Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The 2020 Friends of the Library Book Sale

I continue to be frustrated that many collectors who post in the Facebook groups believe that all series books should be priced low or that all series books can be found cheaply.  These people apparently are able to find series books at extremely low prices.  Just recently, someone mentioned a thrift store that sells its series books for $0.10 each.  I am astonished that a store would sell books at that low of a price.

Here in Oklahoma, all thrift stores price the books at $2.00 and up.  Yes, quite unfortunately, even softcover children's books in bad shape are $2.00 each.  I am dumbfounded that others can find books for $0.10 these days.  This must be an extreme anomaly.  I doubt that more than just a handful of thrift stores scattered far and wide would price any books that low.  $0.10 is how a thrift store might have priced a book 40 or more years ago.  I personally have never seen a lower price than $0.25 in a thrift store, and the last time I saw that low of a price was around 30 years ago.

I mentioned a couple years ago in my post "The Expectation of Low Price Regardless of Scarcity" that just about the only people who mention prices in the Facebook groups are those who find books for $0.10 up to $1.00 to $2.00 each.  Since those are almost the only prices mentioned, collectors have unreasonable expectations regarding pricing of series books.

The reality is that books cost most of us a lot more than others think.  I recently wrote the following in a comment on Facebook.
This is how I look at it. If the book is there and at a price that I can afford that is not completely insane, then I will purchase it if I need it.

For example, let's say that a book sells online for $10 to $20 on average.  Keep in mind that postage often must be paid in addition to the selling price, so the $10 to $20 book might be more than that.

Sometimes the book might sell for $5 online, but postage gets added to the total, so that book will end up being around $10.  Tax is now paid by a majority of online buyers, so there's that as well.  Online prices once were not taxed, which made online purchases cheaper.  That's not the case these days for most of us.

Let's say I am in a store and see the book I described above for $25.  The book is in nice condition.  I can examine the book in person and see all flaws.  I am there, and the book is there.  I will purchase the book if I need it.  I don't worry about how I might possibly find the book for $10 to $15 someday.  Someday might never come.  I have the book in hand, so I purchase it.
I mention all of this because I'm going to be more upfront than usual about what I paid for some books this last weekend.  I usually do not disclose prices, because many people have this odd idea that no one should make even a slight profit on anything that they sell online.  They get upset if they think someone might even have made $0.50 on a transaction.  Seriously, they do.

You would be surprised at how much online sellers sometimes pay when they source their items.

I purchased the above books in a couple of stores.  Remember my comment about books not being priced at below $2.00 each in Oklahoma.  You now know by what I stated that I must have paid at least $2.00 per book.  The cheapest ones were the softcover books.  But what about the others?  It would have been great if they had been $2.00 or so each, but they weren't.

The original text Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books are getting very hard to source.  I enjoy selling them and helping others to build their collections.  This gives me great personal satisfaction, but the original text picture covers are now, for the most part, 50 years of age or older.  They are now very scarce in excellent condition and are getting hard to source even in rough shape.

The picture cover books seen in the above photo are a bit rough.  I paid $6.00 each plus tax for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys picture covers.  That is a bit steep for the condition, but I am really struggling to source the original text picture covers at this time.  I was completely out of extras of several titles.  When I sell the above picture covers, the markup will not be very much due to the condition.

The local Friends of the Library book sale was this weekend.  This year, the sale had around 800,000 books.  It is always a large sale with between 500,000 and 1 million books.  I always go to the sale on the first day, and I was the 12th person in the line for the section I always go to first, which is where the more collectible books are located.

The Nancy Drew and other series books were in three locations in the same part of the building.  I must move quickly and make split-second decisive decisions on what to pick up.  I must avoid selecting books that I would need to put back.  I don't have the luxury of thinking about a purchase with a few thousand people filing into the building behind me and some of them coming for the books I want.  My position in line only gains me just a few minutes.

My mind is frenetic, and I feel like I have ADHD in those few minutes.  I keep my movements controlled, since being rude is unacceptable.  Most of the people are very polite and apologize when they accidentally brush against someone else.  The behavior is by and large quite good at this sale.  There are always a few incidents, but mostly everyone is polite.

I mentioned making split-second decisions.  I don't check prices, except for a few scattered books, probably only a few per 50 books selected.  I know that the hardcover books will be $2.00 to $4.00 each.  Softcover books will tend to be $1.00 to $1.50.  I don't have time to verify prices, so I trust that the prices are the same as always.

I won't get into all of the particulars of my experience this year, but I always scan quickly, looking at the spine designs and selecting what I want.  If I see books that obviously have very heavy wear, I try not to select them.

I visit each location where the books might be located, just looking for patterns in the spines.  After I make my initial selections, I go back to each location, going slower and reading titles.  This is when I notice books that are of interest that are much less noticeable.  These types of books are also ones other people won't get at first glance.  I have to be quick in finding the Nancy Drew books so that I can have first choice, because the Nancy Drew books always go very fast.

Here are pictures and some comments about what I purchased.

The softcover Nancy Drew books seen above are in very nice shape.  These thrill me the most of the books I purchased.  I will be comparing the above books to the ones in my collection, in case some of them are in nicer shape. 

In the below photo, the original text Nancy Drew books are in rough shape, as is typical these days.  Fortunately, I didn't have to pay $6.00 each for these books.

Some of the tweed Nancy Drew books seen below are in rougher shape than I would like.  However, I always end up with some books that I really shouldn't have bought.  As mentioned, I don't have time to think over purchases, so I end up with some books that I wish I hadn't purchased.

The flashlight edition Nancy Drew books seen in the above photo are either high-numbered ones (#58, 60, and 62) or are the textured flashlight editions.

The Weed Walk is a scarce book by Margaret Sutton, who wrote the Judy Bolton books.  The Mystery of the Shaky Staircase is a very scarce book by Margaret Scherf, who was the ghostwriter for the original text of Nancy Drew #27, The Secret of the Wooden Lady.

The Whispering House caught my eye, and I opened it just to see if it might be interesting enough to purchase.  This was after I had already gone over the books more than once and was browsing more leisurely.  As soon as I opened the book, I saw that it was signed by the author.

I still don't know if the book is good, but I wasn't going to leave a signed book behind.  And yes, as you can clearly see, the book was priced at $2.00.

The Oz books are probably not worth much more than what I paid, but at worst, I should be able to get my money back.

A bunch of the Nancy Drew Twin Thriller editions are seen above.  Some of the books have $3.00 written inside, which I truly believe was supposed to be the price for those books.  Other books do not have a price written inside.  At checkout, the volunteers decided that the books were a "set" as defined and sold by the library sale and came up with a rather low total cost for the "set" of books.  They made this decision based on stickers that were on the covers of some books, seen in the next photo.

I cannot be certain, but I don't think the stickers had anything to do with the library sale.  In any case, the set of Twin Thrillers was cheaper than it should have been.  You'll notice that I'm not revealing what they charged me.

In the long run, pricing errors average out.  One time, I was quite overcharged for some books without realizing it until later.  These things balance out over the years.

My favorite part of the sale is the table in the general section where the vintage teen paperback books are located.  I don't get to these books until around 45 minutes into the sale, since I have to complete checkout in the other section with my initial purchases and then get those books loaded into the car.  I doubt that I miss out on too many of the vintage teen books, since those are not nearly as high in demand as the vintage Nancy Drew books are.

Most of the books seen in these pictures will be sold eventually.  The prices will be marked up, but I deserve that.  For those who might think I shouldn't do that, consider my true cost for the books.  I paid for a library membership.  I took the day off work and had to pay for my substitute.  I waited in line for hours for the sale to start.  I shopped at the sale for around three hours.  I went back the next day and spent another hour at the sale.  I drove round trip 25 miles each day when I attended the sale.

My final cost is higher than the sum total of my sales receipts.  Keep that in mind when you peruse the listings of online sellers.  The sellers have to source the books, and much time and effort is involved, in addition to the cost of acquiring the books.  The buyer pays a convenience fee to the seller, who did the legwork in finding the books.  I am eternally grateful to all the sellers over the years who have found good books that I ended up purchasing for my collection.


paul binotto said...

Of course you should make money on your investment!
It is so hard to convince young people in my business that their time is worth money.
I always tell people to think of what they is fair and then double that. Or triple it.
You are doing the work and should reap the benefits.

TerryW said...

I often see dealers at large book sales carry big strong sacks and start tossing books into them at rapid speed. When they are filled, they put them in a pile someplace until they are ready to check out.

What in the world do you use to carry such a large quantity of books from each section to checkout?

Jennifer White said...

I use mostly luggage on wheels. I have three large ones and one small one. Last year and this year, I have also rigged up a tall laundry basket on a small folding dolly by tying the laundry basket to the edges of the dolly.

I use the dolly/laundry basket combo in the "Better Books" room along with one luggage on wheels. After I'm back at the car, I cut the laundry basket free from the dolly, fold the dolly, and put the dolly in the trunk. I also have the books divided up in such a way that the basket and the luggage aren't too heavy to lift into the car.

I then head into the general area with another luggage on wheels. I also have a few tote bags for overflow or to stash books quickly while I'm looking. The tables are so crowded with people that I often leave the luggage at the end of the table while browsing.

I prefer the luggage because the books are enclosed and not visible even when the luggage is partially unzipped. I don't think anyone has ever messed with the books I have selected.
People who use wagons run a great risk of people seeing and grabbing what they have while the wagons are unattended.