Monday, October 31, 2011

Pondering a Buy It Now

I recently ran across a Nancy Drew lot on eBay that had a starting bid of $39.99 and a Buy It Now of $85.00. The postage cost was $8.00.


I like finding Buy It Now lots, because I can buy the lots outright, avoid having to bid against other collectors, and sometimes get really good deals. The Buy It Now was high enough on this lot that I was not sure whether I wanted to make a purchase. However, I was tempted.

I have mentioned many times how I rely on pictures to make decisions about listings, and this can avoid me having to ask questions. I made several observations about this lot.

I knew that many of the books probably had the four glossy illustrations. I did not know if the illustrations were still present, but I was quite sure that a number of the books in this lot would have had the illustrations originally.

I also knew that the jackets for Hollow Oak and Mysterious Letter dated those books to 1941 or before, since the jackets did not have a spine symbol. Based on my belief that many of the other books had the internals, I concluded that these two books likely had the internals or were at least from the late 1930s.

Last, I realized that the wraparound dust jackets would most likely be on tweed books from around 1958 to 1961. I knew for sure that Old Clock and Haunted Showboat would be from that era.

The question was whether the lot was worth purchasing. I have shied away from buying Nancy Drew books with dust jackets in the last couple of years, since I am still trying to rid myself of the many I purchased around four years ago. That was one of the reasons I was not sure whether to purchase the books.

The value of Nancy Drew books with jackets has fallen greatly, and even if the two books with jackets also have the glossy internals, I could not be sure of selling the books for high enough of a price to be certain that the lot was worth purchasing. Still, I was intrigued by "what ifs."

I wanted to ask the seller a question, but decided against it. Anyone could have bought the books while I sat back and waited for the answer to a question.

I finally decided to purchase the lot, since I decided that in the worst case scenario, I would end up not keeping any of the books and would sell them for what I paid for them.

The books arrived today.

So, what did I end up receiving? Here they are in the order of the above picture.

Hidden Staircase - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, lists to Mysterious Letter, 1933 printing

Lilac Inn - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, lists to Mysterious Letter, 1932 printing

Shadow Ranch - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, no ads, 1932 printing

Red Gate Farm - glossy frontispiece and at least two internals, one might be missing, lists to Mysterious Letter, 1933 printing

Twisted Candles - The book is the elusive 1932C-1 first printing with "This Isn't All!" with a box drawn around it followed by Nancy Drew to Mysterious Letter and Judy Bolton to Invisible Chimes. All four illustrations are present.

Larkspur Lane - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, anywhere from a 1933 to 1937 printing, definitely not the first printing

Broken Locket - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, 1934 to 1936 printing

Ivory Charm - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, 1936 first or second printing

Whispering Statue - glossy frontispiece, 1937A-1

Tapping Heels - glossy frontispiece, 1939 or 1940 printing, not the first printing

Old Clock tweed with jacket listing to Old Stagecoach

Blackwood Hall tweed with jacket listing to Golden Pavilion

Haunted Showboat tweed with jacket listing to Old Stagecoach

Mysterious Letter - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, jacket lists to Ivory Charm and is in very nice shape

Hollow Oak - glossy frontispiece and three glossy internals, jacket lists to Ivory Charm

I'd say that I did okay. Mysterious Letter is of particular interest, because when I was first collecting Nancy Drew books, I found that the Mysterious Letter Tandy jacket was very elusive. I could never seem to find decent early copies. I do have first and second printing dust jackets which both have flaws. For that reason, I will keep this book and jacket.

Twisted Candles is also of particular interest due to the extreme difficultly in obtaining the first printing book. Read through this post for details. Unfortunately, the book is a bit rough, as is the one that I have used for my first printing dust jacket. I'm not sure which one I will keep; it will probably be like a coin toss. When I can't tell, I usually keep the one I already had "just because."

I won't be keeping Hollow Oak with the dust jacket, because I already have at least two extras plus the ones in my collection. At least for me, the thick early printings of Hollow Oak in dust jacket are rather common, and I have no trouble accumulating multiple extras.

In closing, I want to explain why I knew that the thick books probably had the internals. I could tell by the color of the bindings and by the texture of the covers. If you own any Nancy Drew books with internals along with some from around 1939, compare the covers, and you will see the difference.

In the above photo, you can see the texture of the covers of the books in the top row. Click on the photo to see a larger version, where you can also see the texture of the cover in the lower left corner, which does not have the internals.

All in all, this was a fun purchase.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1930A-1 Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing Book

An auction for the 1930A-1 first printing book for the Nancy Drew, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, just closed. The book sold for $407.07.

The Mystery At Lilac Inn - Nancy Drew - Blank EPS - 1st Edition - 1931

The book is not in the best of condition, but the seller provided pictures of the post-text ads, proving that the book is the first printing.

The photographic proof of the content of the post-text ads likely helped the book reach this high of a price.

I have previously written about the extreme scarcity of the first printing of Lilac Inn. I gave detailed information in my post, "Scarcity of Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing". I also included the book in my list of the "Ten Rarest Nancy Drew Books and Collectibles."

The first printing Lilac Inn book may perhaps be the most difficult to acquire of the early first printing Nancy Drew books. It is definitely harder to find than the 1930A-1 Old Clock first printing book. Keep in mind that I refer to the bare books, not the dust jackets, which is another situation entirely.

Farah's Guide values the 1930A-1 Old Clock first printing book at $1,000, yet I know of only one time that an example sold that high. That example hardly counts since the buyer was that infamous buyer from the summer of 2008 who was buying $30,000 in books per month on eBay and allegedly paying with stolen money. Aside from that one case, I do not recall seeing the book sell that high in the last ten years.

By contrast, Farah's Guide values the 1930A-1 Lilac Inn book at just $500 in very good or better condition. The example that just sold is not in very good condition. If Farah's value were correct, the book should have sold for far less than the guide value. This example sold for slightly above $400, which is higher than the 1930A-1 Old Clock in similar condition normally brings.

I feel like the values given for the two books should be switched with each other. The 1930A-1 Old Clock first printing book is worth more like $500 and the 1930A-1 Lilac Inn first printing book is worth more like $1,000. That would seem to be more accurate, in my opinion, especially since this one first printing continues to elude me. Of course, I have no intention of paying $1,000 for one, but the value of the Lilac Inn first printing book is certainly higher than that of the Old Clock first printing book.

Remember that no portion of this post is meant to be critical of David Farah or his guide in any fashion.

Edited on November 23, 2011 to add: The first printing of Lilac Inn cannot be determined by outward appearance only. You must give the post-text ad information, which you will note is shown in photographs in this blog post. The four post-text ad pages are "This Isn't All!" followed by Hardy Boys to Great Airport Mystery, Outdoor Girls to Canoe Trip, and Blythe Girls to Margy's Mysterious Visitor, in that exact order. The same ads in a different order means that the book is not the first printing. Any other combination of ads means that the book is not the first printing. Later printings are much easier to find and are worth much less than the first printing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Certain Series Are More Popular

Periodically, I give my site statistics, which is a way to assess which series are the most popular among collectors. This data shows visits to each section of my website for the last six months. I have only given the top 25 series.

1. Nancy Drew - 24,538
2. Sweet Valley High - 16,233
3. Trixie Belden - 5,735
4. Dana Girls - 3,451
5. Judy Bolton- 2,059
6. Beverly Gray - 1,508
7. Vicki Barr - 1,440
8. Cherry Ames - 1,246
9. Kay Tracey - 1,077
10. Ruth Fielding - 1,076
11. Penny Parker - 955
12. Outdoor Girls - 852
13. Moving Picture Girls - 790
14. Connie Blair - 772
15. Betty Gordon - 723
16. Shirley Flight - 715
17. Blythe Girls - 495
18. Sara Gay - 445
19. Sally Baxter - 431
20. Susan Sand - 380
21. Peggy Lane - 349
22. Billie Bradley - 325
23. Kit Hunter - 283
24. Melody Lane - 263
25. Riddle Club - 249

I changed the font color for some of the books to make certain patterns stand out. Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High are by far the most popular series. Trixie Belden is a distant third place but is far in front of the rest.  The Dana Girls is significantly more popular than Judy Bolton, which is just slightly more popular than Beverly Gray, Vicki Barr, and Cherry Ames. 

I used the same font color for Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Beverly Gray, Vicki Barr, and Cherry Ames because those series were all published by Grosset and Dunlap and were cross-promoted during the 1950s when baby boomers were reading series books.  Overall, those series are the most popular, and I have long had the opinion that those series are the most popular due to the cross-promotion and because they are the ones most remembered by current collectors. 

Additionally, the Dana Girls is much more popular than the other series books, and the strong cross-promotion with Nancy Drew is the probable explanation. The books were advertised as "By the author of the NANCY DREW BOOKS," and I have often seen the books sold on eBay in lots with Nancy Drew books, since many people see "Nancy Drew" on the covers and think the books are Nancy Drew books. I have also seen the books identified in antique shops as Nancy Drew books. Very likely, young readers and their parents made the same mistake decades ago.

Kay Tracey, Ruth Fielding, and Penny Parker have approximately the same popularity.  Those three series were published by Cupples and Leon during roughly the same years as each other and were cross-promoted.

The earlier Grosset and Dunlap series books such as the Outdoor Girls, the Moving Picture Girls, the Blythe Girls, and the Riddle Club do not have the same popularity as the later Grosset and Dunlap series books. This is most likely because these series were published long before current collectors were born.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nancy Drew $1 Box Picture Cover Editions

Note: No part of this blog post is intended to criticize David Farah and his guide. Some of you are way too sensitive and seem to think that any opinion that differs from Farah's is somehow a criticism of him and his guide. I have great respect for Farah, and all I am doing is pointing out that collectors' observations about scarcity and value may be different from what is presented in a guide.

I was asked recently about the Nancy Drew $1 box editions and which ones are the hardest to find. The Hardy Boys guide mentions which $1 box editions are the most scarce. By contrast, the Nancy Drew guide makes no comments about scarcity, and all of the values are nearly identical in Farah's Guide. If the Hardy Boys $1 box editions have unequal scarcity and a great disparity in value, then one could conclude that the Nancy Drew $1 box editions also have unequal scarcity and a disparity in value.

Farah's Guide values #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 at $20 each. He values #37 and 38 at $25 each. I have found #38 to be by far the easiest one to find. I acquire an extra copy of #38 at least once every few months without even trying. #38 has little value unless in excellent condition. As I have detailed in past blog posts, we now know that two $1 box printings of #38 exist, which explains why it is so common. Since #38 is so easy to find, its value is the lowest of all of the $1 box editions.

#37 is also rather easy to find. I also acquire extras of #37 on a somewhat regular basis, but less often than with #38. This means that #37 should also have a lower value than the remaining $1 box editions.

Of the other six, #6 is the easiest one to find. After that, I am not sure which ones are the easier ones to find, but #4 is definitely one of the most scarce $1 box editions. I sold a #4 $1 box edition in an auction in the last couple of years for something like $35, and the book was not in that great of shape.

This brings up another point. The $1 box picture cover editions are all very hard to find in excellent condition. Even with #38, collectors have difficulty in finding a nice copy. The $1 box books seem to be made from similar materials as the book club edition picture cover books. The book club PCs are also really hard to find in decent condition. #7 with the 1932 text also seems to be made from the same materials. The other first PCs are generally easier to find in nice shape than the $1 box books and #7 with the 1932 text.

To go back to value, Farah assigns all of the $1 box editions approximately the same value. Let's say that Farah's value is accurate for #37 and #38 in excellent condition. Before I continue, I should clarify what I mean by "excellent condition," since the last time I made this distinction someone missed my point completely and told me that it was easy to find that book.

Here are two photos of first picture cover books for Nancy Drew #19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24, from left to right. The first photo is of the bottom edges of the books, and the second photo is of the top edges of the books.

I consider the above books to be in excellent condition. The following two photos are of my $1 box edition picture cover books, #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 37, and 38 from left to right. The first photo shows the bottom edges, and the second photo shows the top edges.

Do you see the difference in condition between the two groups of books? I consider my first printing picture cover books of #19 through 24 to be in overall excellent condition. I do not consider my $1 box books to be in overall excellent condition, although the books I have are generally in better shape than many copies that surface.

Now that I have clarified what I mean by condition, I suggested that we consider Farah's value of $25 for #37 and #38 to be accurate for books in excellent condition. Farah assigns #1-6 a value of $20 each. However, #1-6 are harder to find than #37 and 38. For that reason, the value of each of #1-6 in excellent condition is probably more like $50, if one in excellent condition can be found. The value could possibly be higher.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Touching Inscription

This post is from November 13, 2010 and was never published.

Sometimes I read an inscription inside an old book, and I stop to reflect about the original owner and her life. The book is a circa 1942 copy of the Nancy Drew book, The Mystery at Lilac Inn. It has a glossy frontispiece illustration and poor quality paper that has deeply yellowed. The dust jacket is missing.

The inscription reads, "To Dolores (7) Carolyn Keene mystery's given to her on 12th Birthday by Mother." Dolores would have been born in around 1930, so she would now be around 80 years old, if she is still alive.

On that 12th birthday, Dolores received seven Nancy Drew books with dust jackets. The books would have been nice and new with white paper and shiny clean brand-new dust jackets. What a splendid birthday present!

The books cost $0.50 at that time, so Dolores' present cost her mother $3.50. I used an online inflation calculator to compute that $3.50 in 1942 would be close to $50.00 today.

I'm sure Dolores had lots of fun reading those books.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Best eBay Finds

The main body of this post was written in May 2009. I'm pretty sure I did not publish it because some people would think it wrong to take advantage of a price set too low by a seller. A recent thread on eBay's message boards, Ethical issues with reselling, explains my position. One high-end antiquarian book seller who sells books valued at $10,000 and up explained the issue like this.
If they ask you what it's worth, your professional opinion when (and if) rendered, must be accurate to the best of your knowledge. If they come to you, on your premises, and request a value estimate, your professional opinion when (and if) rendered, must be accurate to the best of your knowledge. When you buy at auction, it's the seller's responsibility to set the price, and whatever you pay, you pay - usually.
I see a tremendous difference between making very low private offers to uninformed sellers in an attempt to defraud them and buying a book at a low price which was set by the seller with no input from me.

Some of you already know this story, but I never tire of telling it. The far...eBay purchase that I have ever made was the true first printing with blank endpapers of the Nancy Drew book The Clue in the Diary with dust jacket for only $25.00.

I had trouble sleeping that night, so I got back up. I checked eBay, because that was the thing to do. I checked newly-listed Nancy Drew books, and I saw the gallery photo of the book and jacket. The images were side-by-side, so it was easily discernible without clicking on the listing that the book was the true first printing of Diary with blank endpapers and dust jacket. I saw the Buy It Now of $25.00.

I clicked on the listing and scrolled down. I knew that I had to act fast, and even then, it might be too late. I looked at the photo and glanced at the seller's feedback percent, but I hesitated for around ten seconds. It was one of those cases in which my reaction was, "Are you serious?!" I was worried that it was too good to be true. I quickly initiated the Buy It Now process and successfully purchased the book. I then got out my Farah's Guide and verified that the jacket did match the points for the true first printing.

The book had been listed an entire hour before I saw it. At that time, many people were trolling the eBay listings for good deals, so any good Buy It Nows would usually sell within the first five to fifteen minutes of the start time. I am not kidding. The good books sold fast. How this book had such an obvious gallery photo and lasted for an hour, I'll never know. If I had been able to sleep that night, the book would surely have sold by the time I checked the listings.

I had trouble sleeping that night after I purchased the book since I knew that the seller could always figure out what he had. Whenever I purchase something on eBay, I know that it is never truly mine until I have it in my hands. I am generally not willing to pay the Farah's Guide value for any of the early Nancy Drew first printings, so I have had to rely on pure luck to obtain the ones I have.

I requested priority mail and paid the seller. I wanted to get that book quick! A few days later, I had the book in my hands, and it was exactly what I expected.

I have seen a first printing Diary book and jacket in just about the exact same condition sell for around $2,500.00, so my Buy It Now of $25.00 was quite an amazing deal.

Another time I bid on a blank endpapers edition of Old Clock for the heck of it. I did not bid very high at all and did not expect to win the auction at all. I certainly did not expect to win the auction for around $5.00. I still do not understand how that happened. When I received the book, I determined it to be the 1930A-1 first printing. It did not have a dust jacket but was in excellent condition. The first printing of Old Clock in similar condition typically sells for around $500.00 and can sell for a higher amount.

Those are my two best eBay finds.

I hope a few of you will share your best finds. They don't have to be valuable books bought cheaply. A "best find" can simply be a particular purchase that meant a great deal.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nancy Drew Blog Party

Jennifer Fisher is having a Nancy Drew blog party all month in her Nancy Drew Sleuths blog. Each day the blog will have new posts on all things Nancy Drew. This is a rare opportunity to experience a series book blog with new posts every single day. It is difficult to maintain new blog posts even once every few days, as I well know.

By the way, I am in a position right now where I am only managing around two new blog posts per week. Part of the reason is my schedule, but also, when I am tired I tend to be less creative. This reduces my output.

I am trying to post minor comments on my Facebook page a bit more often than I post here, so be sure to follow me there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Opinions Needed on Nancy Drew Relaunch

The original Nancy Drew series ended with #175 in 2003 and was replaced by the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series. The Girl Detective series had mixed reviews and was not well-received by many fans. That series will soon be ending and will be replaced by the Nancy Drew Diaries. Jennifer Fisher has done a write-up in her blog and wants fans to state their opinions on how Simon and Schuster should approach the new series. We want Nancy Drew to remain viable. Please go to Jennifer Fisher's blog and give your opinion.

I decided to give my opinion both here and in Jenn's blog. My opinion is as follows.

I have long considered Her Interactive to be the strongest licensee for Nancy Drew. The Nancy Drew games capture the essence of Nancy Drew and have a strong following. I believe that Nancy Drew remains viable mainly due to the efforts of Her Interactive. The games have flourished while the books have floundered. Exactly why is that?

Nancy Drew has been successful for more than 80 years because she is resourceful, clever, and levelheaded. Furthermore, Nancy has never had a well-defined personality, which enables readers to assume the role of Nancy Drew as they read the books. For several generations, girls have experienced Nancy Drew's adventures along with her and as her. By keeping Nancy as a blank slate and by making her clever and resourceful, girls could have fantastic adventures through her and have experiences that they would never have in their own lives.

In the Nancy Drew games, the game player literally plays as Nancy Drew and experiences Nancy's adventures just like the readers of the books always have. While the player, as Nancy, makes a few mistakes during game play, the player, and therefore Nancy, maintains her dignity. The games have humor, which is important, but the humor involves funny events along with the antics of the other characters, most particularly Joe Hardy who is always up to something. Nancy Drew is never made to look bad.

This is where the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books fail. The main objective of the books seems to have been to make Nancy Drew look as clumsy and inept as possible, and at the same time, make Nancy's friends appear to be more capable than her. Who wants to read a book about a girl who seems to be developing early-onset dementia since she can never remember to fill up her car with gas? Who wants to read a book about a girl whose friends are all more capable than she is? That concept is rather depressing to me. I want to be the capable sleuth.

Additionally, the books need to have better cover art. While a reader should not judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most all readers do. The covers attempt to make Nancy Drew look trendy, and perhaps they do, but to me, she looks like an airhead with a bit of an attitude. I hardly want to collect the books, which is why I stopped buying them new at around volume 10. I am slowly collecting the set secondhand at reduced prices.

The cover art also suffers from a lazy design department which seems uninterested in trying to make the covers look different from each other. Take the following four books, for instance.

Nancy looks to be wearing exactly the same outfit on all four books. Need I say more?

Simon and Schuster should take a look at what Her Interactive has done with the Nancy Drew games. The games feature a smart, inquisitive detective who makes just minor mistakes. The games tell interesting stories, and the dialogue between the different characters is engaging. I greatly anticipate the release of each new Nancy Drew game, while I no longer care about the new books at all.

Take a look at the design for the newest Nancy Drew game.

When I view the artwork, I anticipate how great the game will be and think of the fun I will have playing it. Isn't that how I should feel when I see the cover of a new Nancy Drew book?