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.

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