Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Interesting eBay Nancy Drew Find

Awhile back, I happened across three Nancy Drew books with blank endpapers very shortly after they had been listed.  The books were in bad shape, but the seller had placed very low Buy It Now prices on each listing.  I had nothing to lose, so I purchased all three books.

It's kind of fun to purchase listings like these on speculation, not knowing what I will receive.  I knew that The Secret at Shadow Ranch would be the first printing, since all blank endpapers printings of Shadow Ranch match the points for the first printing.  I also did not care, since Shadow Ranch is possibly the easiest to find of all seven blank endpapers firsts.  Meaning, I did not see it as a big deal.

Of course, many of you are probably thinking, "Not a big deal!?  Is she crazy?"  It's just that I have had quite a few pass through my hands, so I am not that likely to get excited.  For me, it is not a big deal.  To someone who has just starting collecting, it would have been a very big deal.  Believe me; I know that.

Going back to my purchase, I knew that a small possibility existed for the other two books, The Secret of the Old Clock and The Mystery at Lilac Inn, to be the first printings.  It was unlikely, since the books probably came from the same original owner who likely purchased them at around the same time.  If Shadow Ranch was the first printing from 1931, then the other two books were likely to date from 1931, which would make them later printings.

I received my package in the mail, which consisted of all three books in a stack wrapped in brown paper with no other protection.  I have observed that the kind of sellers who place low Buy It Now prices on their lots often are not savvy enough to know how books should be packaged.  This does not make them bad sellers; they simply are not aware of how hard the journey will be on the books and how the corners will get bumped.

Fortunately, the books did not appear to be in any worse of condition than they were prior to the journey.

That is, if the books were damaged by being mailed wrapped in brown paper, I'd never be able to tell due to the condition of the books.

After opening the package, I gave Shadow Ranch a cursory look, and moved to the other two books to see how early of printings they were.  I checked the ads in the back of Old Clock, discovering the Hardy Boys ad as the very first ad.  This meant that Old Clock was the first printing, 1930A-1.  The chances of Lilac Inn being the elusive first printing were now higher, although still improbable considering the scarcity of the first printing Lilac Inn book.

I checked Lilac Inn.  I saw Outdoor Girls to #20 Canoe Trip and Blythe Girls to #10 Margy's Mysterious Visitor.  I actually do not have the first printing points memorized as to which ad comes first.  I promptly jumped up and went after my Farah's Guide.  Sure enough, the ads were in the right order:  Hardy Boys #1-9, Outdoor Girls #1-20, and Blythe Girls #1-10.  How amazing is that?

Now I have two first printing books for The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  Both need to be upgraded, however, but I am making progress.

Remember that I own both a first printing Lilac Inn dust jacket and a second printing Lilac Inn dust jacket.  Both jackets are supposed to be mated with the first printing book.  Both of my jackets are mated with later printing books.  I have not swapped out the books, but I do now have the option to do so for both of them.  I am going to wait a bit longer to see if I can upgrade at least one of my first printing Lilac Inn books.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nancy Drew #31 The Ringmaster's Secret

In Nancy Drew #31, The Ringmaster's Secret, Nancy investigates the mystery of Sims' Circus.  The circus is run by Mr. Kroon, who is abusive towards Lolita, his ward.  Lolita is an aerialist for the circus, and her parents, famous aerialists, are believed to have been killed in an accident many years before.  When Nancy observes how unhappy Lolita is and witnesses Mr. Kroon's suspicious behavior, she decides to help Lolita by finding out what happened to her mother and father.

This book opens with a string of amazing coincidences.  Nancy receives a bracelet which was recently purchased by Aunt Eloise.  The bracelet was once owned by a famous aerialist.  At the exact time that Nancy receives the bracelet, Sims' Circus is in town.  Nancy meets Lolita at the circus and discovers that her bracelet belonged to Lolita's mother.

Also at the same time, Nancy takes riding lessons from Roberto, who once worked for Sims' Circus.  Hitch works for Roberto, and he hates Sims' circus.  All of the events are neatly connected in some fashion or another. This is just like when Ned, Burt, and Dave always conveniently have breaks from college whenever Nancy, Bess, and George travel to a remote location.

One has to suspend disbelief while reading this book, especially with respect to Nancy's trick riding.  Somehow, Nancy is good enough to take the place of an injured rider in the circus.  Nancy can stand on a cantering horse, and she can even perform somersaults over moving horses.   Wow!

As with all other original and revised texts from this time period, both versions tell exactly the same story.  I did notice a couple of minor differences that are worth mentioning.

In both versions, Hannah is upset that Nancy's lunch must wait and perhaps get ruined when unexpected callers arrive at the Drew home.  The revised text removes the humorous content from this scene, including Hannah's loud "groan of disgust" that occurs on page 64 of the original text.  The original text scene is rather funny.

On page 94 of the original text, "Nancy's heart began to thump wildly.  Up to this moment she had not fully realized that she was actually part of the circus.  Soon she would be under the floodlights performing for hundreds of people!"

Removing that one passage in the revised text makes it seem like Nancy is barely nervous about performing in the circus.  At least Nancy is properly nervous in the original text, even though it is ridiculous that someone who has practiced trick riding for just a few weeks is good enough to join the circus.

Nancy Drew Files #82, Dangerous Relations, which was published in 1993, bears some similarity to the plot of The Ringmaster's Secret.  Nancy is asked by Hayden Gentry, the trainer for a trapeze act, to help his girlfriend, Natalia Petronov, find her real father.  Natalia is a trapeze artist and is engaged to Hayden.  The circus is run by Marshall Keiser, who is prone to losing his temper.

While Dangerous Relations has noticeable similarities to The Ringmaster's Secret, the story takes a different direction.  For this reason, readers will not be able to correctly guess the villain.  Dangerous Relations is one of the better and more memorable Nancy Drew Files stories.

The Ringmaster's Secret is equally good in the original and revised text versions.  The original text has a slight edge, since the scene with Hannah's "groan of disgust" is not to be missed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nancy Drew Girl Detective Library Editions

Recently, I spotted an eBay listing that included six hardcover Nancy Drew Girl Detective books with dust jackets.  This intrigued me.  The Girl Detective books have only been published in softcover editions.  Various library bound editions exist, and I knew that these books had to be books that had been rebound.  Still, the idea of a dust jacket was interesting.

I studied the seller's picture, where I could see that the books were hardcover with dust jackets.  The jackets did not appear to be photocopied, but they did have what looked like white paper along the edges.  Still intrigued, I purchased the books.

Just as expected, the books are rebound library editions.  The dust jackets were made from the original paperback covers.  The bindery removed the text block from the cover and then attached Tyvek paper to the edges of the front and back covers to create the front and rear flaps.  The jackets were then affixed to the inside front and back covers of the books.

I was able to remove the jackets from the books with little difficulty.  Either the glue was not strong, or the Tyvek did not bond well to the glue.  I placed the jackets in mylar covers.

The books have plain covers with no text printed on the outside of the book.  This means that the dust jackets are necessary in order to tell the books apart from the outside.  I especially like #19 The Orchid Thief, because the color of the book matches the dust jacket so well.  It's very pretty!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nancy Drew #30 The Clue of the Velvet Mask

In The Clue of the Velvet Mask, Nancy Drew works to discover who is behind a series of thefts at parties and other social events.  All of the events were run by Lightner Entertainment Company, so suspicion has fallen on Mr. Lightner.  He has requested that Mr. Drew represent him in future possible lawsuits from past clients.

Nancy befriends Linda Seeley, who works for Lightner.  Linda soon falls under suspicion, but Nancy is certain that Linda is innocent.  While Nancy has no proof, she is convinced that another employee, Mr. Tombar, is responsible.  This mystery centers around Nancy trying to outsmart the Velvet Gang, as the thieves are called.

An important subplot of this story involves George Fayne, who is kidnapped by the villains.  George is threatened by the villains, and their words frighten her so much that she is not herself for most of the story.  Usually, Nancy and her friends are never affected emotionally by their harrowing experiences.  This is an unusual example of realism in a Nancy Drew book.

On page 95 of the original text, a member of the Velvet Gang imprisons Nancy by wrapping a heavy bedspread and a bunch of coats around her.  Nancy finally manages to free herself on page 97.  Right after Nancy frees herself, a maid enters the room and asks what happened.
For the first time Nancy realized how disheveled she must look.  Her pretty pink-flowered dress was torn and rumpled.  Her hair was mussed and the pink hat lay on the floor.
Without any mention of Nancy doing anything to improve her appearance, she quickly checks the other upstairs rooms and heads downstairs.  Nancy enters the kitchen, where Mr. Tombar asks what she is doing.  Nancy tells him that she is hungry and grabs a sandwich.

Nancy acts like nothing is wrong, but her dress is torn and her hair is mussed.  Even if Nancy had smoothed her hair as she headed downstairs, her dress would not have mended by itself.

The revised text corrects this problem.   On page 77, "Nancy realized how disheveled she must look.  Her dress was rumpled and her hair mussed."  After completing the search of the other rooms, Nancy "combed her hair and smoothed her dress before going downstairs."  In this version, Nancy's dress does not get torn, and Nancy remembers to fix her hair.

On pages 124-125 of the revised text, Nancy is working in the women's coat room during a party when she realizes that she is speaking to one of the thieves.  Nancy questions the man.
"Madame is ill?  She is leaving the party so soon?  Perhaps I can help her?"

"No thanks," he replied, still keeping his face muffled in the white scarf.  "I'll attend to her."

As soon as he was gone, Nancy told the dumbfounded Hilda, "You're in charge here alone now."

Unmindful of the maid's protests, Nancy hurried down the hall in pursuit of the man carrying the green coat.
What surprised me was the use of "dumbfounded."  I felt that it did not quite match the situation.  I realized why Hilda was dumbfounded when I read the original text.

From page 152 of the original text:
"Madame is ill?  She is leaving the party so soon?  Perhaps I can help her?"

"No, thanks," he replied, still keeping his face muffled in the white scarf.  "I'll attend to her."

As soon as he was gone, Nancy took off her cap.  In its place she substituted the hat she had brought which belonged to Hannah Gruen, and slipped on the housekeeper's loose coat.

"You're in charge here alone," Nancy told the dumfounded Hilda as she darted away.  "I doubt if I'll be back."

"Well, I never!" Hilda sputtered.  "Leaving me to look after all the coats—"

Unmindful of her protests, Nancy hurried down the hall in pursuit of the man carrying the green coat.
Page 149 of the original text mentions that Nancy has a disguise of sorts, "an old loose fitting coat of Hannah's and a large hat that could be pulled down low on her head."  Hilda is understandably dumbfounded when Nancy suddenly puts on the hat and and coat and dashes off!

On page 149 of the revised text and page 180 of the original text, Nancy is blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back.  She is being led up some stairs and wants to tear a button off of her dress.  Nancy stumbles against the wall, and in that brief moment, a protruding nail just happens to connect with one of the buttons, tearing it off of her dress.  How convenient!

The Clue of the Velvet Mask is a great story in both the original and revised text versions. I thoroughly enjoyed both versions.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Redesigned Grosset and Dunlap Dust Jacket Spines

Grosset and Dunlap frequently reprinted books that were originally published by other companies. The Beverly Gray series is one example.  When Grosset and Dunlap took over the Beverly Gray series, the dust jackets were altered so that Grosset and Dunlap's name appeared on the bottom spine instead of A. L. Burt.  You will notice that a yellow rectangular area was used to cover the original publisher's name.

Grosset and Dunlap had little need to make alterations to any of the dust jackets for the books that it originally published.  However, some examples of altered Grosset and Dunlap dust jacket spines exist.

The white spine Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton dust jackets were created for books that were approximately 1 1/4 inches thick.  The next two pictures show some examples of very early or first printing Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton books with dust jackets.

As the years passed, the jackets stayed the same, but the books became less thick.  Eventually, the thickness of the books was reduced to slightly less than one inch.  The reduction in thickness caused the spines of the jackets to be wider than the spines of the books, so the edges of the spines folded over to the front and/or back covers of the books.  The next two pictures show the same Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton titles but for books that were printed much later.

The titles no longer fit nicely on the spines of the books like they did for the early printings.  I used to believe that Grosset and Dunlap never redesigned any of its white spine dust jackets until around five years ago when I ran across a copy of the Judy Bolton book, The Mysterious Half Cat, which has a redesigned spine with much smaller print.  In fact, the print is so small and uniform and the white spine so very white that the jacket gives off the appearance of a modern reproduction.  Shown below from left to right are examples of an early thick printing, a later less thick printing, and the redesigned spine version.

The jacket is an original Grosset and Dunlap jacket, not a reproduction.  I have seen two of them, and one other person recently reported finding one.  My jacket lists to #31 The Discovery at the Dragon's Mouth.  By the time Dragon's Mouth was published, the Judy Bolton printings were irregular, so I am not sure whether any other tweed printings exist with the revised spine.

As far as I know, no other Judy Bolton white spine jackets were redesigned.  A few years after I found the Judy Bolton redesigned jacket, I found a tweed Nancy Drew book, The Mystery of the Tolling Bell, with a partially redesigned spine.  Seen below from left to right are the first printing jacket, a tweed jacket with the original spine design, and the partially redesigned jacket.

The top and bottom portions of the spine were changed.  The title, author, publisher, and volume number were all reduced in size.  Look very carefully at the picture and you will see that the bottom part of the spine has a black rectangular-shaped area that covers what was originally on that part of the spine.  The background change for the top spine is much harder to spot.  Look underneath "KEENE" where a small area of color lift is in the center of the spine.  Going through the spine slightly under the spot of color lift is the bottom of the black rectangular-shaped area that covers the top part of the spine.

Six printings of Tolling Bell have the redesigned spine dust jacket.  This makes the redesigned jacket somewhat scarce, but the print runs from around 1960 were rather large, so quite a few of them exist.

If anyone has ever spotted any other redesigned spines, please leave a comment either here or on my Facebook page.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nancy Drew #28 Black Keys and #29 Ski Jump

Last year, I moved along quite steadily in my Nancy Drew reviews, but I halted during my reading of Nancy Drew #28, The Clue of the Black Keys.  By #28, the original and revised texts are almost identical, so I found it a bit difficult to read the same story twice.  I read the revised text and grew bored partway through the original text, which is where I stopped.  I did make a few notes back in the summer about a few things I noticed, so I will mention them here.

On page 54 of the revised text, Nancy tells Terry that she will be having dinner at the Faynes'.   She asks Terry to meet her there after dinner.
At eight o'clock he arrived.  After she had introduced him to George's parents, the Faynes went off to watch a television program in the recreation room.
Nancy then proceeds to have a lengthy conference with Terry in the Faynes' dining room.  Once the conference is over, Nancy apologizes to the Faynes and leaves with Terry.

Nancy invited someone over to the Faynes' home, and aside from George, nobody in the family knew him.  Nancy spent the entire evening with him away from the family but in their home and then left.  This seems a bit presumptuous.

The passage is slightly less strange in the original text, but only because George comes to check up on Nancy and Terry during the conference.

My only other observation about this book is that Dr. Pitt warns that finding the treasure is dangerous to mankind.  He is totally against finding the treasure, but for some reason, he willingly leads them to the treasure.  I would have expected Dr. Pitt to put up more of a fight since he was previously completely against finding the treasure.


I have been busy reading other books during recent months, and I have quite a few books that I am currently eager to read.  I forced myself to read The Mystery at the Ski Jump, because I do want to resume these reviews.  I struggled a bit, since I wanted to read other books.  So that I would not have to read the same book twice, I read a few chapters of the revised text, then a few chapters of the original text, and switched back and forth until I finished both texts.

In The Mystery at the Ski Jump, the revision is a bit choppy near the beginning of the story.  What is very strange is that one particular passage on page 2 was made slightly longer in the revised text, which makes the passage sound odd.

Page 2 from the original text:
"Just the same, I think we ought to call Dr. Britt," Mrs. Martin said nervously.  "Will you do it, Nancy?  The phone's in the hall.  I'll get a blanket to put over her."
Page 2 from the revised text:
"Just the same, I think we should call Dr. Britt," Mrs. Martin said nervously.  "Will you do it, Nancy?  The phone's in the hall.  I'll get a blanket upstairs to put over this woman."
Instead of getting "a blanket," the revised text changes the statement to "a blanket upstairs."  This seems unnecessary. 

In both texts, Nancy speeds and is stopped by a police officer.  For the original text, this is normal.  I am very surprised that Nancy breaking the law was kept in the revised text.  Normally, the revised text books show a perfect Nancy who never does anything wrong.

Nancy and her friends meet John Horn while chasing after the swindlers.  Later, Nancy helps her father with his case concerning Chuck Wilson.  Chuck's key witness, John Horn, is missing, and very conveniently, the missing John Horn is the same John Horn that Nancy recently met.  What are the chances?

I did not enjoy either The Clue of the Black Keys or The Mystery at the Ski Jump very much.  The reason why has more to do with me than with either story.  I am pleased to report that soon after beginning #30 The Clue of the Velvet Mask, I was once again enjoying reading Nancy Drew.  Look for that review sometime soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

eBay's New Search Uncovers a Shady Seller

On January 3, I had the misfortune to be opted in to eBay's latest new search.  eBay has placed me in test searches in the past, and I have never enjoyed the experience.  As before, I cannot opt out, so I am stuck until they release me from the test search or make it work properly.

Apparently only a small percent of eBay's users were opted in on January 3.  Let's say that one-tenth of one percent of eBay's users were opted in.  Assuming that eBay has 100 million users, that would be 100,000 people.  100,000 people is enough to get a good many people to go to eBay's Search message board to complain.  The Search message board normally has a low amount of activity, but that has not been the case since January 3.

Remember that you can click on images to see larger versions, and you will need to do so on most of the images presented here today.

Buttons that used to be on the search results page are now missing for no good reason.  I guess the eBay programmers thought that we didn't need a search box at the top of the screen and that we would rather hit the back button and start over.  They thought it would be nice to make it harder to toggle between "title only" and "title and description" by removing the option and making us click several times to find it in a hidden menu.

I was quite upset at first, especially during the hours that the search box was completely missing from the top of the page, as seen below. 

By January 4, the search box had returned.  I really think eBay opts some of us in knowing that we will alert them to what is wrong by complaining on the message board.  They read the complaints and slowly begin fixing what doesn't work right.  I would prefer not to be one of the guinea pigs, but perhaps someone at eBay is trying to help me write good content for this blog.

My main problem now is that the new search hangs and crashes my browser.  We have figured out that eBay.com is the only site that has the new search.  A number of us have begun running searches on eBay Canada.  I change the currency to U.S. dollars, make sure the box for worldwide is checked, and run searches that load properly in the old familiar fashion.  Not only that, but I get to see all of the items that eBay.com has been hiding from me.  I had forgotten that eBay changed several years back to where sellers on the international sites have to pay extra for exposure on eBay.com. I have been missing out!

While I pretty much hate the new search, it does have one very nifty feature.  We can click on sold items, and the results page shows all auctions and all fixed-price listings that have sold with no unsold items mixed in.  That part is awesome!

I ran a sold items search on the entire Books category and narrowed it down to children's books.  I sorted by highest price first and scrolled down the list.  I paused when I recognized a faded Nancy Drew book with dust jacket that had sold.  I had seen that book before.  I noted that the seller was located in a certain state.  Hmm....  Had I just spotted the selling ID of a certain buyer who has purchased hundreds of Nancy Drew books since summer?

I was intrigued and wanted to know the answer just to satisfy my curiosity.  I do have a little Nancy Drew in me, after all.  I brought up the buyer's feedback page and also looked at the seller's feedback page.  I began checking the books that this seller had sold up against the buyer's purchases.  I found a match, which proved that both the buyer and the seller are the same person.  While I was excited to prove a match, I was quite disturbed to see how the jacket had been touched up.

I created the following image that shows the dust jacket that the seller purchased alongside the same dust jacket that he sold.  The image at the left is the jacket as purchased, and the image at the right is the seller's image from when he sold the book.

I believe that the seller used pink marker to make the area of color lift near the center right look less noticeable.  The seller may have used blue marker in other locations, such as in the upper right corner, but he may have just edited the image to remove the flaws from the image.  So, I believe two different techniques were used to make the jacket appear to be nicer than what it actually was.

I have seen some shady behavior by different eBay sellers over the years, but this ranks as one of the worst.  I am actually a bit shocked that the seller is so blatantly editing images and touching up flaws with marker.  I spent quite a lot of time looking at this seller's listings.  I found a few cases of marker being used to cover flaws and other cases where the images were edited to make the books appear nicer.

I was able to match another book that the seller purchased to a book that he had sold.  In the below image, the jacket seen at the left is the one he sold.  The jacket to the right is a composite of two images of the book that he purchased.

Somehow, the spine crease disappeared in the seller's image of the jacket as did the tear that runs through "The" on the front panel.  The chip to the lower spine and rubbed area at the top spine are the same in both listings, proving that the images are of the same jacket.

The bottom line is to be careful when purchasing books on eBay.  Look for edited photographs and look for areas that have been touched up.  Make sure you use the "zoom" feature that eBay provides.  The touched up areas can only be seen by zooming in.

I have been given information that suggests that this seller has touched up even excellent condition dust jackets.  Those alterations will not be visible in the listings.  The jacket will have to be in hand and examined under a bright light in order to spot any touch-ups.  I also have reason to believe that this seller could be touching up the flaws of hardcover books that do not have dust jackets.

Always check the feedback of all sellers before you commit to a purchase.  eBay has a feature on the feedback page where you can click to see any negative and neutral feedback comments that have been left in the last 12 months.  A very useful site is Toolhaus.org.  You can enter an eBay user's ID and have Toolhaus bring up all negative and neutral feedback comments received in the entire time the user has been on eBay. 

Also important is to leave a seller appropriate feedback should you ever fall victim to this type of situation.  That way, future potential buyers are forewarned.