Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nancy Drew 1930A-1 Old Clock with Front Flap

Earlier this month, the first printing of the Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock, sold on eBay.  The book did not have a jacket, at least not most of it.  The front flap and part of the back panel were present.  While this does not count as a surviving copy of the first printing jacket, enough was present to raise considerable interest.

The book sold for $818.00.  Was it worth it?  Of course it was!  Some of you would disagree, but this is all about bragging rights.  At least, it would have been if I had won.  No, sadly, I am not the person who won this auction.  I was interested, but I was not willing to pay enough to outbid all of the other interested collectors.

Here's the deal.  I own all of the first printing books for Nancy Drew #2 through #38 with first printing dust jackets.  I also own the first printing book for The Secret of the Old Clock.  The first printing dust jacket for Old Clock is all that I lack.  At this time, I am not willing to pay $7,000 to $10,000 for a first printing Old Clock with the first printing dust jacket.  I may change my mind eventually, but until that day comes, I'm not going to be able to purchase one.  I will never own the first printing Old Clock dust jacket unless one falls into my hands through a strange twist of fate.

I am ever hopeful that the strange twist of fate will happen to me eventually.

I wouldn't mind owning part of the first printing dust jacket.  It would be better than owning none of the first printing dust jacket.  In fact, partial dust jackets often get tucked inside books and end up getting used as bookmarks.  There might be some other partial first printing Old Clock dust jackets out there.  If so, one might be able to piece together a first printing dust jacket from multiple partial copies.

Let's say that someone finds the front panel and spine of the first printing dust jacket.  Combine that with the partial dust jacket from this listing, and a collector would have over half of the first printing dust jacket.***  I would be very happy with over half of the first printing dust jacket.  I'm not kidding!  Wouldn't you love having over half of the first printing dust jacket?

***This example is only valid if the list of titles on the reverse side of the front panel portion of the dust jacket is unique to the first printing jacket.  According to Farah's Guide, the reverse jacket list might be different in the first printing than in later printings, but I am not certain.  In other words, if the list of titles on the reverse side of the front panel is exactly the same as a slightly later printing, then one couldn't be certain that the front panel is from the first printing jacket.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hardy Boys #22 Flickering Torch and #23 Melted Coins

In the original text of Hardy Boys #22, The Flickering Torch Mystery, the Hardys get jobs at an experimental farm.  During their free time, Frank and Joe also investigate missing silkworms at a nearby research facility.  The boys also hope to spot clues to Fenton Hardy's case, which involves a flickering torch.

As always, all of the individual mysteries turn out to be connected.

This book has a choppy transition at the bottom of page 72.

On page 138, the reader learns that the Hardys' house "had been gutted by the flames" but the "bedrooms were intact."  So of course, the Hardys stay in the house overnight.  Why not?  The house is still standing.  However, it seems that the house would have smelled rather unpleasant.    

What I really like about this book is that nearly all the story occurs in a small locale.  The boys either walk or ride horses to get around that area.  These are always the kinds of stories that I enjoy the best.

I love that Aunt Gertrude goes with the boys and stays in the farmhouse with them. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

In the original text of Hardy Boys #23, The Melted Coins, Chet finds an old coin while digging on his property.  Chet then spends all his time digging for treasure.  Meanwhile, a counterfeiting ring is operating in Bayport, and the boys search for clues.

I had forgotten so much about the Hardy Boys series.  As I read this book, I began to recall something about Chet and his hobbies and that he has a new hobby in each book.  Chet's interest in coins in this book is the very first of Chet's many interests and hobbies.

The criminals go to a lot of trouble that is rather unnecessary.  They steal valuable coins in order to melt them down to create counterfeit coins.  The criminals should have found scrap metal to melt down instead of going after coin collections.  Besides, they could have just sold the valuable coins on the black market.

Aunt Gertrude's role is fun.

Even though the crime is stupid and the plot full of coincidence, this book is great.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hardy Boys #20 Flying Express and #21 Broken Blade

In the original text of Hardy Boys #20, The Mystery of the Flying Express, Frank and Joe are tasked with helping their father find a secret training camp for spies.  Later, the boys learn about a missing professor, Morse, whose disappearance turns out to be connected to the training camp for spies.

Harriet Adams outlined this book.  Thank goodness!  The books I just read were "crazy Edna" outlines, and I had grown tired of them.

The boys follow a man who picked up a package.  They believe it went in the water, so they search for it.  On page 38, a bundle of newspapers is found in the water right where the package was dropped.  Joe astutely notes, "There must have been some reason why that fellow was so eager to get [the package]."  You think?  Frank says that they should "take the package along, just for luck."  The boys go to that much trouble to find the package, then Frank says they will take it "just for luck."  Has Frank lost some brain cells?

This book has numerous choppy transitions.  On page 125, the text specifies that the "two brothers" left the others to check on a vehicle.  When the boys remark about the vehicle, Kelly answers, but he didn't go with them. On page 184, the boys use a vine ladder to climb into the spies' camp, but no mention is made about them hiding the ladder.  Later, the boys leave via the vine ladder.  Did they really leave it hanging over the wall so that anyone could have spotted it?

On 189, why would the two foreign spies speak in English while alone and discussing their plans?

Despite several flaws, I greatly enjoyed this story, and it was a relief to read it after having read through several mediocre stories.

In the original text of Hardy Boys #21, The Clue of the Broken Blade, Mr. Hardy requests the boys' assistance in his latest case, which is to apprehend a group of thieves that steals valuable cargo from ships that have just docked.  The boys also learn about a stolen sword and another sword with a broken blade.  They take on that case as well.  Of course, both cases turn out to be the same case.  And not only that, but the boys find a missing man who is also connected to the case.

I found it strange that the boys are asked to join an acrobat act in the circus.  With a small amount of practice, they are ready to perform on the trapeze.  I was reminded of when Nancy Drew performs her trick riding in the circus in The Ringmaster's Secret.

I also found it strange that Moe Gordon carries around the broken blade and keeps leaving pieces of it behind.  His strange habit certainly proves to be helpful to the Hardys!

I greatly enjoyed this story.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Nancy Drew Picture Cover Prices

I wrote a post three years ago about the scarcity of Nancy Drew original text picture cover books.  The data compiled in that post is relevant to this discussion.  Also relevant are some statements about Nancy Drew prices that David Farah made in Farah's Guide in 2005.  At that time, I disagreed with what he wrote.  I have now changed my mind and agree completely.

Farah wrote that eBay listings are but a small portion of the Nancy Drew listings sold online and that eBay listings are not representative of the average prices paid for Nancy Drew books.  At that time, I felt that the eBay sold listings were truly representative of the value of Nancy Drew books, since I felt that most of the action was on eBay, even though it was in decline.  Now in 2016, eBay has declined considerably, and I completely agree with Farah.  eBay sold listings are no longer representative of the average value of Nancy Drew books, because now, most used books are not sold on eBay.  It's interesting what a difference 11 years can make on one's perspective.

In my recent post on Bret King prices, I mentioned that buyers often pay higher prices for books on fixed-price sites such as AbeBooks and Amazon than they do in eBay auctions.  Since fixed-price sites do not make sold listings available, collectors have no idea what other collectors are paying for books on those sites.

The original text Nancy Drew picture cover books are in demand and are getting harder to find.  I have noticed that I tend to price some of my books higher than other sellers do and that my books do tend to sell, sometimes very quickly.  Am I pricing them too high?  I don't think so, at least not for most of them, since they are selling.  I cannot keep some titles in stock, since I cannot find additional copies quickly enough to satisfy demand.  This causes me to wonder if I am pricing them too low.  For some books, I cannot justify pricing them any higher because the condition is not good enough.

Another reason I wonder about prices is because I have a buyer who is purchasing some of my picture cover books to resell.  This does not bother me at all.  However, this causes me to wonder about the value, because when someone who is reselling pays $20 for a Nancy Drew picture cover book, that tells me that buyers are paying much higher prices on the fixed-price sites.  The seller cannot be selling the book for just a few dollars more if the seller is willing to pay $20 for the book.  The seller must be pricing the book at $30 or more.

I have observed that I sell some picture cover books at $15 to $20, while in eBay auctions, some of the same books sell for just $5.  That's why I believe that eBay auction prices are actually low-end prices.  The auction prices are a good benchmark for value and give us very useful information.  But we have to remember that we don't know anything about the fixed-price sites and what type of prices are being paid on those venues.  Since my experience is that fixed-price listings bring higher prices, I contend that the eBay auction results are at the low end.

This does not mean that the books are worth hugely more than the eBay auction results.  In some cases, they are worth only slightly more.  In other cases, they are worth much more.  When I have a book to sell from a scarce series, I check the eBay auction results and unsold fixed-price listings from other sites.  I will usually price the book higher than the auction results but lower than the unsold fixed-price listings.  This may mean pricing a $5 auction book at $10 or a $20 auction book at $30.  In some cases, I may decide to price a book significantly higher, if I feel that the scarcity justifies the higher price.

With all this in mind, I took screen captures of some of the sold listings for individual sales of Nancy Drew picture cover books on eBay.  For books sold by "best offer," I noted on the photo the approximate price paid, which was determined by the book's placement in search results sorted by price.

Click on each image to see a larger version.

The "man with pipe" cover art of The Clue of the Broken Locket is scarce.  Knowledgeable sellers price the book at $15 and up.  I saw four examples on eBay that sold for between $13 and $23.  I saw a few others that sold for $5 to $10.  The book that sold at the lowest price was a copy for $2.50 in an auction.


The original text PC of The Clue of the Tapping Heels is one of the harder to find picture cover books.  Seen below are two books that list to Pine Hill.  One seller priced the book at $8, and I priced mine at $20.  I always price this title at $10 and up if the condition is good enough, and I have no trouble selling it.

The revised text of Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk is one of the hardest to find revised text books.  I sold one at $15 while two other sellers priced their books quite low.

The original text PC of The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion is one that I sometimes have more trouble finding.  I found it to be quite scarce a few years ago, but more recently, I have had more extras come into my possession.  Nevertheless, I tend to price it a little higher, and I don't have much trouble selling it.  The two higher-priced books are first picture cover books, but I typically price my non-first picture cover copies at $10 to $15 depending upon condition.  Two sellers sold their books, one a first PC, for only around $5.

The original text PC of The Clue in the Old Album with the original cover art is one of the very hardest to find PCs with only three printings.

Here are several different completed listings that I captured.  I don't have any specific comments to make.

Here are several examples of sold listings for Mystery of Crocodile Island.  All four of these books are first printing books.  The book that sold at auction went at the very low opening bid.

The Thirteenth Pearl is a strong seller.  It's not as hard to find as some other books, and I often find extras locally.  In fact, I just purchased one in the last two weeks.  However, it's a book that probably isn't found easily in a local store by the average person who actually needs a copy of the book.  For that reason, it always sells well online.  Notice the range of $10 up to $30 for the following listings.  The lowest prices are auctions.

Even copies of The Thirteenth Pearl with double oval endpapers are strong sellers.  I have sold nice condition copies of The Thirteenth Pearl with double oval endpapers for $20 to $25.  In nice condition, all matte copies of this book are worth $20 to $40, with the true first printings commanding the prices at the high end of the range.

The prices shown here are not definitive and do not show the entire situation.  Mainly, I hope I have shown that prices do vary considerably and that auctions do often bring prices that are much lower than prices of the fixed-price listings.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hardy Boys #18 Twisted Claw and #19 Disappearing Floor

In the original text of Hardy Boys #18, The Twisted Claw, Frank loses his wallet, which contains a paper with a special code for communication that was created by Fenton Hardy.  Soon, the boys learn that criminals got ahold of the code, since they send false coded messages to the boys.  The boys realize that their father might be in trouble so they journey to Canada to search for him.  And a bunch of other stuff happens involving a crazy Twisted Claw society.

I don't understand why Frank doesn't tell his father about the missing code, since it makes the method of secret communication to be risky.  Of course we know why.  By not telling Fenton, a mystery develops, but this is so stupid.

This book has the same tone as the previous book, and I don't like it.  The stories are a bit similar.  The coincidences are too ridiculous.

I noticed choppy transitions beginning with the previous title.  The authorship of the series has changed, and it shows.  A good example occurs on pages 81 and 82.  The boys are walking in the town.
"We'll make the rounds of all the lumber camps in the vicinity.  Sooner or later we should find out something.  Maybe Mr. Hendrick can help us."

After an hour of rummaging in the loft of the old hotel, the proprietor descended with an ancient, dog-eared map of the region.
It's confusing when the author leaves out transitions between scenes.

Frank reads a pirate book he finds in a store.  He believes that the criminals read it as well.  Of course they did!  The book helps the boys solve the mystery.  How convenient!

I did not enjoy a large part of the story, with the exception of the portion in the middle where the boys have to rescue Fenton.  Otherwise, I found this book to be difficult to enjoy.  The purpose of the story was not clear to me, and I never enjoy books as much when I don't understand the purpose.  I ended up skimming a lot of the last part of the story.

In the original text of Hardy Boys #19, The Disappearing Floor, the Hardys and Chet go camping and then get trapped in a cave, where they are rescued by Fenton Hardy, who just happens to be investigating bank robbers in the middle of the woods.  And the story just gets crazier from that point.

It is stupid for the boys keep going back the cave where they keep getting caught or nearly caught every single time.  And Fenton Hardy encourages their stupid behavior!

At one point, the boys trap the culprits in the cave.  They know there is a secret exit that Fenton Hardy knows about, but they are somehow certain that the culprits don't know about it.  When the boys arrive with law enforcement, they are shocked that the men have vanished. 

Even though strange and improbable, I greatly enjoyed the first half of the book. From page 100 on, I did not enjoy the story.  On page 100, the book becomes science fiction.  A strange light can freeze people, causing ice to form on them.  This is a bit too weird for me, and that's not all of it.

The old inventor is similar to the insane man from While the Clock Ticked.  That man was miraculously cured of his insanity and so is the old inventor in this book. 

Too much back and forth chasing and searching goes on in the old house towards the end of the story.  In fact, this part reminds me of the excessively lengthy chase scene through the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  I felt like I was having a bad flashback as I read the last part of The Disappearing Floor

I skimmed a lot of the last part of the book.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Recent Bret King eBay Prices

eBay is the one site where users can see recent sold prices for listings.  This is a great way to get an idea of how much books are worth.  In my opinion, auction results tend to be low-end values.  They are great indicators of what books are worth but are towards the bottom end of what the average buyer will pay.

eBay auctions often close too low because some collectors rely on the bids of other collectors to try to decide what to pay.  They react when someone else submits a higher bid by placing an even higher bid to outbid the other person.  Buyers who don't need to use others to determine what to pay learned a very long time ago not to bid until the last 10 seconds of an auction.  The reactionary bidders do not like that practice, since they prefer to let the other bidders help them decide what to pay.  Since many buyers wait until the end to bid, the reactionary bidders never realize that they need to bid higher, thus keeping the auction price low.

Some buyers are willing to pay higher prices in order to obtain instant gratification, and I am one of those.  I do prefer good deals, but when I want to build a set of books quickly, I am willing to pay higher prices.

Recent Bret King auction results and my own experience with building a set serve as good examples of how auctions can be lower than what buyers are willing to pay on the fixed-price sites.

Aside from the first three books, the Bret King series is quite scarce.  Volumes four through nine are difficult to acquire.  I decided in June 2015 that I wanted to read the Bret King series, and I wanted to read them in the very near future.  I had no choice but to purchase the books from two fixed-price sites, AbeBooks and Amazon.  I chose the best value that I could that would give me books in the approximate condition I desired.  Even so, I had much trouble finding a copy of The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa in the condition I wanted, detailed here.

Since I wanted instant gratification and no suitable auction listings appeared on eBay in the one to two months I was looking for Bret King books, I had to pay higher prices than what auction prices would bring.  For volumes four through nine, I paid between $20 and $80 for each book.  The prices averaged out to around $40 per book.  I tend to average prices when I record how much I paid for books that are from the same series so that in the event I upgrade one later, I am more easily able to get my cost back.

I use books as escapism, and they help me to relieve stress.  Reading is the one most important activity that keeps me in an overall positive frame of mind.  This is why I am willing to pay above average prices to obtain needed books quickly.  I do make a profit on some books I sell, and that profit helps cover the amounts I overspend in order to achieve that instant gratification.  I doubt I'm the only collector and reader who does this, although I could certainly be in the extreme minority.

In December, two different sellers offered most of the the Bret King set in individual eBay auctions fairly close together.  For that short time, the Bret King series did not appear to be that scarce, and this could have kept some of the prices down.

The following listings are the results for the auctions for volumes one, two, and three, which are the easiest titles to find.  Including shipping, the final cost ended up being between $10 and $15 for most of the books.  Remember that you can always click on an image to see a larger version.

For volume four, The Mystery of Rawhide Gap, I feel that both of the books with dust jackets were a steal.  The two books with jackets sold for only slightly more than volumes one, two, and three, yet volume four is much harder to find than the first three books.

The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa was my hardest to acquire Bret King book in the condition I desired.  I ended up paying not too bad of a price at less than $40, but I would have loved for a listing with dust jacket to have been available on eBay at that time!  One thing to consider when viewing these results is that if one more person like me had been involved, the ending prices would have been higher.  The prices might have only been a few dollars higher or could have been $20 or $30 higher, depending upon what the two highest bidders were willing to pay.  Remember that value is variable and is subjective.

$20.50 for The Secret of Fort Pioneer is also a reasonable price to pay for this book.

I did not have much trouble locating a copy of The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, and the price I paid was less than the final auction prices of the two eBay listings.  However, it is apparent from these prices that The Mystery of the Comanche Caves is one of the hardest to find titles in the series.

The Phantom of Wolf Creek was the book for which I paid the least out of volumes four through nine.  Likewise, the two listings for that title sold at lower prices.

I paid more for my copy of The Mystery of Bandit Gulch than the closing prices of these two listings.

Notice that all of the books sold on December 29 sold at lower prices than the same titles did on December 16.  Since the buyers of the first set of listings were not bidding on the second set, prices went down.  This does not mean that the Bret King books dropped in value over those two weeks.

Unfortunately, sold listing prices are not available for AbeBooks and Amazon, so we have no idea what buyers are actually paying for series books on those sites.  I do believe that buyers are paying higher average prices than they do in eBay auctions, so buyers have only a partial idea of what other collectors are willing to pay.

I have more thoughts on this topic which will be expressed in a future post about Nancy Drew picture cover books.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hardy Boys #16 Figure in Hiding and #17 Secret Warning

In the original text of Hardy Boys #16, A Figure in Hiding, Frank and Joe witness a robbery at the Rialto Theater.  Next, Fenton Hardy requests their assistance in a case involving Dr. Grafton, who is believed to be a fake doctor who operates on people with bad eyesight.  That case leads the boys to a girl named Virginia, who tries to kill herself after learning that the man believed to be her father is not her real father.  Later, Chet is arrested for the theater robbery, so the Hardys must prove his innocence.

And of course, all of these seemingly random events are ultimately connected in a series of bizarre coincidences, making this a strange and convoluted story.  I won't mention the craziest coincidences since they spoil parts of the plot, but those coincidences are too implausible to be even slightly believable.

I thought it rather concerning that the Hardy boys are not worried about a fake doctor operating on a man's eyes.  They are content to witness the operation with no concern.  If the fake doctor had gone through with the operation, the patient could have been blinded.

I enjoyed some parts of this book, but I also struggled with other parts. 

In Hardy Boys #17, The Secret Warning, Frank and Joe meet a diver, Roland Perry, who falls in the water and then borrows one of Fenton Hardy's suits.  The boys learn that valuable notes were in the suit, so they go after Perry, who then invites the boys to watch him dive for a lost ship.  Two men stalk the Hardys and try to sabotage the diving operation.

I found it quite unbelievable that the boys are allowed to dive with no training whatsoever.  Other series books emphasize diving safety and have the characters go through training before going on a dive.  Not these boys!  They are ready to go with little knowledge.

I noticed that Chet's behavior has changed.  He is not interested at all in helping Frank and Joe solve mysteries.  I thought he had more interest in the earlier books.  Not only that, but other things seemed off to me.  The author was different for this book.  The series is in transition during this and subsequent volumes.

I did not enjoy this book.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hardy Boys #14 Hidden Harbor and #15 Sinister Sign Post

In the original text of Hardy Boys #14, The Hidden Harbor Mystery, the Hardy boys and Chet barely survive a sinking ship while sailing home along the east coast.  Before the accident with the ship, the boys speak to Mr. Blackstone, who later accuses them of stealing his money.  The boys must clear themselves of the charge.

This book was outlined by Edna Stratemeyer Squier, and the story has her fingerprints all over it.  The entire plot is crazy from start to finish.  A group of black men has a secret society, and they kidnap an insane man.  A bunch of people later search for the insane man, planning to lynch him.  Yikes.

Speaking of lynching, the culprit leaves the boys a warning note attached to a rope, threatening to lynch them.  Chapter 23 is titled " 'Lynch Him!' "

This is a wild book.  The boys get on a derelict boat, which is highly dangerous.  Later, Frank steals some personal papers from a man and takes them to his father.  We are talking about actual theft.

I actually enjoy crazy books, if they interest me.  This book highly interested me, and I greatly enjoyed it.

In the original text of Hardy Boys #15, The Sinister Sign Post, a man named Vilnoff plans to blow up Bayport.  Meanwhile, a valuable racehorse is stolen, and the boys search for it.

On page 175, the Hardy boys are following a path that they believe will lead to the villain.  They hear noises from behind them, which indicates that someone is following them.  Suddenly, they discover a trapdoor in the middle of the path.  Joe suggests, "Maybe we could hide here until they pass."  Frank yanks the door open, and a foreigner hurls angry words at the boys.  What did they think would happen? 

I greatly enjoyed most of the story, but I felt it got rather stupid towards the end, so I lost interest.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Nancy Drew Auction Results for Books with Blank Endpapers

I took some screen captures of recent Nancy Drew auctions.  I don't have any particular comments to make.  What sold and for how much should be apparent in the images.  Click on each image to see a larger version.