Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Penny Parker, Connie Blair, and Kay Tracey Questions

I periodically receive questions about series books. Here I will give my answers to some of those questions.

One collector was trying to find the Penny Parker titles in thick books with good quality paper. She wanted to know how many of the books were printed in that format. This is my answer.
I have #10 Ghost Beyond the Gate in a thick book with good quality paper. The binding is yellow.

Some thin books have good quality paper. I have #9 Saboteurs on the River in a thin blue book with good quality paper. #9 would also have to exist in a thick book even though I don’t have one.

I have #11 Hoofbeats on the Turnpike and #12 Voice from the Cave in thin red books with good quality paper. Both jackets list to Voice from the Cave.

I notice that the titles on the jacket spines for #11 and 12 are sized to fit on thin books, so it looks like #10 is the last book that is thick.

So up through #10 exist in thick books with good paper and up to #12 in thin books with good paper, although the good paper books would be very hard to find. I am pretty sure that #13-17 only exist with pulp paper.
Another collector wanted to make sure that some Connie Blair picture cover editions have the original text. Additionally, she wanted to know which Kay Tracey books have the original text. I answered as follows.
I have never heard of any revisions to the Connie Blair books, so I’m pretty confident that the picture cover books have the identical text as the older printings. Additionally, there are Tempo paperback versions of all 12 titles from the 1960s. While those books were re-typeset for the softcover version, I believe that they also contain the original texts with no changes.

15 Kay Tracey titles were reprinted by Books Inc. and Garden City during the 1950s and 1960s. Red Scarf, Green Cameo, and Strange Echo were significantly revised. The remaining 12 books are either identical or nearly identical to the original versions with just a few scattered changes perhaps at just the beginning or end of each book. The revisions are insignificant for those titles.

Three Kay Tracey books, Swaying Curtains, Shadow on the Door, and Forbidden Tower, are only available in the original Cupples and Leon yellow books.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nancy Drew: Two Strange Broken Lockets

Revised text of Broken Locket
I really enjoyed reading the revised text of Nancy Drew #11, The Clue of the Broken Locket. I always enjoyed this text as a child. Nevertheless, the text has many weak spots. Following are some of the events that seem off.

As I read the revised text, I noted that the behavior of the girls was different from how I would have responded. Cecily meets the girls and invites them to spend the night. She doesn't know them!

At one point, Cecily's cat is taken to Mrs. Hosking's boarding house when the young people leave for a few days. It is assumed that Mrs. Hosking is willing to look after the cat. This seems a bit presumptuous.

Cecily's cat is very strange. The cat runs off, but the girls are able to get the cat to come to them. Would your cat come? My cats probably would not, or if they decided to come, I would be kept waiting for several hours.

Later, the cat ignores a bird call. What kind of cat ignores a bird call? Also, the cat settles down readily on the bed that the girls make for it. Cats sometimes go along with a bed selected by people, but not always. Last, why is the cat comfortable in a strange place with three strange girls? My cats would be terrified.

The behavior of the people is also odd. The cat finds a mouse and goes into the other room, presumably to eat it. Yuck. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to let a cat be in the cabin with me eviscerating a mouse. Often, cats leave parts behind. The girls seem so unconcerned that this is occurring near them!

The villains rely on a tried-and-true method of keeping people away from the scene of their criminal activity: project the image of a ghost launch onto the mist so that everyone will see it and be afraid to come near. Really? It seems to me that the thrill-seekers would flock to the lake to see the ghost launch. The best way to avoid detection while committing a crime is to act like you are doing nothing wrong. Avoid drawing attention to yourself.

Original text of Broken Locket
I have always disliked the original text, and I expected to dislike it again upon this reading. I cannot stand the beginning of the story, in which everyone knows that the Blairs are frivolous people who are unsuited to adopt the babies. Yet, the Blairs are allowed to sign the adoption papers. I want to tear my hair out.

That aside, the original text reads a lot like a Kay Tracey book, which is the problem. I would like the original text fine if it were a Kay Tracey or even a Dana Girls book, but as a Nancy Drew book, the story is too strange. Rodney and Ruth have no apparent connection aside from being concerned about the babies, and Nancy makes a wild assumption that they are separated twins. Even crazier, Nancy is right!

In one scene, Rodney falls on the locket which has been tossed into the fire. The image of a heart is burned onto his forehead, which is bizarre. Everyone gets scared that something bad will happen because of the image on Rodney's forehead. Most all of the characters in the original text act like idiots.

Danish edition of the original text
Nancy has a car accident in the original text because she is so intent on following Ruth that she pays no attention as the road she is on intersects with a highway. This event astounds me because so many of the original text books herald Nancy's great ability in avoiding traffic accidents, skills that she is lacking in this book.

Colleen plots to have Nancy accused of theft. Colleen's name could easily have been changed to Lettie Briggs or Ethel Eaton, and Colleen would have been either the Danas' or Kay Tracey's sworn enemy. Having a vicious enemy like Colleen also makes the original text read much like a Dana Girls or Kay Tracey book.

In conclusion, I dislike the original text as a Nancy Drew book, but I would like it just fine as either a Dana Girls or Kay Tracey book. I enjoy the Kay Tracey books because of the absurdity. I'm not sure why this particular story was written as a Nancy Drew book. I expect more of Nancy Drew.

The original text is written better than the revised text, but the stories are completely different. The revised text has some problems, but the original text story is absurd. The revised text is a story that I enjoyed when I read Nancy Drew as a child. My vote is in favor of the revised text.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nancy Drew: Twisted Candles and Larkspur Lane

My thoughts will be brief on the ninth and tenth Nancy Drew books, The Sign of the Twisted Candles and The Password to Larkspur Lane.

Near the end of the revised text story for Twisted Candles, I felt that it was not at all logical for all of the relatives to come to the inn late at night. The original text was more logical since Sidney and Boonton were already at the inn, so it was not as much of a stretch for the other relatives to come.

I have always favored the revised text Twisted Candles since a little more time is devoted to Nancy hunting for hidden objects secreted behind the Sign of the Twisted candles. Upon this reading, that part of the revised text did not stand out as much for me, probably because the revised text is so short.

This time, I favored the original text.

I enjoyed both the original and revised texts of Larkspur Lane. The primary difference between the two stories is that the revised text introduces a subplot with the villains attempting to coerce Morgan into stealing the crystal from the Cornings. I like the subplot with Morgan and thought I would miss it in the original text. I found that the original text is just as good, even with that part missing.

In both versions, Nancy drives her brand-new car into the middle of the woods, hiding it behind bushes. I cannot fathom why Nancy would drive a new car into the woods. The car would likely have been scratched!

In the original text, Nancy sends a message of "S. O. S." via carrier pigeon. In the revised text, the message is changed to "SP at once," which is said to mean "Sailplane at once" and also "Send police at once." Mmm, okay... What was wrong with "S. O. S."? Some revisions make no sense.

While I enjoyed both texts of Larkspur Lane, I favored the original text.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nancy Drew #8 Nancy's Mysterious Letter

When I write up these reviews, I do not bother to give a synopsis of the story. The reason has to do with my own personal preference. I cannot stand detailed summaries which mention everything that happens in a book. I would rather be reading the book. I am curious as to whether anyone else feels the same way as I do, since most people review books with detailed summaries.

Furthermore, I assume that most people who would find this blog post interesting are people who have actually read the eighth Nancy Drew book, Nancy's Mysterious Letter. As a result, my comments are centered on what I thought as I read the story. Now let's dive in.

When I read the revised text of Nancy's Mysterious Letter, I felt that the Shakespearean quotations left by Nancy Smith Drew as a clue came across as a bit stupid. I also thought it was a shame that the college students chose not to put on the Shakespearean play that they had practiced on with Ms. Smith Drew, since they felt they could not do it justice. How about trying? Besides, unknown to them, she was in the audience to watch their play. I just felt that they should have tried to do their best, since they had been through all of that work.

In the original text, the students do perform the original play. Furthermore, Ms. Smith Drew left no Shakespearean quotes behind as a clue, which are two big pluses for the original text.

One aspect of the story struck me differently than it did years ago. I have always hated the football game part of the story. I did not like it upon this reading in the revised text. However, for the first time, I enjoyed the game in the original text. Why? Because that part of the book was written much, much better than it was in the revised text. This is a third positive for the original text.

I did have one concern about the original text. In the revised text, Edgar takes up with Nancy Smith Drew because he knows she is to receive a large inheritance. He knows, because he read the letter that Nancy received about the inheritance. In the original text, Edgar does not steal that letter. Unless I missed something really obvious, it is pure coincidence that Edgar decides to marry Nancy Smith Drew. I was bothered about this during most of my reading of the original text, and it did detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, the original text is more engaging and less rushed than the revised text. For that reason and previous ones already mentioned, I cast my vote for the original text as a better story.

By the way, I completely forgot to write about this book when I read it and have now reached The Clue of the Broken Locket in my reading. Fortunately, I was able to remember some of my thoughts!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Box of Hardy Boys Books

Today I received a box of Hardy Boys books that I purchased in an eBay Buy It Now. When I picked up the package from the porch, I felt the books shifting around inside the box. I also observed that the top of the box had been smashed down during shipment. Anytime I receive a package that might turn out to have possible damage or be interesting in some fashion, I photograph the outside of the package before opening it.

I opened the package.

Since the seller did use some bubble wrap to pad the books, I could tell that this package would not be a disaster. Unfortunately, the books were not wrapped in anything, so I was sure that at least some damage occurred, which was disappointing considering the excellent condition of the dust jackets.

In the upper left corner of the box, you can see the back cover of a random booklet that the seller enclosed, Wars End by Wing Anderson. I guess I can consider that my free gift.

By examining the seller's photos from the listing, I determined that the dust jacket for The Secret of the Caves was torn slightly during shipment. I suspect that the dust jacket of The Twisted Claw was also torn and creased during shipment, but that portion of the jacket was not shown in the seller's photo. Tiny pieces of dust jackets were found in the bottom of the box, so some flaking of the edges of the jackets did occur, but not enough to be considered significant.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nancy Drew #6 The Secret of Red Gate Farm

The revised text of the Nancy Drew book, The Secret of Red Gate Farm, held my attention from start to end, and I finished the book very quickly. In the original text, I enjoyed the scene at the very beginning in which Bess purchases the perfume. This scene is omitted from the revised text. Aside from that one scene, the original text does not have any major scenes that are omitted in the revised text.

I did not take notes, but it appears that very little of the original text was actually rewritten. Rather, much of Nancy's thoughts about what was happening were removed, and Nancy's communication with Chief McGinnis was utilized in the revised text in order to speed up events.

I found one detail from the revision to be a bit puzzling. In both versions, Nancy and her friends stop at a gas station where Nancy purchases gasoline and the girls eat ice cream. In the original text, Nancy pays with a $20 bill. Some men also purchase gasoline and pay with a $20 bill. Later, Nancy returns to the gas station and is accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. It is apparent to the reader that the men who stopped at the same time are the actual culprits, since Nancy is not a counterfeiter.

In the revised text, the man pays for his gasoline with a $10 bill, and Nancy pays for the ice cream with a $20 bill. Later, Nancy is accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. This time, the men cannot be responsible because they paid with a different denomination. Nancy's bill must have been counterfeit, and she received it from her father.

Both texts make clear that the men who stop for gasoline are part of the Hale Syndicate. The original text has them pass a counterfeit bill. Exactly why did the revised text change that part to where the men did not pass a counterfeit bill? Why make Nancy responsible? In the original text, the accusation against Nancy is just as startling as in the revised text.

I consider it a draw as to whether the original or revised text is better. I thoroughly enjoyed the revised text, and I enjoyed the original text just as much.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nancy's Mysterious Letter Library Binding

The most difficult to find Nancy Drew library binding is what I call the "1940s Style Library Binding." I cannot express how much I covet these books and how much I would like to find more of them.

Most likely, only a handful of them still exist, and the scarcity is on the same level as the very early first printing Nancy Drew books with dust jackets. However, these books are not worth much since few people are interested in them. This is all the better for me.  [Note from 2022:  This has changed due to an increase in interest, and each book is now worth $100 to $500 or more.]

I was extremely excited when I spotted one on eBay, and it was a different title from any that I already had. I have not seen one for sale in several years. It was agonizing to have to wait a week for the auction to end and then to wait another week for the book to arrive.

During that week, I speculated on what the spine symbol would look like. Every book from this style of binding has a cute spine symbol that represents an important part of the mystery. This kind of little detail is why I consider library editions to be creative works of art. 

Finally, my book arrived.

At first glance, I thought that the spine symbol was Nancy Drew, although I immediately knew better. These books do not feature Nancy on the spine. The spine symbol looks very much like one of the men on the original Tandy dust jacket for Nancy's Mysterious Letter.

The text block of the book is probably from late 1941 based on the thickness of the book. The book has a glossy frontispiece illustration and good quality paper. I very seldom find thick books that have been rebound as library editions. Even though a thick book was used, it could have been rebound into a library binding many years after it was printed. While a thick library edition indicates an old book, the binding does not have to be anywhere near that old.

Since I have found so very few of these books, I have had to guess about how old I think they are. Some libraries are too obsessed about destroying all dates and notations inside their discarded books, and those books are impossible to date. Some libraries leave only the later dates, and just because a book was checked out from a library in the 1970s does not mean that the book had not already been in that library 20 years previously. Other libraries are kind enough to leave certain notations, such as the date of purchase. I am always thrilled when that date is present, since it proves the age of the binding.

I have estimated that these books were likely printed during the very late 1940s or very early 1950s, based on the style of binding and the age of the original books which were rebound in the library binding.

With this new acquisition, I finally have one date. The inside front cover has a stamp noting that the book was bound by Geo. A. Flohr Co. Library Binders in Cincinnati, Ohio. The book was rebound on July 1, 1950, which fits into my estimated time period.

I hope that I can eventually find a few more of these books. I know that #3, 5, 6, 8, 11, and 15 exist. Library editions were not created as sets. Rather, random books that were sent to the bindery were rebound. Just because #15 exists does not mean that all of #1-15 exist.

The hunt for books that may not necessarily exist and the thrill when one is finally discovered is what makes collecting fun.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nancy Drew #7 The Clue in the Diary

Norwegian edition
I find the storyline for the seventh Nancy Drew book, The Clue in the Diary, to be a bit choppy with not enough explanatory information. As I read the revised text, I felt that it was lacking and wondered whether the original text would be better. All of the complaints I had about the revised text were also true for the original text.

I do not feel the pain of Honey and her mother as much as I should. In my opinion, the book should have opened with Nancy and her friends actually at the amusement park so that we could have gotten to know Honey and her mother. Being shown why the girls fall in love with Honey and her mother is better than being told about it.

Nancy's first meeting with Joe Swenson is very rushed in the revised text. Joe trusts Nancy way too quickly, giving her money to mail to his wife. A point in favor of the revised text is that the revised text makes for a better case about why Mrs. Swenson is worried about her husband. In the revised text, Joe's letters to his wife have been stolen by a mail thief. In the original text, Joe has only been away for one week, and I feel no urgency for the Swenson family. Mrs. Swenson's worry comes across better in the revised text.

I did note one interesting revision. The original text, page 19, has the following passage.
"Why don't they stop honking their horns!" Nancy exclaimed impatiently. "It doesn't help a bit—it just drives one almost wild."

"We'll be here all night," George observed gloomily.
The same passage appears as follows in the revised text, page 13.
"Why don't they stop honking?" George exclaimed impatiently. "It doesn't help a bit. We'll be here all night!"
Nancy shows impatience in the original text, and we just couldn't have the perfect revised text Nancy be impatient at all. Instead, George expresses that emotion.

Overall, neither the original text nor the revised text is significantly better than the other. Since I feel that the mail fraud subplot added to the mystery of what had happened to Joe Swenson, I will vote in favor of the revised text as a slightly better story. However, I don't like either version very much.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Package Troubles

Last week, I had to pick up a package at the post office because it arrived postage due of $7.31.

The seller had taken one of the medium priority mail flat rate boxes and wrapped it in brown paper. The package was then sent media mail, which is why the package arrived postage due for the balance of what priority mail would have cost for the package.

The postal service forbids the use of priority mail supplies for any service other than priority mail. USPS workers try to catch as many as they can, although most of them slip through.

I requested that the seller reimburse me for the $7.31, which he did without comment. I am always relieved when these situations work out without any melodrama. I have had sellers get upset in the past, as though I did something wrong.

This week, I had what I consider to be an epic damaged package, or perhaps the real situation is that the books were tossed in the box and then shaken around by USPS. I don't know what happened exactly, but the view of the inside of the box was horrific, and a number of the books were damaged.

This is how the package looked before I opened it.

I smudged out the addresses but left enough so that you can get an idea of how difficult it was to read the addresses. The seller used green marker on a product box that had dark colors on it. Part of my address was nearly indecipherable, so it is amazing that I received the package.

I took a photo of the bottom of the box, which looked a bit rough.

I took the above photos just so that I could combine them with the mention of the postage due package and come up with a blog post. I little realized what kind of mess was inside the box. I lifted the flaps to see this.

Uh-oh. One of the side box flaps was inside Tapping Heels. I pulled the flap away and lifted the remaining flap.

Not good. I gradually removed a few books at a time and snapped the following photos as I removed books.

Notice that a piece of the front panel of the dust jacket for Witch Tree Symbol is in the center of the below photo.

Several of the books were damaged with folds to either the front free or rear free endpaper. Some of the jackets were damaged.

The following photo shows the packing materials, some of which appear to be trash.

The seller's communication was professional and courteous, and I would not have expected this kind of mess inside the package. I am undecided on whether the books were placed inside the package neatly or as a giant mess. Two of the dust jackets were completely separated from the books, which is why I wonder whether the books were tossed inside the box haphazardly. The box did have empty space, so possibly the books were stacked, and the package was violently thrown around during shipment. In fact, if the box were in a vehicle that rolled over in an accident, that would account for how the books were arranged when I opened the package.

Either way, this was an interesting package to receive. While I am not pleased about the treatment the books received, I am also not upset about it. These were not books for my collection. I had spotted a decent Buy It Now right after it was listed, and I purchased the books, figuring that I would be reselling most or all of them. If the books had been ones that I knew I was keeping, I would have been very upset.

Here is a picture of what the package contained, once I had the jackets in mylar.

I hope you find these package situations to be interesting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Be Wary of Certain Selling Practices

I have seen quite a few listings which are not accurate as to the scarcity or value of the book that is up for sale. In this blog post, I will be citing some specific examples, but I will not be linking to them. I thought about trying to smooth over what I am about to write with a few opening statements, but I decided not to worry about it. No doubt, I will upset a few people.

Using Farah's Guide values to justify high prices

I see this practice quite often and by a number of different sellers. As an example, let's say that a seller has a first printing of the Nancy Drew book, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, in dust jacket, which that seller has priced at $100. That seller tells buyers that the book is valued at $250 in Farah's Guide. The implication is that the seller is offering a great deal at $100. Not so, since Fire Dragon seldom sells for more than $50 these days.

Be wary of any listing that uses the Farah's Guide value to indicate the true worth of a book. My thought is always that if a book is worth $250, then why does the seller not ask that amount? The seller must feel that the book is worth less than the guide value.

Misinterpreting Farah's Guide

Sometimes, a seller misinterprets Farah's Guide without realizing it. I'd like to give the specific example, but all of you would immediately be able to find the listing. I have already given my opinion of listings that use the outdated Farah's Guide values to make the book seem more valuable. This listing falls into that category but goes even further, giving an incorrect reason why the book is worth even more than the Farah's Guide value. It has to do with thinking that two variants are the same printing when in fact Farah has separated them into two printings with different stated values. Always be careful of any listing that uses any means to magnify the value of a book.

Exaggerating the condition of books

Many sellers over-describe the condition of their books. One seller's books are always in "fine," "near fine," or "about fine" condition. My only comment is that the seller's pictures often tell a different story. In many cases, buyers are better off ignoring all of the seller commentary and focusing on what can be seen in the pictures. However, make sure you do read the seller's description for mention of any flaws that cannot be seen in the photos.

I caught another seller stating that a book had "absolutely no chipping anywhere to the jacket." If so, then why were small pieces missing at the extreme corners? True, the pieces were very small, but that would seem to negate the statement "absolutely no chipping." According to this site, "chipping" is "a small piece missing from the edge of a dust jacket."


Ignoring water damage

This one falls into the previous category, but it deserves its own section. Look carefully at photos for evidence of water damage. Even some collectors and knowledgeable sellers fail to disclose water damage. I saw one instance of a knowledgeable seller not disclosing what I could see in the photo. Not surprising, the buyer paid way too much, and then complained about the condition in feedback.

Below is a picture I took from a listing this fall. I don't know if the books had water damage, but The Haunted Bridge, which is second from the left in the top row, has the appearance of a water-damaged book. The whitish stain is how water damage often appears in photos.

Also notice the tape and stains from tape on many of the books. Sellers often fail to disclose old tape on books and jackets.

Stating that a common anomaly is a rarity and more valuable

Most people who sell extras of the UK edition Sampson Low Nancy Drew books with dust jackets mislead their buyers about the rarity of the books. Some sellers indicate that the books are rare because of the Dana Girls endpapers. Nearly all of the Sampson Low Nancy Drew books have Dana Girls endpapers, because Sampson Low apparently wanted to use the Dana Girls endpapers. The use of the Dana Girls endpapers may make the Sampson Low books interesting, but it does not make the them any more scarce or valuable. They are what they are.

Two Sampson Low books have misprints on the front covers. The Mystery of the Fire Dragon is "The Mystery of the Fiery Dragon" on the front cover. The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes is "The Clue of the Whispering Bagpipes" on the front cover.

I have seen multiple sellers charge really high prices for those two books as compared to other Sampson Low books based apparently on the very rare misprint. I have never seen a Sampson Low Fire Dragon without "Fiery Dragon" on the front cover, and I have never seen a Sampson Low Whistling Bagpipes without "Whispering Bagpipes" on the front cover. What would be rare would be a book without the error.

Pay the really high price if you want the book, but be aware that those books are worth no more than any of the others.

Stating that a book is the "true first edition" or "true first printing"

The part that bothers me is the use of the word "true" in front of "first printing" or "first edition." Using "true" indicates to me that the seller is 100% certain, when the seller really has no idea for any series that does not have a published guide, such as Connie Blair, Vicki Barr, the Dana Girls, and many others. The only series in which published guides exist that establish "true first printing" status are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, and Judy Bolton. Statements made about any books in any other series are pure speculation, so the word "true" should not be used.

I try to be very careful about when I give first printing status. For instance, I am quite confident that the first picture cover printings of Dana Girls #1 through 23 list to Sierra Gold on the back cover and Nancy Drew to Dancing Puppet/Dana Girls to Sierra Gold on the inside. I have not made notes about the books past #24, so I would not feel comfortable absolutely guaranteeing first printing status for #24 and up. View the last part of this blog post to see how I found out that a certain book is not the first printing.

While published guides establish what we believe to be the true first printings, we really do not know for certain. Even the guides have used speculation to establish which books are the first printing. However, the guides have established what is accepted to be the first printing for each title, so sellers are fine in citing the guides and stating that a book is the true first printing.

In conclusion, I caution you to be careful about how you respond to the excellent salesmanship qualities that some sellers have. These sellers are very good at making their books seem quite desirable, but often, the books are less desirable than how they appear.