Read'Em Again Books
It's been a number of weeks since I last posted anything, but that isn't because nothing has been going on around here. Rather, it's been just the opposite.
First, after running the Marine Corps' General Alfred M. Gray Research Center for the last fifteen of years and totaling over almost forty years of combined military and civilian service, I decided to retire. It was surprising how time-consuming the retirement process was; not all that difficult, but it did require a considerable amount of information to be gathered, telephone calls to be made, accounts to be transferred, forms to be filled, and signatures to be signed. At last all the red tape has finally been snipped away, and I have to say, it feels great to no longer put on either a uniform or coat and tie in the morning, not to be tied to the job for ten to twelve hours each day, and--most importantly--to be responsible only for myself.
In my much younger days as a Company Commander in the 3rd Infantry Division, no doubt watching something unravel
Anyway, while I was churning through the retirement process, the tenants of a townhouse I jointly own with my daughter, decided to skip town after falling behind on the rent. They were nice people, but the breadwinner wife had to leave to take care of her sick mother in New York, and her husband and sons sort of fell apart without her there. Unfortunately they left the place filthy and pretty well trashed.
So, I've been well occupied repairing and cleaning the place, and have finally gotten it back in tip-top shape with an almost entirely new kitchen and flooring. Although, I have a tentative tenant, the lease isn't finalized yet, so if anyone is looking for a great rental in the DC area
, let me know, and if the current plan falls through, I'll be in touch.
Additionally, the book business has been busy too. I spent some time finalizing a deal with The Mariner's Museum in Newport News for my Civil War journal by the paymaster of the USS Wachusett
documenting the entire Peninsular Campaign from a Navy officer's perspective. I've also done a bunch of shows: a book fair in York, Pennsylvania
, antique shows in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and the DC Big Flea near Dulles Airport. Sales were good, not great but certainly better than simply acceptable, and many of the things I sold had been gathering dust for months including a first, but dampstained, hard-cover printing of the Gettysburg Address, some Civil War correspondence, a scarce Baldwin locomotive photo reference, and a couple of Kobonusha fairy tales. I even sold my carpenter's toolbox
that one of these days will probably make it on screen in an episode of Market Warriors.
To cap off the year, last weekend I journeyed up to Boston to set up a small booth at the shadow show (officially, the Boston Book, Print,and Ephemera Show
) and, boy, was it worthwhile.
Marvin Getman really had things organized. Load-in and pack-out were both easy and smooth. He brought in the customers too. I've never done this show before, but I understand that the crowd was triple the size of the one last year. People bought too, and sales were terrific. I was nearly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of customers shortly after the show opened on Saturday; at one time I counted over fifteen people jockeying for position in my little space. Of course, most of my high dollar business was with ABAA dealers who spent the morning with us before heading back for their noon opening at the Hynes Convention Center, but I had several good institutional sales as well as quite a few purchases from individual collectors. Some of the nicer things that sold included a dust-jacketed set of Catlin's North American Indians
, a beautiful copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book
, a WWI photo album documenting the training and operations of one of the first American units to land in France, several Meggendorfer and Kubasta movable books, and some Houdini ephemera.
So now I'm taking a short breather for the holidays. No shows until after the first of the year, but I have a stack of things to put on-line, and I'm looking at setting up a permanent booth at one of the nicer antique malls in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
I've spent the past couple of evenings getting ready for the big Baltimore antique show and book fair (it has nearly 600 dealers including fifty or so booksellers) that will kick off this coming Thursday and run through Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center at the Inner Harbor.
I probably don't dislike this show as much as some booksellers, but it's not a show that I enjoy doing because the booth and lodging fees are relatively expensive, load-in and especially load-out is often a real pain, the white carpet is sacrosanct when it comes to dollies, I have to take leave from my job for three days since the setup is on Wednesday, and I always have the feeling that the promoters are--appropriately enough I suppose--far more interested in meeting the needs of the antique dealers, many of whom really spend really big bucks for their fancy booths.
Last year's show got off to a miserable start as about half of the booksellers (me included) had to pack-up and relocate to different part of the hall after the show closed on its first night since a couple of gigantic storms were bearing in on Baltimore and the facility had well-known serious leaks above our area. At least none of the maintenance workers crashed into my booth with an electric cart, knocking down tables, shelves, and books; don't laugh; that happened; ask Gary Austin. Still, I keep coming back because this event is usually one of my better shows each year when it comes to dealer, floor, and post-show sales.
Also, it doesn't hurt that there is always something going on at the Inner Harbor, and if the Orioles are in town you can sometimes catch part of a game at Camden Yards depending upon the start time.
This year, the show organizers have moved the booksellers to a different area. We'll be set up just inside the Charles Street entrance and to the left. My booth number will be 2343, and I'll be set up on the aisle that will serve as border between the book section and the antique dealers. A map of the show floor is on pages 81-82 in the program.
I plan on having some interesting things with me including a whaling journal from the Schooner Penelope that is illustrated with 51 full-page watercolor paintings.
Here are links to both the show program and to a catalog of some of the items I'll be bringing.
If you're in the area, I hope you can attend the show and stop by if you get the chance.
This past weekend, I set up a booth at the Virginia Beach Antiques Show, which is held each August at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
I like doing this show because it's not too far away, I lived there for almost all of the 1990s and it's nice to go back, it's easy to move in and out, and the sales are usually very good. We stay at one of the few remaining, small, family-owned hotels right on the beach, and a couple of my granddaughters come a long to enjoy the weekend.
The girls like to help set up the booth too, although depending upon their level of involvement that can add an hour or so to the effort.
This year, it seemed like at least half of the serious shoppers who came into my booth were looking for maps, which isn't all that surprising. It's been my experience that maps are always a big deal at Virginia shows. This year I sold eight including:
An unlisted variation of Joseph Purcell's Map of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, . . . Georgia, [and] the Spanish Provinces of East and West Florida
, which was published sometime between 1788 and 1794.
Amos Doolittle's Map of the Northern and Middle States
A Map of those Parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, & Georgia which were the Scenes of the Most Important Operations of the Southern Armies [during the American Revolution]
, which came from the 1807 first edition of John Marshall's Life of Washington
A hand-colored Boyington Celestial Chart showing Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, and other constellations from Bradford Duncan's The Wonders of the Heavens
, published in 1837.
This past weekend I set up a booth at the DC Big Flea Market held at the Dulles Expo Center. The name is a little bit deceiving as since it first started over fifteen years ago, this D'Amore Promotions
' show has grown from rather humble 'flea-markety' beginnings into "the Mid-Atlantic's Largest Antique Event" with a significant number vendors offering rather up-scale merchandise. I do the shows--there are six of them held each year in alternating months--because they are near-by, the booth rent is quite reasonable, and the promoters bring in thousands of shoppers rain, shine, or snow and whether or not the temperatures outside are below freezing or over one hundred degrees.
Although there are over 600 booth spaces available at the show, the total number of dealers is somewhat less as many of us reserve a double-booth.
I take a fairly nice selection things to these shows including unusual ephemera, about 250 books, and a small assortment of antique toys, games, and tobacciania. Occasionally, I bring along a few other antiques that I have picked up here and there, and for this show, I had a beautiful handmade carpenter's toolbox from the first quarter of the 20th century filled with hand-tools in superb condition.
Carpenter's Toolbox. 1910-1935. Handcrafted professional carpenter's toolbox with dovetail joints is approximately 33" L x 9" W x10" D. Three saws can be stored in the lid; there is a holder for a two-handed draw plane; and it has an inset carrying tray. The box has only some minor wear, and all of its fittings, hinges, and latches are in nice shape. The original leather carrying handle was replaced sometime in the past. All of the tools have been very well cared for and are in exceptional shape. I can provide a list of the tools by make and model. Please send me an email if you'd like more information.
On Saturday, an episode of the new PBS series, Market Warriors
, was filmed at the Big Flea. If you haven't seen the show, it is the newest venture from the producers of Antiques Roadshow and features four different antique and art professionals who compete against each other on a limited budget ($1,000 total for use in two separate rounds) to see who can find the best buys as determined by net profit when their purchases are later sold at auction.
Around noon on Saturday, I had just finished thanking a couple who had purchased an extra-gilt first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin
, when another customer in my booth told me I was being 'summoned' by a man holding a boom microphone. When I turned around, I saw the production crew filming one of the 'warriors,' none other than John Bruno (the distinguished fellow in sunglasses) of Flamingo Eventz
, who was holding court for the camera team and discussing my tool box as a "work of art." I walked over, and we engaged in about ten minutes of banter about the box. John seened quite interested, but we couldn't come to an agreement on the price. I have it marked at $800 and was willing to sell it for $640 (a fairly standard 20% trade discount) but we didn't close the deal before he moved on.
About a half-hour later, a second 'warrior' turned up; this time it was Miller Gaffney of Miller Gaffney Art Advisory
. An exceptionally nice copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book
in one of my small display cases caught her eye. We discussed it for a minute or two but there was no way I could lower the price enough that she could be able to complete the deal within her funding limit.
Craddock, Harry. The Savoy Cocktail Book: Being in the main a complete compendium of the Cocktails, Rickeys, Daisies, Slings, Shrubs, Smashes, Fizzes, Juleps, Cobblers, Fixes, and other Drinks. . . .
New York, 1930: R. Smith. This is an exceptionally nice example of the classic cocktail book compiled by Craddock, an ex-patriot American bartender, at the Savoy Hotel in London. Second printing with the Baccardi Cocktail recipe printed in the text rather than included on an erratum slip. Tight binding with sound hinges. Clean pages; one page has a partially erased pencil mark, '8', in the lower margin Crisp, bright, fresh color. Gold foil cover is terrific shape. Sharp corners and almost no wear other than several light shelf wear 'scratches' to rear board. $1850.00
Anyway, neither came back later so I still have both items for sale if anyone is interested. 20% discount to the trade, including carpenters. Actually, I can do better on the tool box; it may well be a beautiful work of functional art, but it is also very heavy, and I'd just as soon not have to lug it to another show.
P.S. I almost forgot, I don't know when the episode will air or even if any of my time with John or Miller will make it past the cutting room floor.
P.P.S. And, oh, here's a photo of the Uncle Tom's Cabin set that I sold. It really was quite attractive with only some moderate wear at the spine ends.
What do you get when you cross a book with a Meccano?
The answer, of course, is a Bookano. Perhaps, though, this begs two questions. First, "What is a Meccano?"
If you are from anywhere in the world other than the U.S., you probably know about Mecanno boxed sets of interchangeable sheet metal pieces, bolts, nuts, gears, pulleys, etc. that can be used to created an infinite number of mechanical toys. If you're from the U.S., think of the old Erector Sets that were sold by A. C. Gilbert; they are basically the same. In fact, I think the same Japanese company may now own both the Meccano and Erector Set trade names.
So, the question that logically follows is "What is a Bookano?" Well, the Bookano Stories were a series of pop-up books that were the brainchild of S. Louis Giraud, a former publisher in the book department of London's Daily Express, and Theodore Brown, an optical toy maker who became a self-taught paper engineer. The pop-ups in the first book reminded Giraud of Meccano structures, so he named his publication a Bookano. Although moveable books had been produced for many years, when Giraud's initial Bookano Stories was published in 1929, it was the first book with constructions that would "Spring Up in Model Form" on their own. When pages were turned, forms and figures automatically popped-up into shape on double-page spreads that were viewable from every side.
Over the next twenty years, Giraud published 16 Bookano 'annuals' each containing an assortment of children's stories and poems and at least five pop-ups. Giraud's books were especially popular, not just because of the pop-ups and their flashy covers, but because they were reasonably priced. By using cheap paper, inexpensive binding materials, and rough printing, as well farming out pre-cut pop-up sheets to housewives for home-assembly, Giraud's moveable books could be purchased for a fraction of the price of one created by Meggendorfer, Nister, or Tuck. Unfortunately for collectors, because these books were cheaply produced, there were easily damaged, and it is difficult to find them in good shape today.
I currently have several nice Bookano pop-up books available for sale. You can click on the images for more information.
I spent last weekend visiting the Pennsylvania antique "extravaganzas" at Kutztown and Adamstown as well as browsing through antique malls along the way. And . . . it was a fairly productive trip. Although, I only picked up a single book, I did find some nice ephemera like a piece of 1870s Santa Claus sheet music and a small lot of Long-Cut tobacco cards featuring photographs of 1880s actresses (including a couple of Lillian Russel and others who are rather scantily clad).
However, my favorite finds of the trip are two illustrated diaries penned by a brother and sister in 1907. The children, Richard Wigley Perrot Rose and Helen S. Rose, were thirteen and twelve years old at the time. The family lived a fairly comfortable upper-middle class life just outside of Montclair, New Jersey, supported by Mr. Rose's work in New York City, apparently as a women's fashion tailor (at least that's how his occupation was identified during one census). Richard and Helen received diaries for as Christmas presents in 1906 and resolved to keep them current for the entire next year. In truth they did a pretty good job as Richard completed entries almost every day until September, and Helen lasted until July. After that the entries are sporadic.
Richard, who was about a year and a half older, was by far the better artist, and his entries provide an exceptional window on what it daily life was like for a young teenage boy in the very early years of the 20th century. His entries are detailed and include information about school, manual training (he's building a printing press in shop class), meals, sports (mostly skating and baseball), reading habits (he anxiously awaits the weekly delivery of The Youth's Companion has a fondness for the Rover Boys), violin lessons and choir practice, church, his favorite toy (an alcohol fueled steam engine with attachments), dancing lessons, weather, sledding, trolleys, and much, much more. While the content is excellent; Richard's many illustrations are exceptional.
Following Richard's graduation from Princeton, he took a position with Aetna Life Insurance Company until the outbreak of WWI. He then enlisted in the Marine Corps and was promoted to Corporal just before the Battle of Belleau Wood. On June 6, the first day of the Marine counterattack, Richard was mortally wounded as his unit, the 67th Company (Company D, 1st Battalion) of the 5th Marine Regiment was raked by machine gun fire as it advanced. He died 18 days later in American Red Cross Hospital #1. Later, a Princeton scholarship was established in his name.
Helen Rose, whose artistic abilities were not quite equal to her brother's, likewise provided a superb window into the life of a middle-class girl in the very early 20th century. Her entries are detailed and include information about school, manual training (she's builds a loom to weave), meals, sports (tennis, baseball, skating, basketball), reading habits (she likes Andrew Lang's Fairy Books), violin lessons and choir practice, church, clothes, parties, stereopticon lectures (including one by Admiral Peary about his 1905/6 expedition into the Arctic), candy, weather, sledding, sleigh rides, stuck automobiles, illness (mumps and the 'imitation' measles), visits to the dentist, and much, much more.
Helen S. Rose's Diary
. Montclair, New Jersey, 1907. Sound binding. Legible entries. Cover has some wear, soiling, and significant dampstaining that doesn't affect the pages. $1,500
I've liked photoplays since I first encountered them a number of years ago. Photoplays are books that were published from the 1910s to the 1940s in conjunction with movie releases. Their dust jackets are often splashy and feature photos or artwork of movie stars or film scenes. Most, but not all, include full-page movie stills or photo-collage endpapers. Usually, they were reprints of novels that had been turned into movies, but occasionally they were first edition novelizations of screenplay scripts.
Several thousand photoplays were published, often by reprint firms like Grosset & Dunlap or A. L. Burt, so as you might expect, most photoplays aren't that collectible. That said, a number of titles are quite popular. Some people collect photoplays of movies featuring stars like Gary Cooper, Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo, or Bette Davis. Others build collections of sub-genres like war or gangster movies, and I have two customers who collect jacket illustrations by Mach Tey (Nathan Machtey). By far, though, the most popular photoplays are those featuring classic horror movies like Dracula,Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and anything else starring Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, or Lon Chaney. Of these, the king (no pun intended) is the story of that greatest of apes, King Kong. It was published in 1932 by Grosset & Dunlap just before the release of the RKO movie as a first edition novelization of the film's script.
by Delos W. Lovelace. Conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper. Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1932. Hard Cover with dust jacket. First edition in the scarce dust jacket with the double 'by' error on the front panel; one 'by' is after 'conceived', and the second is before 'Edgar'. (More common, though still very scarce, later printings have only one 'by' after 'conceived'. There is also an almost impossible to find earliest version of the jacket without mention of the screen play authors, Creelman and Rose. Apparently, when the screenwriters saw a sample without their names, they immediately threatened a law suit and the offending dust jackets were pulled.) Tight binding with sound hinges. Clean pages. Some minor loss of color to the violet topstain of text block. Bright fresh cover with some very light wear. The dust jacket has nice color with only some light edge wear and no significant chips. However, there is a short, narrow piece missing from the front panel and half of the inside front flap has been removed. $6,750
Photoplays of lost movies, like London After Midnight, and movies that were never made are quite collectible too. Perhaps, the most famous movie that was never made was to have been based on a short story by then Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl. At the time in 1942, Dahl was an invalided British fighter ace who had been assigned to a desk job in Washington, DC. He had recently published a well received short story about a plane crash (the one which probably caused his debilitating headaches) in the Saturday Evening Post, and he began to create other anecdotes about the Royal Air Force. One, based on RAF pilots' superstitions about mischievous little fantasy creatures who delighted in sabotaging aircraft, intrigued Walt Disney. Disney hoped to turn the story into an animated feature film, The Gremlins, and arranged for Dahl's tale to be illustrated by his studio and published by Random House in 1943 as a promotion for the movie. Unfortunately, copyright concerns surrounding the origin of the gremlin superstition and restrictions by British Air Ministry, cause Disney to abandon his plans.
The Gremlins from the Walt Disney Production: A Royal AirForce Story by Roald Dahl.
Illustrated by Walt Disney Studios. Random House, New York, 1943. With dust jacket. First Edition, 1st Printing. This is the famous Dahl story about the troublesome little creatures that afflicted World War II aircraft; it was almost made into a full length cartoon movie by Walt Disney. Tight binding with sound hinges. Lightly toned pages with no writing, scribbles, or other significant flaws; just a few very light finger smudges. Bright fresh cover color. The bottom fore-edge corners are bumped, but have retained their color. Spine is in excellent shape with crisp lettering. The dust jacket is complete, but shows some edge wear and has a narrow chip at the base of the front panel that affects the word 'house' and a 1"x1.5" chip at the upper right corner of the rear panel. There is a faint owner's name in the 'G' on the front panel. The dust jacket color is even; what appears to fading in the image is actually a reflection on the protective mylar cover. $2,000
I have a few other photoplays in stock including The Marriage Play Ground (movie title of The Children) by Edith Wharton, Tales of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Good Earth by Pearl Buck. You can click on any of the below images for more information.
If you look closely at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde you can see that when the movie was remade, G & D simply 'pasted' Spencer Tracy's head over an older dust jacket that featured Fredrick March in an earlier release of the movie.
I was recently at a stamp show, NAPEX 2012 at the Hilton McLean-Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, looking for advertising covers and billheads in the bourse when I struck up a conversation with a nearby gentleman.
It turned out that he dabbled in militaria, and he mentioned that he had a Civil War ship's journal. When I asked if he was interested in selling it, he told me that he happened to have it with him as well as another ship's log from the early 1800s. We struck a deal on the spot.
One of the volumes was a partially printed book, The Seaman's Journal: Being and Easy and Correct Method of Keeping the Daily Reckoning of a Ship, During the Course of Her Voyage. The Columns and Spaces are Properly Ruled and Divided for the Entrance of Every Necessary Observation: and the Several Departments Arranged in the Most Regular and Conspicuous Manner, that contained the logs of five different voyages on four different ships between 1804 and 1810. Many of the entries included hand-drawn illustrations of islands, several reported boardings of U.S. vessels by British warships, one reported the impressment of an American sailor, and one ended when the ship, the Amsterdam Packet, was condemned (seized) by the British and impounded at their Navy Yard in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for alleged violations of neutrality. The condemnation posting was especially interesting because the seizure of the Amsterdam Packet was referenced in James Fenimore Cooper's famous biography of an American seaman, Ned Myers: A Life Before the Mast. The same day I posted the log on-line, it was snapped it up by an English dealer with a special fondness for illustrated ship journals.
My name is Kurt Sanftleben, and I am a part-time bookseller. I'm a member of the Independent On-Line Booksellers Association (IOBA), the Virginia Antiquarian Booksellers Association (VABA), the Washington Antiquarian Booksellers Association (WABA), the American Philatelic Society (APS), and the Ephemera Society of America (ESA). I often get asked if Read'Em Again Books has a "specialty." The truth is that there really isn't one. I buy and sell things I like. That includes hard-to-find find titles in children's series, photoplays, fairy tales, illustrated books, pop-ups and moveable books, scouting items, and unusual or hard to find non-fiction, especially baseball and other sports, cooking, military, and Americana. I also have trade cards, postcards, stereoviews, billheads, advertising covers, maps, prints, and a variety of assorted ephemera available for sale. Additionally, I buy and sell some other collectibles--primarily antique children's toys and games, breweriana, and tobacciana.
I started out as a collector of pop-up books many years ago, and my transition into a seller was gradual. As I hunted for additions to my collection, I'd find duplicates that I knew I could resell at a profit to support my collecting habit. As I learned about other types of books, I'd pick them up for resale as well. At the time, I was still in the Army and was spending lots of time in the field.
Read'Em Again Books Booth at a Book Fair
I've also increased the average selling price of my books. When I started out, it was $5-10 per book. Today, it is closer to $225 and steadily increasing. I've found it's just as easy, if not easier, to sell an expensive book as it is to sell a cheap one. There are a number of other things I've learned along the way too, either from the school of hard knocks or from booksellers and antique dealers whom I respect. For what it's worth, here's a list of ten things that I try to keep in mind, and I think they apply to both sellers and collectors.
Buy the nicest material you can find and afford; don't buy something that you'll feel a need to apologize for when you later try to sell it.
The Internet has revealed that many books, which once seemed scarce, are plentiful.
Prices you see on the Internet are for items that haven't sold.
Most people don't check the Internet for price comparisons; the same item can often sell for far more or for far less at a book fair, antique show, or through a catalog than it does online.
Different venues attract different types of buyers and sellers.
Buy things people want. Simply being old or rare or beautiful, does not make something valuable. There has to be a demand for an item to create value.
Don't buy common items. Unusual, esoteric, and especially unique things are in much higher demand.
Presentation is important. If people don't know what you have, they can't buy it. In the same vein, if you are trying to sell something nice and, for whatever reason, it presents poorly, you won't get its full value.
Knowledge is important. Potential buyers might not know why something is important to them; it is the seller's job to explain this. Sellers, also, may not know why something is important; this, of course, works to a buyer's advantage.
Don't be reluctant to bargain over price, and don't worry that the other person is getting the best of a deal. As long as the final price is fair, completing a sale makes both the buyer and the seller happy.