Saturday, September 10, 2011

Deceptive Book Listings

I am always bothered when I see buyers pay too much for books that are not the advertised first printings.

This summer I spotted a Nancy Drew book that was advertised as a first printing, yet it was not. I am not going to identify the seller, who is probably not a collector.

The book is not the first printing because the back panel of the dust jacket lists the Dana Girls #1-15 followed by #17. The first printing dust jacket lists the Dana Girls #1-15 only.

The book sold for $39.99, which is way too high in the current market for a book that has a dust jacket that is not the first printing and has a faded spine. It is a shame.

The seller stated the following in the description.
Dust jacket lists to this title "The Scarlet Slipper Mystery #32" on inner sleeve as well as on the interior pages making this the 1st printing of this title.
While the seller could have been purposefully deceptive, I believe that this seller likely thought that the book was the first printing. In any case, I am willing to give this seller a pass. Unfortunately, the outcome was that a buyer paid too much for a book that does not have a first printing dust jacket.

Before finishing up this blog post, I wanted to see if any of you could find this listing by searching for it on Google. Much to my surprise, I found another Scarlet Slipper listing misidentified as the first printing.

This auction ended right before the other one was listed, so the other seller probably used this auction as the basis for the first printing identification. The lesson is never to use another listing as the means for making a first printing identification, unless you are absolutely certain that the seller is a knowledgeable and honest collector. Even then, you may have to be careful.

Some collectors appear to mislead their buyers on purpose. In fact, several collectors are vague about certain printing points, perhaps hoping that buyers who do not own Farah's Guide pay too much for books that are not firsts. Be very careful, especially if you do not own Farah's Guide.


Andy said...

Good advice that you can never be too careful if you don't own a Farah's Guide. I have been burned by an unscrupulous seller or two in the past myself.

stratomiker said...

The high price of Farah's Guide continues to keep it an exclusive item. Most amateur sellers are not going to pay $70 to $100 for a copy of this book. So they go by standard bibliographic points and post those in their ads. I do not believe these people are out to fool anyone. This ad fits the criteria for a first printing according to standard bibliographic points.

Only those who who have done or have an 'in' to further in-depth research like Farah's Guide would know any different.

But many people don't even know about the guide because it is so exclusive - where can you even hear about it? And others who know aren't going to pay all that money for it when they don't even know there is more to the story.

The guide could be produced for a much lower price today with print-on-demand and vanity presses - and sold anywhere from $15 to $25 for a nice edition. Keeping it expensive and exclusive is basically just keeping it out of the hands of the masses and continuing the problem of many who sell Nancy Drew books misinformed, or not further 'in-depth' informed.


Jennifer said...

The guide could definitely be sold cheaper by using one of those services.

Several years after I began collecting, I heard about Farah's Guide in a newspaper article. It cost $40 at that time and seemed way, way too expensive. A couple years later, I finally bought it, and I believe that I paid $60 for that guide. It still seemed very expensive, and I hated having to forego buying certain books so that I could have the guide. For me, it was worth it, but I understand why many collectors don't buy it.

Many sellers are just ignorant of the important points and are not purposefully deceptive. Those are not the sellers I mean. I consider them uninformed, and the two sellers whose listings were used in this blog post fall under the category of "uninformed." They did not mean to misinform their buyers.

The sellers to whom I refer own Farah's Guide and know better. Those are the ones who are being purposefully deceptive. Obviously, I am not comfortable with outing them.

I'll give an example from years ago. One seller owns Farah's Guide, since the guide is quoted by that seller in most listings. Anyone who owns Farah's Guide knows that the first printing of Whistling Bagpipes has a tri-fold ad. The second printing lists to Whistling Bagpipes just like the first printing yet does not have a tri-fold ad.

This seller had a Whistling Bagpipes up for sale. The listing stated something like, "This book is likely the first printing since the back cover lists to Whistling Bagpipes." That was not a lie, exactly, but that particular seller had sold first printings of Whistling Bagpipes at other times and knew very well about that tri-fold ad. Therefore, I had no doubt that the book did not have a tri-fold and was not the first printing. I have caught that same seller in other omissions that make certain books appear to be more valuable that they actually are. It's very tricky.

There are at least two other current sellers of Nancy Drew books who own Farah's Guide who have been deceptive in their listings. I wish I could give specifics, but that would open Pandora's box. I do not wish to suffer the consequences.

Jennifer said...

I also want to add that even knowledgeable collectors make mistakes. I do that a bit, although usually it is more to my own detriment when I state that a book is not the first printing when it actually is. I have done that a number of times!

I know that I am correct to judge certain people because of the big picture. I see everything they have done going back 10 to 15 years, and I know exactly what they are doing. Again, I can't give specifics.

Paula said...

Farah's Guide is $95 now and that's for the basic edition, not the deluxe one, which is over $100. I have been wanting one for over two years now, but so far have refused to pay that much. I bought a second-hand 10th edition on ebay, which has helped me tremendously, but I find discrepancies from time to time, of course. I would certainly buy a current 12th if it was on sale for half the price, let alone $25! I don't understand why they are so expensive - I've mentioned before that I think Farah would make more money selling a higher quantity of books for a cheaper price. Plus make more people happy. :)

stratomiker said...

I think the authors of both the Drew and Hardy guides probably enjoy the mystiques surrounding their tomes, the confusion, angst, arguing and disagreeing that goes on. Some of what's happened is legendary, like the $15,000 Hardy Boys Hooded Hawk Mystery first, and the ongoing argument about who really painted the first Broken Locket cover.

They are both experienced with publishing, so they obviously know the possibilities of what can be done. Maybe they just don't want a cheap edition. Maybe they don't even know everybody would like to get one. I've been letting them know for years, but the books just keep getting more expensive.

I have the bound with-a-DJ 12th of Farah's signed by him and marked as #1. Jeez! It must be worth a fortune, eh? Not only have these guys created controversial guides, but they've created legendary hard-to-get desired books. Maybe keeping that going is better than having it on eBay and the stands at Walmart for $12.95! LOL!


Jenn said...

As for the Broken Locket argument it appears it's probably Norman Braley from my research and James Keeline's. The artist was a male (referred to in the NYPL archives as a "he") and was for some reason not Tandy for the cover. The Sear's catalog was a rush rush rush issue that came up--so the book was hurried as was the cover apparently.


Paula said...

So it wasn't Ferdinand D. Warren who created the 1st cover art for Broken Locket, as documented by John Axe in "The Secret of Collecting Girls' Series Books"? And according to David Farah in his 10th edition (:p) "The first cover art appears to be the work of Ferdinand E. Warren, though Russell H. Tandy was listed as the illustrator on the copyright page." So when did all the controversy arise and why? Inquiring minds want to know... ;)

Jenn said...

@Paula--no, it's highly unlikely that it's Warren--his work doesn't come close to matching Broken Locket when compared with Braley. I'm not sure why Farah went in that direction--John Axe got that info from Farah's Guide. I'm not sure when the controversy began exactly--probably back in the early days of collecting and working on the guides. Part of my presentation at this year's Nancy Drew convention was "unsolved" Nancy Drew mysteries behind the scenes and this was one focus of mine. Tandy did do the internal illustrations but he could knock those out quickly according to family. The cover is a true mystery but I think the Sears Catalog rush/big to-do that it was, was a huge factor in the change of DJ illustrator.


Lauren said...

I remember discovering Farah's guide by reading various ND listings on ebay. I probably googled the name and came up with the guide.

I purchased a copy on ebay (I think maybe the 9th (?), which was not the newest at the time) for $75, which was steep for me and I remember being slightly surprised and disappointed to find that it was pages and pages of numbers and slashes and codes and that it required a legend to decipher it. I guess I had imagined it being more photos and descriptions and that it would be a bit more interesting a read.

It was useful once I was able to use the codes efficiently. In fact, the same day I got my guide, I got a big lot of blue tweed/dj books that I hadn't paid much for.

Among the books was a first ed of The Velvet Mask, which I would have priced at about $20/$25 (a standard rate at the time) and I ended up getting $150 for it. So my Farah's Guide pretty much paid for itself twice over with that one transaction.

I haven't seen the newest edition, does it cover the softcover books as well now?

Jennifer said...

I like to read what antiquarian book dealers state about juvenile series books. These are sellers who are very knowledgeable about books and know a lot about all areas of collecting books. Several of them have stated that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys guides are the "most incomprehensible" of all book guides.

They do have a point. I have trouble with the colors of the boards from around 1945 and the cover stock. The cover stock makes no sense unless you actually have an example of each type in front of you. I refer to the descriptions of "moderately raised short squiggly lines" and "moderately raised rows of regularly spaced wavy lines." It is impossible to know what is meant without the books in hand.

Also, the defining point for the first printing book of Old Attic is the shade of blue on the binding. I honestly don't know if my book is really the first printing. I know the jacket is, but I can't decipher the subtle differences in color mentioned in Farah's Guide.

For cases like that, it is understandable if a seller makes a mistake.

I haven't seen the newest edition, does it cover the softcover books as well now?

The newest edition still does not cover the softcover books. I believe that Farah has focused solely on books that are of interest to him. His information on the dust-jacketed books is much more complete than his information on the picture cover editions. For each printing of the dust-jacketed books, it is apparent which endpapers are present by the format information in the front of the guide. For the picture cover books, the information is much harder to decipher. I really should start making notations in my guide as to which endpapers are present on the picture cover books, since that interests me.

Paula said...

I have always assumed that Farah has not specified the end papers for the picture cover books, but I noticed recently in the "Formats" section, under the Format #17 subtitle "endpapers", he does more or less tell us which volumes have each type of endpapers. This is in Farah's Guide 10th edition. Does he have similar notes in the 12th edition?

It does seem the more recent the printings, the less attention is paid to them in Farah's Guide. I wonder if collectors are still feeding him information on the picture cover books? I know that personally I have not ever communicated with Farah. The cost of the current guide is prohibitive for relatively "small-time" collectors of the more recent (and therefore less expensive) books, such as picture covers, and later printings. Therefore, there is no reason to feed information to Farah because this group of collectors are not vested in keeping the information up to date, since they're not buying the guide anyway. Is David Farah still really interested in all this? It's got to be quite time-consuming.

Jennifer said...

Farah stated sometime in the last year that he would publish a 13th edition sometime around 2015. He said that fewer new printings have come to light as compared to new ones identified between previous guides, such as from the 11th to the 12th.

Farah does still take data for the guide. He was really excited when the Inner Circle Book Club came to light. So, he still has interest.

Regarding the endpapers, the formats information in the front of the book clearly indicates which endpapers are available for each book. The trouble is that I have recently discovered that books did not just change from the blue multi endpapers to the black and white endpapers at a fixed point in time.

Some books switched back and forth. Bungalow Mystery went from blue multi to black and white multi back to blue multi at least once before changing permanently to black and white multi. The first change to black and white multi was several years before the final change. This intrigues me and is not mentioned anywhere in the guide.

stratomiker said...

As for the Broken Locket argument ***

There are many who still believe it was Pelagie Doane who painted the original cover to Broken Locket as a first attempt for a cover to Judy Bolton #5 The Ghost Parade that was doctored up to fit Locket. If you compare the covers, they are very much the same and the figures on Locket are exactly like Doane's usual characters, even to the bended knees and the long thirties skirts.

Similar happened with Judy Bolton's Search for the Glowing Hand. Rudy Nappi painted that cover for the revised Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase. Another painting was used and that one ended up put on Glowing Hand with the cat and the hand added to it. Nappi himself identified it at a series book convention, but we didn't have the Broken Locket artist to identify his/her painting, darn it!


Jenn said...

Mike--it was not Pelagie--the artist was referred to as a "HE" in the NYPL files, completely and totally discounting that. Not only that if you study the art, her work is not even similar in the features, hands/fingers/etc. If you compare fingers for example, hers are much pointer and odd, the locket ones are much smoother and not pointy.