On guessing the value of books

This book should be worth more bsed on the title alone!

Nothing warms a bookseller’s heart more than picking a book out of the “maybe” pile thinking it is only worth a few dollars and then finding that it’s actually worth ten times as much.

I find that this happens to me a lot, especially as I review my personal collection to see if I want to keep, discard or actually sell the books I bought for myself twenty or thirty years ago. Apparently, when buying for my own pleasure, I zeroed in on texts that would eventually be apreciated by others as well. A good example is Newcomb’s Wild Flower Guide, which I wrote about in my blog entry On ruining a perfectly good book.

Soemtimes I get it wrong. I have a copy of Great Mambo Chicken & The Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge, by Ed Regis. (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1990). The title alone should make it collectible. And yet, there are plenty of dollar copies to be had. It’s a piece of non-fiction I would recommend to any science fiction buff. To quote the publisher’s blurb, it “…explores this gray area between overheated imagination and overheated reality, introducing us to a newwork of scientists bent on creating artifical life forms, building time machines, hatching plans for dismantling the sun, enclosing the solar system in a cosmic eggshell, and faxing human minds to the far side of the galaxy.” This book was published more than twenty years ago, and yet it’s still cutting-edge. How could it be so common and dirt cheap?

Sometimes I get it right for just a while. My copy of Show your Horse: Practical Training Advice from a Professional Horseman, by Bob Robinson (St. Louis, Mo.: Saddle and Bridle, 1978) is pristine, which isn’t easy for a paperback more than 30 years old. There was a time when the only copies on line were in the $75 range. Now they range from $10 to $110. This is a book I’m not particularly attached to, so I’ll list it somewhere near the lower end of the range and see what happens. If only I’d listed it sooner, instead of hoarding it like a little treasure! There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Who would have thought people would be willing to pay so much for this little book?

Now I am presented with another suprise treasure, and it meets at least one criterion for a book that might be worth more than first impressions would suggest: it’s thin. At just 53 pages, and a small 5 1/4 by 7 1/2 inches, it really doesn’t look like much. The title is: 101 Plots Used and Abused, by James N. Young. (Boston: The Writer. 1946 Revised edition.) Apparently people really want this book, even in the revised edition, which actually contains 125 plots. Prices start near $100 and go up from there.  This discovery is particularly delightful in that I don’t want this book myself, so I shall have no qualms about listing it.

How soon I get to that task depends on how well I learned the lesson of Show Your Horse!

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