Friday, December 30, 2011

My Book Collecting Year in Summary

I have made some important acquisitions during 2011, so I thought I would summarize the ones that come to mind.

This year I acquired the first printing jacket, 1931A-1, to the Nancy Drew book, The Secret at Shadow Ranch, bringing the total number of first printing Nancy Drew dust jackets that I need down to just one, The Secret of the Old Clock. I purposefully never mentioned this acquisition when it happened, since it involved a strange sequence of events. If you go back and read through my Nancy Drew posts that involve early Nancy Drew books from back in September and the comments to those posts, you can probably figure out what happened.

I quite unexpectedly found the first printing of the Nancy Drew book The Clue in the Crossword Cipher during what normally would have been an uneventful trip to a local book store, detailed here. This brings the total number of first printing Nancy Drew books that I need down to just one, The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

The result is that 2011 brought me down to needing just one first printing Nancy Drew dust jacket and one first printing Nancy Drew book for the original 56 books.

I also made a very narrow upgrade to the rather difficult to find first printing book for The Sign of the Twisted Candles, detailed here and here. Actually, I'm not sure if the book I am keeping could be considered better, but in any case, I unearthed another example of an extremely scarce first printing book.

I made a fabulous find of early and first picture cover Hardy Boys books at a book store, detailed here.

I still need some stray first printing revised text and art picture covers for the Nancy Drew series. I made some headway in that regard this year as well. In December I acquired the first printing of the 1965 art for The Secret of Shadow Ranch, when formerly I just had the second printing of the 1965 art. I also acquired the first printing of the 1974 cover art to The Scarlet Slipper Mystery.

After an email exchange with another collector, I realized that I did not have the third art of The Clue in the Old Album with the black and white multi endpapers. This was the only Nancy Drew cover art that I only had in the double oval endpapers. I decided to solve that problem. I purchased two copies on eBay, and one of them ended up being the first printing of the 1977 cover art, thus giving me another needed printing.

I quit reading the Grace Harlowe books earlier this year, in part due to my inability to find Grace Harlowe with the U.S. Troops in the Argonne. Three copies were available online, but I did not wish to pay those prices, especially considering the condition of the books.

In December, an eBay auction appeared that had Argonne along with several other books from the Overseas series. After some debate, I decided to purchase the lot, which was priced a bit high. After the seller shipped the books, he told me that he had found an extra copy of one of the books, which he had added to the box. I was wondering which one and thought, "What if it were Argonne? Wouldn't that be funny?"

The package arrived, and to my delight, I discovered two copies of Grace Harlowe with the U.S. Troops in the Argonne in the box. It's amusing to go from not having a book at all to having two copies instantly.

In 2011, I decided to resume going to garage sales and estate sales for the first time since the middle part of the 1990s. I had gone to a couple of garage sales in recent years, but this fall, I began to check the sales every single Saturday. I now am very interested in going to these sales, not so much for books but for the recreation. The books will be few and far between, but perhaps I can find something good in the coming months.

I also have the satisfaction of seeing that traffic to this blog continues to increase, although at a slow and steady rate. I have begun utilizing my Facebook page in a more appropriate fashion, and it is gaining interest. Best of all, I enjoy using my Facebook page.

I decided to begin selling again on eBay this year since I found eBay to once again be usable for selling. The primary motivation was the 50 free auction listings per month. eBay is useless unless the listings are free. I hope to attain top-rated seller status eventually, just so that I can see if it makes a difference.

In the meantime, I will continue to use Bonanza for the bulk of my sales and am pleased at the progress I have made there.

As the year ends, I want to continue reading the Nancy Drew books again for the first time in ten years, but I also now have a dilemma. Since I finally have all of the Grace Harlowe books, I feel like I should resume reading them.

Edited to add: As pointed out in a comment, I forgot one of my most important acquisitions, Nancy Drew #78, The Phantom of Venice, in hardcover with dust jacket. I wrote about that find in this post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taiwanese Nancy Drew Books

At least 11 of the Nancy Drew books were printed in Asia, probably in Taiwan and during either the 1970s or 1980s. These books are pirated editions. I have eight of these books.

Most of the books have the black and white multi endpapers. One book has light brown instead of black on the endpapers.

The cover art has the appearance of color photocopies of the original cover art of the Grosset and Dunlap editions. The colors and image quality are off slightly. Below, I have photographed two of the pirated editions, seen on the left, and two of the Grosset and Dunlap editions, seen on the right.

You should be able to clearly see that Ski Jump looks to be a bad reproduction of the original cover.

The inside of each book is exactly the same as the Grosset and Dunlap edition, except for the copyright page. Asian characters have been added to each copyright page.

These books have always mystified me, since I have never understood why someone would pirate Nancy Drew books. It now occurs to me that perhaps the books could be offered less expensively to buyers in Asia by pirating the books than they could by importing the books from the United States. In any case, these books make for an interesting variant for people who collect Nancy Drew books.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nancy Drew #5 The Secret at Shadow Ranch

As I continue my journey through the Nancy Drew books, I read the revised text of Shadow Ranch. I recall that I loved gazing at the Rudy Nappi cover art as a child. The phantom horse is so spooky.

I love the mystery of Dirk Valentine's missing treasure. This mystery has always been one of my favorites. As with Lilac Inn, I have always preferred the revised text.

I have always disliked the original text, although upon this reading, I viewed it much more favorably than previously. I have already mentioned that my reading of the early Stratemeyer Syndicate series in recent years has changed my perspective. This reading was the first time I had ever read the original text Shadow Ranch since reading all of the early series books.

I was struck by how much the book reminds me of the Outdoor Girls series. The entire tone of the book and all of the events from start to finish are extremely similar to the way the Outdoor Girls series is. Change a few names and rewrite some passages, and the book could easily become The Outdoor Girls at Shadow Ranch. In fact, Nancy suddenly acquires two new friends, Bess and George, at the beginning of Shadow Ranch and becomes part of a trio, similar to the Outdoor Girls and other series. This got me to thinking.

Edward Stratemeyer died as the first three Nancy Drew books were published. Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier had to scramble to get their father's business under control in the months after he died. During the first few months, Edward Stratemeyer's secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, was responsible for keeping the business going. Lilac Inn was the first Nancy Drew book published after Stratemeyer's death, but that book had already been written by Mildred Wirt, and Otis Smith edited it.

Grosset and Dunlap wanted the next book in the series, the one that was to become Shadow Ranch. The trouble was that Shadow Ranch had no outline, and nobody knew what story Stratemeyer had wished to tell. On page 133 of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak gives Stratemeyer's description of Shadow Ranch: "A thrilling tale of mysterious doings at various places in the valley and around the ranch. It remained for Nancy Drew to solve some perplexing situations."

Otis Smith wrote up an outline based on that vague description. Since Shadow Ranch reads so much like an Outdoor Girls book, I wonder whether Otis Smith could have gotten some ideas from an outline for an Outdoor Girls book and changed it up for Nancy Drew. She also could have used an outline for Billie Bradley or Betty Gordon, which were still in print during the early 1930s but soon ended. It would be reasonable to assume that some outlines for those series were never used for books in those series. They could have been used for Nancy Drew. This is pure speculation on my part, but I see such a strong similarity in tone between the original text Shadow Ranch and early Stratemeyer books that I feel this to be a possibility.

Back to my thoughts about the story. The original text Shadow Ranch has some crazy, improbable coincidences that go beyond any of the coincidences in the revised text. For instance, Alice Regor is looking for her father, who is found near Shadow Ranch, and it happens that Alice's father went missing because of the actions of Martha Frank and her brother, which occurred in a completely different part of the country. Yet somehow, Martha and her brother show up near Shadow Ranch, while Alice's father also shows up near Shadow Ranch unknown to them. Next, Nancy and her friends also show up at Shadow Ranch with Alice, and everything randomly falls into place. This kind of crazy coincidence is how all of the early Stratemeyer Syndicate books are, and as I already stated, I have a suspicion that the idea for this story came from one of those series.

I still do not particularly care for the story about Martha Frank, and I overall do not care for the original text story as a Nancy Drew book. Nancy and her friends do a lot of exploring in the mountains, get lost, and nearly get attacked by wild animals. It just doesn't feel like a Nancy Drew book to me. However, if I read the book and pretend that it is an Outdoor Girls book and that Nancy, Bess, and George are Outdoor Girls, then the book is totally awesome.

If you are someone who enjoys the original text Shadow Ranch, I suggest that you try some of the Outdoor Girls books, say the second half of the series which are the best books. The Outdoor Girls books are great vintage stories that have the same tone as the original text Shadow Ranch. I always have to get in a good word about the Outdoor Girls series, which is a great series that is not collected by very many people.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nancy Drew #4 The Mystery at Lilac Inn

As I continue revisiting the early Nancy Drew books, I began reading the revised text of The Mystery at Lilac Inn. The first two chapters annoyed me, since the descriptive information is too brief and various random disruptive events occur seemingly constantly.

The book barely begins when Nancy and Helen learn about Nancy having a double. Then, on the very next page, their canoe capsizes. The girls arrive at Lilac Inn to see that Emily is troubled. Next, one of the gardeners falls into a hole. A few pages later, a mysterious cry is heard from outside. This is all in the first fifteen pages. The events seem disjointed and thrown together.

Once I reached Chapter 3, I began enjoying the story. The mystery about Nancy's double is sinister. The jewel theft is quite a mystery, with suspicion thrown on Maud Potter. The mystery is intriguing in all aspects. I have always greatly enjoyed the revised text of Lilac Inn, and this time was no exception.

In fact, I enjoyed this reading so much that I almost felt like I was reading one of the longer original text stories. The story seemed fuller to me than the revised texts of the first three books. Perhaps the difference is that this particular story was almost completely rewritten whereas the first three revised text stories were mainly condensed versions of the original texts, which made those stories come across as inferior.

I have never liked the original text of Lilac Inn, so as I began reading the original text this time, I wondered what my reaction would be. I liked the opening scene in which Nancy meets Emily outside Lilac Inn and has lunch with her. After that interesting scene, Nancy gets caught up in servant problems.

Why would an average child during the Great Depression want to read about a girl moaning about servant problems? Perhaps girls really enjoyed learning about the problems of the upper class, but I find it really obnoxious. Even worse, every single one of the servants sent to Nancy is from a minority group and described as unsuitable. This subplot is racist, stereotypical, and not necessary.

In fact, the entire first part of this book seems off to me as compared to the first three original text books. Nancy and her acquaintances are too fixated on the problems of the upper class.

Next, we have Mrs. Willoughby and her friend, Clara Potter, who pick up Emily's jewels from the safe deposit box. They decide to take lunch at Lilac Inn with the jewels on the table inside Mrs. Willoughby's purse. The two women act nervous and talk constantly about how they hope nobody knows about the jewels. Of course everyone knows, since the women are acting so strange. Not surprisingly, the jewels are stolen. I find this part of the story to be very annoying. I cannot stand stupidity to be the reason why a theft happens.

Once I read past the theft and the immediate aftermath, I began to enjoy the story more. I found it hard to be very sympathetic to Emily, perhaps because she seems to spend too much time crying about her misfortune. I also found it hard to be sympathetic to Mrs. Willoughby, since she caused the theft of the diamonds.

Around page 80, I began to thoroughly enjoy the story. It felt like the story finally hit its stride at this point and became a good adventure and mystery. Nancy gets heavily involved in sleuthing and quits worrying about her servant problems.

In summary, I really enjoyed the revised text, except for the first two chapters. I enjoyed the original text overall, but I did not enjoy the first 80 pages as much. The stories both involve the diamond theft, but the revised text has the intriguing, dangerous plot with Nancy's double. For that reason, I prefer the revised text.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nancy Drew #2 Hidden Staircase and #3 Bungalow Mystery

I have finished reading both the original and revised texts for the second and third Nancy Drew books, The Hidden Staircase and The Bungalow Mystery.

The original texts of both books refer back to the events of The Secret of the Old Clock, which makes for strong continuity. That continuity was lost when both books were revised, since all of those references were removed. Offhand, I do not believe that the events of Old Clock were mentioned in any great detail in the original text books past Bungalow Mystery, and this makes me wonder how the series would have progressed if Edward Stratemeyer had lived past the publication of the first three books. We can be certain that the books would not have been the same, since daughters Harriet and Edna would not have been running the Syndicate if Edward had remained alive.

In the original text Hidden Staircase, Nancy spends a good bit of time in the early chapters of the books visiting with the Horner girls and Abigail Rowen about how they are doing after receiving Josiah Crowley's inheritance. It is during Nancy's visit to Abigail that she meets the Turnbulls and learns of the mystery at their mansion. In the revised text, the Turnbulls are related to Helen Corning, and Helen asks Nancy to solve the mystery.

In the original text Bungalow Mystery, Nancy and Helen are caught in the storm on Moon Lake, which is the same lake that figured so prominently in the events of Old Clock. The location was changed in the revised text.

My perspective on both of these stories has changed since I read them ten years ago. The last time I read these books, I had not yet begun collecting and reading the early Stratemeyer series such as the Outdoor Girls, the Blythe Girls, Girls of Central High, and others. I recall that I considered some aspects of the original texts to be better but that I still preferred other aspects of the revised texts, which were the ones that I read as a child. I believe that I considered the original texts to be better, but I can't remember my specific thoughts clearly.

Upon this reading, I quite distinctly find the original texts to be better, and I believe the fact that I have read so many of the early series is what has caused me to react so strongly in favor of these two original texts.

I recall that I strongly disliked the original texts of Lilac Inn and Shadow Ranch, so I am interested to see how I react to those two. Will I still strongly dislike them, or will I respond much more favorably?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday's Estate Sale Finds

I started going to estate sales a few months ago. I don't usually find any series books and have very little expectation of finding any. My main purpose is for recreation and to find useful items for low prices.

This weekend I finally found some series books. At the first sale, which was near where I live, I found a number of Hardy Boys books with dust jackets.

I also bought two Tom Quest, a Rick Brant, and a Landmark book at the same sale.

I next decided to drive to the other side of the city to attend several estate sales that were clustered close together. I normally don't drive to that part of the city, since the trip takes too long for very little reward. The only reason I decided to make the trip was because one sale showed a ceramic Christmas tree in one of the preview photographs, shown below.

The tree looked too much like the one on the cover of the Judy Bolton book, The Secret of the Musical Tree, for me not to check it out. I ended up purchasing the tree, which is very cute. The tree measures 12 inches tall and 7 1/2 inches in diameter at the widest point.

The pictures never show the ceramic Christmas trees to be as nice as they actually are.

At another sale, I found six assorted series books.

I would not have purchased the above books if I had not decided to go after the ceramic Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seeking the First Printing of Nancy Drew Lilac Inn

Sellers don't always respond well to questions, and some sellers even get paranoid about the questions. In a recent case, a seller decided to be secretive with me, and as best I can deduce, she treated me differently because of this blog. I'm not sure if she was intimidated or if she thought I was trying to trick her. In any case, she snubbed me by avoiding my question completely, yet she responded in an open fashion when someone else contacted the seller for me and asked the same question.

Another collector told me about this listing for a blank endpapers edition of the Nancy Drew book, The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

The book was listed with a start price of $250 and a Buy It Now of $275. $250 was way too high if the book was not the very first printing but was not a bad price if the book was the first printing. I could not risk buying the book at $275 and have it turn out not to be the very first printing. After all, I would not be able to sell an unwanted non-first for that high of a price. I also had no desire to buy the book and have to ask to return for a refund, which could always end badly.

I had no option but to ask the seller about the post-text ads since no information was provided. This was my question.
In order to tell if this book is the actual first printing, we need more information. In the back of the book there should be a page that says "This Isn't All!" After that page, there will be several pages with advertisements. We need to know the name of the series advertised on each page and the last title listed in that series in the ad. For instance, the first ad page could advertise the Hardy Boys ending with Great Airport Mystery. Also, the book should have a glossy frontispiece illustration and three additional glossy illustrations scattered throughout the book. Are all four illustrations present? Thanks!
I received the following response.
Good morning,
Attached are the only additional pictures that I have of this item. Please feel free to contact us again with any additional questions.
Attached were four photos. The photos were of the copyright page, the title page, the glossy frontispiece, and the back cover. The seller did not address my question about the post-text ads at all. Based on the lack of response, I made the assumption that the book was not in the seller's possession. I was a bit annoyed that the seller evaded my questions, and I even mentioned the seller's response on my Facebook page. Others immediately drew the same conclusion that the seller did not have the book. Another popular opinion was that the seller was running a scam.

I tried again, and I regret that I made a comment about price, because I know better and any mention of price usually causes problems. Keep in mind that I was quite annoyed about the seller's evasion and that I was holding back on what I really wanted to tell her.
So you don't have the book in your possession? This is very disappointing. We have to know the post-text ads in order to know if this is the first printing. You are going to have a lot of trouble selling the book at that asking price without the post-text ad information in the description. If the book is the first printing, it is worth that much, but we can't tell from the information provided. Your book might be just a $50 copy, so we can't risk buying it to find out. It would be in your best interest to get the book in your possession and add the information I requested to the description. I'm not going to be the only person to ask. Thanks in advance.
I received this response.
I have the book in my possession, but did not take pics of the last pages. I will not sell it for $50. I believe you are the individual that has the jacket(s) for the first printing but not the book?
Now I knew that she had been to my blog and must have read something about first printing points. By now, I was convinced that the seller knew that the book was not the first printing and was trying to pull a scam. According to her statement, she had the book. Why not tell me about the post-text ads? Is it any wonder why I try to avoid asking sellers questions?

In retrospect, I suspect that the seller misunderstood my price reference as an attempt to trick her about the value. The truth is that the book might be a $50 to $100 book, and I could not risk paying $275 for a book that is worth much less. That was all I meant, but I'm sure she didn't understand that. Sigh. I tried one last time, and I was quite frustrated by this point.
I don't have to see photographs. What are the ads after the "This isn't all" page? That was all I wanted to know. The first page has _____ series with ____ as the last title listed. The second page has _____ series with ______ as the last title listed, etc. I don't want the book for $50. I meant that your book might be only worth $50, but I can't tell due to lack of information. If your book has the right ads, then I am willing to pay your price. I'm sorry that I am not making myself clear.
The seller never replied to my last message, which totally convinced me that the seller was up to no good. The seller had seemed evasive for some unknown reason. Does any seller want his or her buyers to think that?

After 24 hours had passed with no response to my final question, I gave up. However, I wanted to try to figure out what was going on with this seller. I took this public to my Facebook page (link to actual post), asking others to query the seller. I find it interesting how open the seller decided to be with the other people who made contact. I guess the seller didn't trust the collector with the blog but sure could tell others that the book is in a warehouse, which is why she doesn't know what the ads are.

Hmm... The seller told me that she had the book in her possession, but offered no explanation as to why she was avoiding my question. She immediately told someone else that it was in a warehouse, which is why she couldn't answer the question about the ads. I was thinking along those lines. I knew by her lack of response that she did not have the book with her, yet she told me that she had the book. Why didn't she tell me the truth?

Right after I was told about the seller's prompt response to the other collector's query, the seller raised the price to $1,000 with a Buy It Now of $1,100. Then within an hour of the big price increase, she canceled the listing. She also got back in touch with the other collector, telling her that she would get her the required information. Meanwhile, my last question continued to go unanswered. I, apparently, did not matter.

I find it interesting that the seller chose to snub me while answering other people's questions. The person she chose to answer was only asking for me. That person wasn't even interested in the book. The irony is that the seller snubbed the person who would have purchased the book, if a first printing, and decided to help the person who had no interest in purchasing the book.

Also interesting is that the seller decided that the book was really valuable because of the questions. Let's think about this. If the book had been hugely undervalued with a Buy It Now of $275, wouldn't I have bought the book immediately without asking a question? The seller would have never suspected anything. I never ask questions about books that are priced too low. I buy them, pay, and receive my purchase in the mail without the selling having any idea. Since I decided to wait on an answer, that should have indicated that I was not sure that the book was worth purchasing.

It is also a bit amusing that the seller assumed that she had the scarce first printing, considering how impossible it is to find. Let's consider what the probability is of a seller's book turning out to be the first printing. Farah's Guide shows seven blank endpapers printings. The first two printings have the same points, and I firmly believe that the first two Farah's Guide printings were the same print run. Therefore, I consider there to be six blank endpapers printings of Lilac Inn.

Assuming that an equal number of books were printed for each run, then the first printing would constitute no more than one-sixth of the surviving copies, or 16.7%. Considering that some middle to late 1930 books had smaller print runs, then it is quite likely that the first printing was much smaller than the subsequent printings, which explains why it never comes up for sale. Let's say that the first printing only had half as many copies. That would mean that no more than one-twelfth of the surviving copies could be the first printing, or just 8.3%. How funny that sellers assume that they have the scarce book!

The seller handled my query badly since she ignored my repeated questions about the post-text ads. I decided before I went to Facebook that even if the book were the first printing that I did not trust her and did not want to purchase the book from her. Is that how sellers want their prospective buyers to feel?

Another irony is that the very last time that I asked a seller about the post-text ads in Lilac Inn, I also did not receive a satisfactory response. I asked that seller within 10 minutes of the start time of the auction, and the seller responded that he was leaving town and was unable to answer. Really? The book had been listed for only 10 minutes, and he could not answer a question. In that case, I bid on the auction and won it for a little over $100, within the value of a later printing. I didn't want to take a chance on missing out on a possible first printing. It turned out not to be the first, and I sold it for slightly above what I paid for it.

With this kind of luck, I will have trouble ever finding the first printing of Lilac Inn, and my difficulty will not be restricted to the scarcity of the book. Lack of cooperation by sellers is a far bigger obstacle.


I delayed publishing this post for a couple of weeks, since I was hoping to learn whether this book is the first printing. As far as I know, the seller never came forth with the necessary information. She has not relisted the book, and she has allowed all of her eBay listings to expire. Furthermore, none of her books sold, since all of them were priced very high. I believe that this seller is one of those people who is paranoid about possibly selling a book for too low of a price, so she makes sure that her books are priced very high.


Added on July 18, 2012:

The seller has finally listed the book again with photographs of the post-text ads.  We now know that the book is the fourth printing, not the first printing.


 Added on January 3, 2013:

The seller finally sold the book on December 17, 2012 for $225.  It's interesting that the final price was $50 less than what she originally tried to get for the book.  In fact, $225 is a very good price to get for this particular book.