, assuming that Mr. Spencer is suspicious about what happened to Adra. Shortly into the journey, Nancy and Marjorie purchase a wig and new clothes for Adra so that she can leave the ship on excursions. The Allens soon learn that their fears are well-founded. Not only has Mr. Spencer hired some men to shadow the Allens, Mr. Spencer himself soon appears. Later, the Allens discover Adra's real father, and Adra is reunited with him.

In time, the Allens arrive in New York City where they visit some friends of the Curtis family. They find themselves still followed by Mr. Spencer's henchmen and are constantly on the alert.

The Allens soon have a dilemma when they find that too many of their acquaintances expect to travel south to Florida on the yacht. Even worse, some of the hopeful travelers are not well liked by the Allens.

This story is suspenseful with the constant worry about Mr. Spencer and whether he or one of his men will catch up with the Allens. I also found the Allens' discomfort while visiting the Curtis' friends to be interesting. From pages 177-178:
From Mary's "ravings" by letter Nancy had expected to find the family that Mary was visiting one of the old aristocratic families of New York, not prominent in the gayer affairs, perhaps, but of a truer culture. Nancy's ideals of culture were built on Uncle John's ideas and those of the Allen family in general.

But instead of people like the Curtis family they found a noisy, pretentious group, friendly enough, indeed, but it all took Nancy's breath in surprise. The large apartment, to which Charles escorted them from the hotel, was decorated in the newest and most brilliant array of forms and colors in the "new art," admiringly explained to Nancy by Mary. It was "very effective," Nancy said, in wise evasion. The eldest daughter, whom Mary had met at school, was "devoted to art," her mother said, and Nancy played the part of the responsive and unsophisticated girl from the "Middle West" to perfection, though it was really only her natural desire to be responsive, while inwardly disliking the whole display and wondering at Charles and Mary. They had known people like this in the Middle West. Why be impressed and think it New York?
The room is "full of a blue smoke, the effect of too many cigarettes." Nancy declines a cigarette that is offered to her. Later, one of the young people at the party gets drunk. The Allens, of course, do not touch the cigarettes or the wine. They are shown to be very upright young people and are relieved to get away from the party.

I also greatly enjoyed this story. This book seems to have fewer errors than the first two books, although many of the same errors are still present. Grove continues to use quotation marks excessively, as can be seen above in the portion I quoted. While it is true that the quotation marks are often used for brief quotes made by others, I find it very annoying. It was not necessary to include brief quotes all through the entire book.

I could not help but think of Beverly Gray as I read this book due to the cruise connection. Could Clair Blank have read these books prior to writing her books? I also noticed that Nancy has multiple suitors. She receives a marriage proposal in this book and turns it down much for the same reasons that Beverly Gray turns down Jim's marriage proposal. Hmm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Avoiding Shopping Cart Abandonment

Recently, I participated in a message thread on Bonanza about shopping cart abandonment. I made the following comments:
I have abandoned two shopping carts in the last couple of months. In the first case, it was on a seller’s individual website in which a shopping cart system was set up. The site clearly stated that PayPal was accepted, but when I went to check out, I was prompted to enter a credit card number. The cart had no way to pay through PayPal. I did not want to pay by credit card, and I did not want to have to contact the seller to work out how to complete the purchase through PayPal. I left. 
The other abandoned shopping cart was here on Bonanz[a]. I found a book I wanted to buy. I added it to my cart, and the cart showed no shipping. It stated to see the item description. I looked at the item description, and nothing was mentioned about shipping costs. I did not want to have to contact the seller to find out what the seller would charge. I did not want to submit an offer and wait to see what would happen. I removed my book from the cart.
After I made my comments, someone else made a response about never having left a cart due to no shipping quoted and seemed to think that someone who would is an impulse shopper. I wish to further explain my thinking.

The book was a common book, and I had many choices in my decision. Why on earth would I tie myself up possibly a day or so while waiting for a shipping quote? Furthermore, I did not want to submit an offer and risk having the shipping be more than I was willing to pay. I did not want to possibly be obligated to pay a higher than desired shipping amount. That is why I removed the book from my cart.

I understand why sellers on Bonanza and other sites do not have the shipping amount available when the items are heavy or irregular in shape. The alternative sites do not have adequate shipping calculators. For books, media mail is not zoned, and it is easy to figure out the correct shipping amount to all zones. I see no reason why sellers cannot have a flat rate media mail option for books.

I also want to mention other reasons why sellers fail to make a sale. I wanted to buy the two Penny Allen books since I am currently reading the Adventurous Allens series. The two Penny Allen books borrowed heavily from the plots of the Adventurous Allens books. I want to read them after I finish the Adventurous Allens series.

I was able to find one book easily on Bonanza with free shipping, and it was the nicest of any books up for sale at that time. That one was an easy decision. The other book proved to be more difficult. There were around 12 copies available, but none were on eBay or Bonanza. None of the available copies had pictures. None of them had good descriptions. Most of them were stated to be in "good" condition with few details. Some listings had a boilerplate description about how the book might have highlighting, etc., like an old children's book would have highlighting. Please.

I would have gone with a slightly higher-priced copy if a good description were present. Since none of the sellers could bother to describe the books, then I had nothing to go on. I went with the second lowest priced copy and hoped the condition would be okay.

Sellers need to have a clearly stated postage amount for books, and they need to have a good picture of the book with an adequate description. The description does not have to be long but it should state if the binding is secure and should mention any flaws. If a listing meets all three criteria, then I will be much more likely to purchase that book than a different one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Books for Sale on eBay

Another promotion for free auction listings at any price has once again begun on eBay. This promotion is 100 free listings per month until January 7. eBay seems to be moving towards free auctions all the time, as people have predicted. I'm sure that they have figured out that people like me refuse to list anything unless the listing is free.

I have listed some more books in my continuing quest to knock down the number of extra books that I have. I listed some Black Stallion, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden books. I will list more books at various times between now and January 7 as I feel like it.

Books for Sale

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery

As I read the last couple of chapters of the first book in this series, The Adventurous Allens, I felt like the content was filler in order to increase the length of the book. The interesting part of the book ended with Chapter 18, and I was not much interested in the events that transpired during Chapters 19 and 20.

The early Beverly Gray books have similar filler content, and I know that the A. L. Burt Company asked Clair Blank to increase the length of her manuscripts. I assume that a similar request was made of Harriet Pyne Grove with respect to the first book in this series.

I was uninterested in the final two chapters until just a few pages before the end of the story, when I sensed that something interesting was about to happen. The Adventurous Allens quite literally leads directly into the second book, The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery. The Adventurous Allens ends as follows:
Philip helped down an excited Marjorie, who ran like Jimmy, to the porch. But something came over Nancy, who put her hands to her face and cried softly, with a sob or two, reaching for her handkerchief in a moment, while Philip, who had started with his keys, came back to pat her on her shoulder in silent understanding. Then he joined the others, springing up the steps to unlock the door.

And beyond that locked door lay discovery, such discovery as led to further undreamed of adventures for the Adventurous Allens.
This is the beginning of the second book, The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery:
Almost too greatly surprised to believe in their good fortune, the four Adventurous Allens stood at the door of what had long been denominated by their uncle as his "Michigan Shack," while Philip, now the actual legal proprietor, tried to fit a key in the lock. It was well, perhaps, that none of them knew all which would attend their present adventure; but their anticipation was as keen as their surprise was pleasing.
The Adventurous Allens step out of the first book and right into the second. It is not too often that consecutive volumes in a series end and begin during the same moment.

The Adventurous Allens, Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie, just spent their entire summer traveling in two delivery vans. Now that summer is over, they have arrived at their uncle's cabin on Lake Superior in Michigan. Much to their surprise, they find a very nice two-story log cabin that is fully furnished. The Allens had not expected a place nearly so nice, or they would have come to the cabin before traveling west in the delivery vans.

The Allens plan to make the cabin their new home, although the trouble of finances still weighs heavily upon Philip and Nancy. They are not certain how long they will have enough money to maintain the cabin, but for now, they have a nice place to live.

The young people soon learn that the cabin is reputedly haunted, and Marjorie thinks she sees a glimpse of the "Green Lady" shortly after their arrival. The others assume that Marjorie is mistaken, but Marjorie continues to think that she did indeed see something. Later, Jimmy sees a strange intruder, and wonders whether Marjorie was right. The Allens learn of a missing girl and deduce that their mysterious intruder could be that person.

I find it refreshing that the Allens quickly make the connection between their ghost and the missing girl. Many of the Stratemeyer Syndicate books have missing individuals who turn out to be people who appear in the story. Yet in the Syndicate books, the author pretends that no connection exists, until shockingly, the connection is revealed near the end. I like how the Allens are smart enough to see the connection fairly quickly. My intelligence is insulted each time I read a book in which the author pretends that a ghost has nothing to do with a missing person known to be in the vicinity. Thank you, Harriet Pyne Grove!

The openness as to who the ghost likely is does not take away from the suspense of the book. Sure, we know that the ghost will turn out to be the girl, but we would have known that anyway even if the author had the characters act stupid about it. The mystery is still compelling because we do not know the girl's story or exactly where she has been hiding.

This book has the same errors as the first book, with extra quotation marks, omitted quotation marks, and misspelled words. I had a few instances of not quite understanding what I was reading and kept going rather than trying to figure it out.

A big problem with Grove's books is that important explanatory information is left out. For instance, on page 18, the young people find their uncle's boat and discuss going for a ride in it. They get in the boat, but nothing is mentioned about taking off. It is not until the end of page 19 that I figured out that the Allens are already on the lake in the boat. I was disoriented by thinking they were talking at the dock before taking off to discovering that they were well en route.

Despite minor annoyances with not quite understanding parts of the text, I enjoyed this second Adventurous Allens book even more than I did the first book. This book had no boring parts, except perhaps some of the story at the very beginning. Once I got into the story, the plot developed nicely, and I greatly enjoyed the story.

The Allens come into possession of a yacht partway through the book. The yacht is described to be "a thirty-eight-foot family cruiser." Wow-whee! Guess what the Allens decide to do? Why take a cruise, of course! Now onward to The Adventurous Allens Afloat.