Stories from a former fleamarket used and out of print bookstall owner...1980 -1982

DiscussãoUsed Books

Entre no LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Stories from a former fleamarket used and out of print bookstall owner...1980 -1982

Este tópico está presentemente marcado como "inativo" —a última mensagem tem mais de 90 dias. Reative o tópico publicando uma resposta.

Fev 12, 2013, 12:43 pm

I started this thread in a Sci-Fi group and interest was generated there but I was hijacking the thread which was unfair so at the suggestion of a reader there I have moved the discussion here.

to start I will repost a comment I made there.


Glad you like my Edgar Rice Burrows story and Bill Dalgleish...I have several stories about life as fleamarket book seller in the Harbour Front Antique market (Toronto) in the early 1980's. It was a true fleamarket and had standards...they did not let junk into the stalls. I was an industrial salesman back then and newly married. My wife (now ex) was an assistant at that market and worked there on weekends...I of course was busy with my sales career during the week so we never saw eachother. So we came to the conclusion that we should open a stall at the market and since we both liked books we opened up a stall selling used and out of print books.

We had a 10' x 10' stall rented for Sundays at a cost of $50. She went to Philips Ward Price and Waddington's auction houses during the week and purchased libraries. On average our cost for books back then was $0.10 to $0.25 per book and initially we sold them for $3 - $5 each...pretty good margin by any seller's standards and were targeted to be about 50% less than used bookshops in the area.

We displayed about 1000 books in our 10x10 stall, mostly hardcover, on collapsible shelves that I designed. We also had storage for another 2000 books on another floor. I would divide the 3000 books into 3 batches and then mix them all up into new 1000 batches every 3 weekends .... in addition we guaranteed 100 new books (from my wife's auction efforts) so if you visited my stall you would always see new books...a bone to pick with me when I go to fleamarket book stalls now (same books every visit).

A lot of work as the Sunday started at 6:00am...arrive at the market at 7:00am...set up the stall and deal with book dealers until 9:00am when the market officially opened...close at 5:00pm pack everything away and get home for 7:00pm....but we cleared about $300 per day...pretty decent money back then...I wondered at times why I worked as a salesman back then LOL

It was hard work though and physically demanding...but I learned a lot about books from my customers. Soon we were pricing the good books at realistic prices and we didn't get ripped if making 300 - 500% per book was being ripped off :)


Please add comments/questions as we go so that I know this topic is still of interest

Fev 12, 2013, 1:20 pm

As I mentioned, I love these anecdotes.

Fev 12, 2013, 1:29 pm

Getting started in the business

We were newlyweds when we started having moved to Toronto from Winnipeg a few months earlier. We had storage for our new venture at the Queen's Quay warehouse as I mentioned in the last post but only had access to it on Sunday mornings. We had a 2 bedroom apartment in an old 3 story walk up, no furniture to speak of so, the livingroom was always filled with cartons of newly bought used books form the Auction house my wife patronized.

I remember coming home from a sales trip and there would be new boxes everywhere. It was like Christmas and opening presents since we really did not know what she had bought. The quality of the books varied with the person who put the books up for auction. Ninety percent of the people at the auction did not care about books, they were after the furniture, china and trinkets. Books back then where considered dead weight. Sheila (my ex) was a pit bull when the cartons of books came up for bid....soon they realized that she would not give up in bidding and she became know as the "book lady".

The first thing to make was collapsible shelves since we had only a 10'x10' space to work that was my first job and that surprisingly went without a we had an l-shaped section for books plus a card table to feature new books. There were several dealers in the market selling pocket books so were went opposite and sold 99% hard cover., partly to avoid being the same as others but also hard cover books were worth more when sold and the topics were more varied.

It became a hit in the fleamarket...especially with men. They were dragged down to the antique market by wives but they were bored until they found my stall. then they browsed for hours and when they found a book they liked they were astonished at the fact that the books were so cheap. I made notes on what did and did not sell for future reference.

Our prices were very cheap at first because 1. We got the books very cheap. 2. we did not know what were good books and what were not.

We let the customer educate us...don't forget these were pre-internet days and we did not have a resource like to consult. We were averaging $300/Sunday which was pretty good on books with prices in the range of 3-5 dollars. We purposely sold at a low price to encourage used book dealers to purchase from use as well as the buying public....we made careful note of the books that dealers bought as obviously those were mistakes in pricing.

Fev 12, 2013, 2:09 pm

Another good one. I imagine the internet has put the nail in the coffin for this sort of thing. It seems like every used bookstore charges way more as a % of cover price than they used to. Even at "half price" books, I'm constantly running across markups for "first (blahblahblah)". And at Uncle Hugos, they seem to have a slip of paper in every book where it's also listed on AbeBooks. It takes some of the joy out of being an amateur collector who just collects what he likes rather than hunting for specific editions and printing and such.

Reminds me of how Uncle Hugos has this one copy of a Dozois Years Best scifi from a few years ago sitting on their "new" shelf, with a price reflecting such. Their argument is that it's not a "used" book, so it's on the new shelf. And yet its already visibly aged and continues to languish there year after year...

Fev 12, 2013, 2:14 pm

Of course, who knows, maybe there are still some holdouts.

I visit my family in rural Alabama every Thankgiving. My brothers often go to a big fleamarket. I've always skipped it since they get there so early that you need to get up at 5am or so. X)

Maybe one of these visits I'll manage to drag myself out of bed and see if I can find a secret treasure trove.

Fev 12, 2013, 4:44 pm

IF you are a serious collector and you want quality books then an Antiquarian book store is where you will find them and AbeBooks will find the place for you...Of course, you will pay a good price for such books but they will have been treated with respect and described in such a manner that you can make a judgement as to whether or not they are worth the price.

Back in the 1980's you did not have such a resource as you point out. A serious book dealer would have a customer list and yearly or semi-annually they would do a catalog of books they wanted to sell and then do a mass mailing. So if you were on several such lists you would get an idea of what certain books were selling for. Another source of pricing for really good books > $100 back then would be book auctions. You would attend such auctions with a program and mark in what the books sold for. Book Fairs were another source of pricing information...there would be stalls everywhere and you would browse through them noting what books of a certain type were selling for and judge from that what a book you wanted to sell was probably worth.

Nowadays as you point out you have many internet sources...the problem is unknowledgeable sellers have no concept on how to evaluate the condition of their book (I am talking second hand shops, really small book stores and such). I always laugh when I see in a fleamarket some no name fiction book from 1900 priced at $25-$50 simply because it is 100 years old. (garbage fiction is garbage fiction....age does not improve the value of any garbage)

Many dealers don't know the difference between a book with no cover and one with a cover...a book with a dust jacket is worth often double than the one without...even a ratty torn dust jacket adds value but you see many dealers through away a torn dust jacket because it looks messy.

"Reminds me of how Uncle Hugos has this one copy of a Dozois Years Best scifi from a few years ago sitting on their "new" shelf, with a price reflecting such. Their argument is that it's not a "used" book, so it's on the new shelf. And yet its already visibly aged and continues to languish there year after year..."

You see that often in antique furniture. One of the reasons they try for a high price is that they would have difficulty replacing the piece...and if it is quality then they will wait for the perfect buyer. of the best places to search for books is small antique shops. Often they are forced to accept small lots of old books in an estate sale and they are not interested in books..they are literally dead weight to them and they gather dust in the basement.

I have 2 funny stories of picking (scouting) books in antique shops that I will post in a separate message.

Fev 12, 2013, 6:24 pm

Well, the "problem" is that I am anything but serious collector. I collect mainly for my own pleasure of having the books I like around. Shelves of books just make me feel more at home. I am also a mostly scifi collector.

Where this becomes a problem is that often the only copy I'll be able to find of a given book (in a local shop, that is - I like to be able to see and handle books before I buy) is one the bookseller will have found something "special" about in order to justify a markup.

Unfortunately, I think people are often using this internet-era information access and yet still applying a pre-internet mindset. "Oooo, looks like this edition is the first trade paperback printing" "Hey, this one is signed", etc. Yet today if you want you can often find scads of the same book like that on AbeBooks. In other words, they seem to price on an assumption of scarcity that just doesn't exist anymore for a lot of the books I'm interested in.

And these books sit on the shelves month after month when I visit the place, annoying me because I don't really care what printing it is as long as it's in good shape; I just want it on my shelf. These days, I'm just not sure how much collectors are even bothering to visit Half-Price Books or Uncle Hugos. The collector isn't very likely to make a great "find", because those places are already going to check every books value. And yet, "value" is highly dependent on who is shopping at a place and willing to buy a book at a given price.

Fev 13, 2013, 2:07 am

I hear your pain :) but when it comes down to it the owner of the book has every right to charge what they want for their inventory. Sometimes you have to get creative when you spot a book you really want...which leads to my next story :)

I have had several small collections over the years...almost all of them spawned from my fleamarket days.

1. Books on the game of Bridge - I was a tournament player since my 20's and I would open boxes of books my ex bought and find interesting books on the subject and think to myself " these will sell well" but they never sold so I started collecting them
2. I fell in love with pre-1950 pocketbooks... I could pick them up for $0.35 then and amassed about 300 of them of various stripes some with dust jackets even. I found that most were worth $3-$5 and 10% were mysteries worth $40.00 or more. I sold that collection for about $250 and was lucky to get that to a book dealer.
3. I like card tricks and have a small collection of books on magic and card tricks...

Here is the story about acquiring one of these books...

I was a salesman as I said and southern Ontario was my territory. In the 1980-82 period I would take back roads and side streets on my way back home looking for interesting used book and antique shops to scout (look for books to sell)

It was in a small antique shop outside of Collingwood, Ontario that I found my best acquisition - a magic book titled "The Magicians own Book or the Whole Art of Conjuring, 1857, New York, Dick and Fitzgerald Publishers...I was in heaven...362 pages of any type of magic trick you could imagine with 500 wood cut illustrations. It is the type of book any up and coming magician would kill for.

He wanted $110 for the book...a lot of money for a book back in 1982 but it was in perfect shape and worth every penny of money I did not have back then. I put the book down but it was like a magnet...I would circle the shop and keep coming back to this literally magic book.

Then I saw something old turn of the century miner's cloth hat with a carbide lamp mounted in the peak. The company I worked for was a distributor of health and safety products ( I was with the instrument division). We were manufacturing a state of the art miner's lamp...and I saw opportunity.

I confirmed the price of the book was a firm $110.00. I asked what the price of the miner's hat and lamp was and he said $150.00. So I said, what would you sell the book for if I was able to sell the miner's hat/lamp for the price he asked. He laughed and said, if I did that, he would sell the book to me for $25.00.

I said I would be back in two days....I rode all night to get home (about 3 hours) day I went to the VP of Sales and told him my great idea for an advertisement for the new lamp...the new and the old...side by side and I knew where to find an old lamp and hat in perfect condition and the cost was ONLY $150 !!!. He bought it and had accounting cut me a cheque and I flew down that road to the shop the next day to claim the lamp/hat and buy my book.

Best $25 I have ever spent...enjoyable read but heck of an investment as I still have it...

My investment has increased 10x to date :)

Fev 13, 2013, 3:38 am

I would open boxes of books my ex bought and find interesting books on the subject and think to myself " these will sell well" but they never sold

Yes, that mistake takes a long time to avoid, the assumption that because I think this book is attractive so will others. I still make it occasionally. (I sell used science fiction and fantasy for a small non-profit organisation, to raise funds.)

Fev 13, 2013, 8:37 am

> 8

Now that is savvy procurement ... magical even.

Fev 13, 2013, 10:54 am

>9 anglemark:

So true isn't it... I would siphon off these books for my own collection which is how my "bridge book" collection started...not worth a lot of money but they were an interesting study of the development of the game for me.

Well since we bought the books basically sight unseen, you paid your money and took your chances. I went to a couple of the auctions to see what happened and you would see the boxes in lot numbers. Usually each box would hold about 30-40 books. You would see pickers pawing through the boxes to see the quality...occasionally you would see a book slide from one box to another as the picker was enhancing one box in the lots that were there. You know he/she was stacking the deck and would only bid on that box lot.

When we saw that, my ex would just continue bidding until they gave up. She was such a pit bull after a while there was not much opposition as they knew she would not let them out bid her.

As far as thinking books will sell and they don' are just probably looking at the dust jacket or PB cover. and not the author. That is where Librarything would be absolutely a great resource for a small non-profit like yours.

You could see the popularity of the books that are donated and thereby recognize the really popular from the not so popular and thereby feature these popular books somehow in your store.

There is a secondary market for pretty books that are not very popular....decoration....places like IKEA sell book shelves and cabinets and the furniture looks bare and uninviting with no books. Interior design companies are another potential customer for the same reason.

Use Library thing to access the really unpopular books or simply have have a rule to consider a book that has not sold after 6 months to a year as a candidate (but check to see if you are tossing away a valuable book first). These places will buy books based on yardage on a shelf.

So rather than simply recycling such books for pennies/lb you may negotiate several dollars/foot in shelf space. This allows you to free up shelf space as I imagine you get a reasonably constant stream of books (I am assuming you are a thrift shop of some kind)

Fev 13, 2013, 11:19 am

No, the books I assume will sell are often unjustly half-forgotten authors that I know are good but few buyers do. Or in a few cases best-sellers who all interested parties already own. And I don't run a store, the books are up on the organization's web pages - - and I travel to science fiction conventions flogging them. As a rule of thumb, given that I only travel to these conventions once or twice a year, I give a book five years before weeding it. Donations have increased, though, so I might have to cut that down to three or four.

Fev 13, 2013, 11:44 am

I see...I assumed they were donations. Of course, you would not trash good authors. Each book selling situation is unique...I have never sold via the internet so that alone provides unique challenges.

Perhaps running bios of these authors on your site (with permissions if necessary) on your site as a featured author would raise awareness in the buying public....just tossing out ideas :)

Fev 13, 2013, 11:59 am

How I gave discounts at the flea market

My books were heavily discounted in the first place being purposely priced at 1/2 most bookstores to encourage those stores to look to me as a source and it worked....they would come in early every Sunday to look over the 100 new books that I guaranteed would show up.

The general public though came later and I was constantly asked for a better price. In a loud voice for all to hear I announced, that the books where very well priced as they were and I was sorry no further discounts were possible. That kept them at bay as they were bargain basement prices and they knew it and were just trying me on.

HOWEVER, I had tons of margin to work with as the costs of the individual books were usually fractions of a dollar.

I wanted to encourage the buyer of more than 2 books because we had no problem getting books and I wanted to move the stock, but I could not breathe the word "discount". So then I hit on the perfect solution :)

I would take their books to my table and on a scrap of paper list the prices and then pretend to total them up....once I had that total in my head I would mentally subtract 10% - 20% depending on the frequency of the customer and write this value down on the page as the total.

I would then hand the paper to the customer to check my adding. At least 95% of those people would look at me and start to say I made an adding error....I would stop them in mid-sentence saying "That is the correct addition, do you think I got 2 degrees at university by making simple adding errors???!!!"

They would look at me, smile and then next Sunday, I would see them.....with a friend.

Fev 13, 2013, 12:23 pm

Love the story about the miner's hat.

I haven't had much luck talking the Uncle Hugos people out of any price tag they've put up. They don't actually seem to be too concerned with selling books. The aisles there are full of stacks of books - sometimes leaving only a foot wide path between the shelves. And the shelves themselves are groaning and sometimes partially collapsed from the amount of books they've crammed into every available space. Hard to talk them down when they're not a motivated seller.

Fev 13, 2013, 2:10 pm

> 15 Perhaps they sell on-line or have another source of sales for the books so there is little pressure to give discounts. Like I said in the last story...I only gave discounts to regular good customers since I felt my prices were fair in the first place. Officially I was no discount...period and the more I was hounded on a single book purchase discount the more I dug in my heels.

As a seller you have to have a firm policy or the customers run your business...not you.

In my career as an industrial salesman it was much the same. I sold products that in the 1980's we made 40% gross margin and were 5-10% more expensive than our competition. We had room to move on price there but we rarely did unless it was a high volume order. But when you make 40% gross margin, you can afford to do things that you could not do if you cut your price to the could give them superlative service. That is why we got our price.

I was a free service to my good customers for on Health/Safety/Environment issues and instrumentation to help them solve their problems. I would even recommend my competition if they had a product clearly superior to mine. At first other salesmen I worked with were astonished until I pointed out...."Who did they come to first for advice? What will their reaction be when they realize it was good advice? Where will they go when they have another problem? If I recommend our products, don't you think they will buy???" I would do this for a customer whether he bought from me or not....however if that is all I ever was....I just politely was not as available as I used to be.

We also gave free seminars on care/maintenance and operation of the equipment. this was quite a sell as Safety directors of companies were always looking for speakers to educate their men. These were totally costs, my time, at a time of their choosing. I usually worked in support of a local salesman...he would set it up...introduce me and disappear making sales calls, later coming back to pick me up. He then took me on other calls in the area while he had use of me.

We had a reputation for giving such service and it was our hook.

So in summary, I don't think you can know your book seller's motivation just because he won't sell the book to you...he got into the business for a reason. If you can find out what his motivation is...perhaps you can figure out how you can work a deal to get that book.

Fev 13, 2013, 2:48 pm

Honestly, the firm pricing (and sometimes self-defeating in the case of the "new" book that had years of sun-bleaching) wouldn't bother me so much if the place wasn't such a shambles. I usually shop until I get tired of digging through the piles on the floor to try to find stuff.

Fev 13, 2013, 8:36 pm

> 17

I had a book dealer who bought off me that was like that.

She opened a store in Toronto called "Ten Edition Books". She was a single parent who had 10 kids (husband left her). I really admired her though messiness was her middle name. She had 3 stores before she died of cancer around 1990. If the book shop still exists in Toronto it is being run by one of her daughters.

At first when starting out she had few books and came to my stall every Sunday and bought 5-10 books off me. She was extremely well read and very personable...she was a sucker for ephemera. For those who are not familiar with this term it means things that were not mean to be steam ship tickets, menus, greeting cards, bus schedules and such...I would see a seller of such stuff enter her shop with binders of this trivia paper which was only a $0.05 to $0.50 a piece but after she was through with the binders she had bought $50-$60 dollars worth while she put into a cabinet with thin drawers for safe keeping.

Her book store had two huge bay windows and she would decorate them with the ephemera and books with dust jacket portraying the time of year. December was a Christmas window display, April was Easter display, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and of course Valentines Day all had their windows. It was a struggle for her to keep her window display material as the way she displayed the material made it very enticing to buy.

Her shop was a pleasant disaster. There was method to her madness though because if you were looking for something she could direct you to roughly the right area and you would plow through book after book until you found what you were looking for. She would bring me a coffee while I did this and I passed many a delightful afternoon exploring her shop and chatting. She turned a small store front convenience store type shop into a huge Bookstore before she died of cancer...a lovely lady, I miss her.

Sounds like your store is similar, frankly I hate stores that are too character. I certainly learned the value of interesting paper from her which I later used to good effect.

Fev 13, 2013, 9:13 pm

As a collector and former manager of an antiquarian bookstore (1988-2000), the problem I find with stores that stack books in piles on the floor is that they have so many books that they stopped buying long ago. If the stock has been scanned by knowledgable people, it's hard to find anything interesting that hasn't been there for years because of condition, edition, or price.

It's a little like visiting a thrift store. When they start off perhaps they have room for 1,000 books and 10% are something good (100). As those sell then they have room to add 100 more. Then only 10% of those are good (10). Pretty soon, all that's left are the Readers' Digest Condensed novels, the book club editions, and the National Geographic magazines.

Turnover helps to encourage people to return and buy often. There's something new each time they visit.


Fev 14, 2013, 2:06 am

> 19 Yes I agree and I mentioned in another post that it was a pet peeve of mine with respect to other fleamarket book stalls...they never changed their stock.

That is why I was reasonably successful when I had my stall almost 30 years would never find the same complete stock might see some books but not the complete 1000. As well I guaranteed at least 100 absolutely new books. They were the first books I displayed at 7:00am and we had book pickers going through these before the market was officially opened. I think that is important if you want to maintain your clientele.
From time to time we had a 1/2 price sale to move more books...I always found it interesting that we made roughly the same take but sold double the books.

As far as thrift shops go, I doubt many books of interest to you would ever see the light of the retail floor. I knew pickers who either were allowed to or had contacts within the store to pick over new arrivals. Thrift shops in the city are generally not a good source for books as a result. But country thrift/antique shops (especially if they specialized in furniture/china) were good sources for me back then though with the internet now that may have changed.

Estate auctions would still be a decent source of books though.

Fev 14, 2013, 1:06 pm

And with the resources available on the internet, there are way more "pickers". Sure, they're not going to be true experts, but they definitely skim off the low hanging fruit.

Fev 14, 2013, 1:31 pm

In the early 1990s the Internet still hat limited public access. Most booksellers offering "search" services used ads in Antiquarian Bookman Weekly (AB Weekly). A want ad would receive replies from "quoters" who often sent individual postcards or envelopes with slips, handwritten or computer printed, to offer books that might match the search requests.

AB would also have some sales listings but this was the minority.

In time the used book databases started to appear and be used. This changed things significantly. Probably there are very few people performing the old role of "quoters" today as people can search for books directly from the people offering them for sale.


Fev 14, 2013, 11:09 pm

21, 22 That was not unlike the annual catalogs that many serious sellers had in the 1980's and earlier.

I don't think it is an entirely dead profession (book pickers)....the internet services work for book stores using the internet but that does not find the books at country auctions, second hand shops and most thrift stores...unless you are skilled at recognizing good books those books fall through the cracks locally

Fev 15, 2013, 9:23 pm

I would make a distinction between people who made their living by quoting books to book search companies and bookstores who posted "want lists" in AB as compared to what we call "book scouts" (or you might call "book pickers") who buy items in any place where they can be found with the idea of reselling them to an end client or, more likely, a bookstore. I imagine that these terms can be regional.


Editado: Fev 16, 2013, 5:30 am

I have heard of the term book "pickers" or "scouts" but never the term book "quoter" the latter seems to me to a relatively more recent term and very internet related.

A "picker" or "scout" to me is someone who has a set clientele in a local area. When I was running my used out of print book stall in the 80's I acted as a scout during the weekdays. On the Sunday market days people would often ask me if I had this or that book or more books on some subject. As I said earlier Bill Dalgleish, an expert on Tarzan and Edgar Rice Burroughs, wanted me to be on the lookout for "Photoplay" books as he was assembling a collection of them that he later sold to a Hollywood producer. We also had a person that was interested in Dell "map back" pocketbooks from the 1940's and would pay me $4 - $5 each depending on condition...I could find many for just $0.35 to $0.50 each.

So as I traveled a lot in my real job as a salesman throughout southern Ontario, I would stop in at any interesting antique or second hand bookshop along the way. taking the most obscure roads just so I would have the chance to find these different places.

I could easily recognize a book scout/picker when they came to my stall. They would stand in front of my shelves and run their finger along the spines of the books, stopping and pulling one off the shelf to look at the condition and price. If it was of suitable condition (price was never an objection as we sold so low) then they kept it and continued their finger pointing...if it wasn't a good printing or edition or the condition was off they put the book back and continued their search.

I never had a hassle from 99% of them over price as they knew when they had a bargain and usually I would make my normal "adding mistake" if they purchased 4 or more books which they appreciated and returned. They had steady clients which were usually other bookstores or collectors they knew.

I was only mad at one picker who also had a stall in the market.

During my travels I found a book in a secondhand shop that I knew was valuable. I was just getting educated about Canadian history books and back then Canadiana was all the rage. I had found a book titled "Gateway to the Silverland" written in the 1900's. It was pristine and the shop only wanted $1 for it. It was a history of Sudbury, Ontario full of biographies of men of the times who are long forgotten.

I featured it in my guaranteed 100 new books, for a price of $12. Don't forget no internet, no and no way of estimating the real worth of the book but I thought it was a fair price.

This picker hassled me and bullied me down to $9.00 saying that it was not worth what I was charging...I gave in and sold it to him. I walked by his stall a few hours later and saw it featured there with a price tag of $24 and it sold by the end of the day....later that week I attended a used/out of print book fair in Toronto....and there was my book (I knew it because of a pencil mark I made on the inside leaf) and it was on sale for $54.00.

The price I had given at $12 WAS a fair price. I should not have been belittled into reducing it. I should have made MY profit on the find. I did not have the client at $24 and certainly not at $54....but it was a bargain at what I had priced it. I never gave that guy another discount after that on any book he wanted, he paid full whack from then on.

It still is a book that commands a decent price as can be seen in this looked exactly like the first book listed

Fev 16, 2013, 5:34 am

Nice cover. One copy here on LibaryThing: North Bay : the gateway to Silverland. Unfortunately, the owner doesn't see to have liked it.

Fev 16, 2013, 10:37 am

In #22 I described the activities of the "book quoter". These people usually did not have shops or other ways to sell their books. They often had a lot of books. The better organized they were, the more readily they could send out descriptions of books at wholesale prices to the bookstores and book search companies who requested titles in "want lists".

For example, the bookstore I managed specialized in old children's books. AB Weekly would have a special issue in November, often with a light blue cover, that specialized in children's books. A large portion of this was filled with want lists. The book quoter would take this and offer books that matched the want list.

We sometimes had half page or full page want lists in this issue. Doing so was a two-edged sword. You could ask for a lot of books but then when the offers came in, you had to have the money to buy them.

The magazine charged by the word so there was a balance between economy of words and asking for what you really wanted. Fore example, we wanted Edgar Rice Burroughs books. However, asking for "Burroughs" brought in quotes for William S. Burroughs that we could not use.

The main difference between a book scout and a book quoter was that the quoter did most of their offer of books through the mail. They sent individual postcards or envelopes full of handwritten or computer printed descriptions of books at wholesale prices that might match the want list items. A book scout would usually offer books to a store in person, often a small box at a time. Both were sources of books to bookstores but the mechanism was a little different.

A number of bookstores in the 1990s learned a lot from books like Dale L. Gilbert's Complete Guide to Starting a Used Bookstore. He suggested certain methods of store layout and bookshelf construction so that it was very apparent when one walked into a store that modeled after his methods.


Fev 16, 2013, 11:58 am

> 26 well first of all we don't know when that book was printed. Mine was basically a first edition though it did not say as much inside. If it was a more modern reprint then now you are looking at the contents.

The biographies might have been dry but they were a record of history that was little documented. It is like buying a set of encyclopedias. No book dealer likes to take on a set of encyclopedias...they never sell.

There is one exception to that rule that is the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition 1911. We got a complete set in an auction lot which was 28 books plus index. The covers were thin black leather that had deteriorated badly, the leather was dry and powdery and in some cases were missing but the paper I think was rag linen and was as white as snow with little if any foxing.

I took one look at this set and thought to myself that these would never sell. But the edition was highly sought after mainly for the articles within its pages which I believe were not duplicated afterward as I was to find out later.

I put them out with my 100 new and midway through the same day a young man spotted them and his hands trembled as he looked at them. I just wanted to get rid of them and we negotiated a price of $3/book which considering I was thinking they were junk at the time was fantastic $84.00 Woohooo! I recently thought about them and checked them out on Abebooks and they are currently worth about $30 per volume in good condition.

But this is a huge exception...the later editions of any encyclopedia are not worth even the $3/volume I got for those 30 years ago.

Fev 16, 2013, 12:05 pm

27> That is interesting...I never knew such books existed and they probably did not in the 1980's.

A lot of people think that electronic media will replace books, but I don't think so. A true lover of books loves them for more than JUST the story. Those type of people will always be around. I think perhaps you have to be creative if you are a small store but a used/out of print or antiquarian book stores don't compete with big box stores. They have a different clientele each with their own reason for buying an original book.

Why did you get out of the business?

Fev 16, 2013, 2:06 pm

I've always been a collector of books and some other things. This was true before I joined the bookstore. After a dozen years, it was time to move on. The store stayed open for another six years, I believe, closing in 2006 according to my email archive. They still sell some online but it's not the same.

In the late 1990s I got my own resale number for the purpose of selling duplicates of the books I collected. I have maintained that and membership in the San Diego Booksellers Association. We've sold at a few book fairs, including two in Pasadena (Oct 2012) and Santa Monica (Feb 2013).


Editado: Fev 18, 2013, 5:18 pm

yes, I can understand the moving on scenario...that has been part of my working history throughout my life :)

In my case, it was the physical demands of the job that eventually got to me. I was working basically 7 days a week....week days on my regular sales job , Saturday was spent organizing the new books that were bought at auction and of course Sunday was a 12-14 hour day of setting up/tearing down the stall and selling through the day.

I remember coming home from a sales trip to Ottawa which is a 5 hour drive from Toronto. I got in at 10pm, exhausted and undressed and headed for the bed to sleep. The wife was there all excited...whispering

"I made a great buy yesterday at Waddingtons"....
"Oh yeah, that's nice", I mumbled
"Yes I bought 32 boxes of books for $150.00"

That was a great buy...each box held about 40 books and some were full of ads from old magazines...30 boxes x 40 books/box = 1200 books with an average price of just over $0.11 each.

"Hmmm, great buy, dear...but I'm tired lets talk about it in the morning...."
"Well, there is one thing that I must tell you.....the books must be off their loading dock by 4:00pm."
"Say what!! {groan}

We did not own a truck...paper is heavy and I had a Pontiac Parisian car...full size but not designed for transporting books. Luckily in my job as a salesman, the company I worked for did not monitor a salesman's day and as long as your sales were fine you could take the occasional day off.

I started at 7:30am and found I could only fit 9 boxes in my car at a time...the weight was so much I thought I might bust a leaf spring...I drove home at about 25mph fearing hitting a bump in the road...we had no elevator in the 3 story walk-up...we were on the second floor. She was pregnant and could lift nothing.

Four trips and 9 hours later everything was in our apartment. I had dinner and collapsed into a chair...saying

"That was a great buy, dear....but don't you ever do that to me again!!!!" :)

We made several thousand dollars on that lot so it was worth it. I almost made a huge mistake and thought about tossing the ads (cigarette, liquor and fashion ads from magazines from 1930-1950's. I took about 50 of them bought some black construction paper and plastic page protectors. Placing 2 ads per protector (one on either side of the black construction paper and putting them into a binder which I displayed I was shocked when most of them easily sold for $0.50 ea as is....after that I never through anything away...there was always someone who seemed to collect it.

But after doing it for 2 years it was having a toll on me physically.

I did like the selling was quite relaxing and easy.

1. People who bought the books were quite friendly and happy to find their type of books at great prices.
2. The books were sold as is, no complaints about a mark or torn page
3. NEVER a complaint that the "book did not work" or that a salesman over sold the use of the book" (I could be fighting some battles in my other job over this and over zealous salesmen)
4. I met some very interesting people, was educated about their collections and in general enjoyed the selling.

But physically I was becoming a wreck

Fev 18, 2013, 5:40 pm

> 21 Brightcopy "Sure, they're not going to be true experts, but they definitely skim off the low hanging fruit."

I think you will find that Book "pickers/scouts" ARE quite knowledgeable about books. They know what their clients want and if they make a mistake and buy something that their client rejects they will have to eat it...sure they can put it up on E-bay or Craig's list but I doubt they will recover their costs.

They also know what books sell and don't sell. Fiction is not the target of a book scout unless by specific request. Historical books, regimental histories, old science texts, art books, old catalogs (used often by collectors to date their collections), books on trains/planes/automobiles or transportation in general...especially with photos and not run of the mill cheap books, manuals on old cars, books on sex, drugs and rock&rock/blues. Books with engravings, photogravure prints and watercolor plates....this is the type of book they look for in general

I am very much an amateur when it comes to book picking but when it comes to recognizing a book that is worth money...I am pretty good at it now. In fact I volunteer at a huge booksale in Calgary every year...we get about 1 million books donated in a 5 week period for a charity. About 2/3 of them are removed for recycle (how many books on "Twilight" or other such one year pop book can you sell??!!)...the rest are sorted and about 200,000 are displayed for each day of a 6 day sale.....I and a few others are on the last stages of the sorting process, rescuing books that some think are old and should be thrown out....I have done this for 8 years now.

Editado: Fev 18, 2013, 5:48 pm

#31 by Lynxear> As I read that story, I punctuated each line with a wince and "oh god."

I don't know how it is in Toronto now, but these days in just about every decently sized city you can just rent a pickup truck at a hardware store for $20 for the first hour. That probably would have been a godsend to you at the time - possibly even if the price back then was $20!

Fev 18, 2013, 5:47 pm

#32 by Lynxear> I think you will find that Book "pickers/scouts" ARE quite knowledgeable about books. They know what their clients want and if they make a mistake and buy something that their client rejects they will have to eat it

I think we're talking about different groups of people. I'm saying the availability of information on the internet has probably created another class of picker/scout that doesn't go to this level and just see "Hmm, that looks like a really old copy of Carrie. I wonder how much it's worth. Tap tap tap. Whoah, $100! And they only have it priced at $3. That's a no-brainer!" I'm not really talking about people who do it for a living but who may only do it the few times when they run across these low hanging fruit.

Fev 18, 2013, 8:22 pm

Around 2000 as I was transitioning from full-time antiquarian bookseller to PHP web programmer I had a Palm VII PDA with a wireless antenna that used a pager network. The connection was very limited and very expensive. However, since I was still interested in old books, I built a PHP proxy to one of the multi-database search sites. To minimize the bandwidth usage, I stored my searches first in a database on my server and then doled out the information with a "drill down" behavior. The first level was a simple count and range of prices for a title-author-keyword search. If I needed more, I could see a list of the prices and sellers (certain ones were living in "la la land" with extraordinary prices no sane person would pay). I could click on the price link and see the full details in the description. This also had to fit on the Palm VII's screen which was, I believe, 160 pixels wide. It was useful as I bought books for online resale. It helped me to realize what was common.

Through my dozen years' experience in the store, I learned what titles, authors, illustrators and publishers were in demand and which items were common. However, in the early days of the used book databases, items which had been seldom seen by one store were showing up in greater numbers worldwide. If the books were overpriced, they would stay listed since underpriced items disappear quickly. The Palm VII PQA (Palm Query Application) I built helped. Also important was knowing the publishers that did not show up as often and how to identify first printings for each publisher or type of book. At the very least you had to be able to spot the characteristics for a good candidate to select an item for later research.

Most amateurs scan a barcode or type in a title and stop thinking when they see dollar signs. They don't know that the book they're looking at is different from the high-priced one listed. They're likely looking at a later trade printing or a book club when a first printing is listed online. (Of course sellers online get things wrong too!). Condition is another way that the copy in hand is not the same as what is listed online.

In the bookstore days (1990s), one of our book scouts brought us a box or so of children's books as he found them but his main bread and butter was in college textbooks. He had a massive computer printout binder with the current editions (since they change every couple years) and what he could get for them. I assume that he sold them to a company that supplied the "used copies" for the college bookstores. Later on there were devices and apps with barcode scanning to highlight good items.

Of course, as wireless connections have become more ubiquitous, there have been other apps to scan the books with barcodes. One library sale in San Diego county has banned the use of these in their big annual sale. I think this came as a result of people grabbing large quantities of books, putting them on a tarp, and then spending time scanning to find out what was valuable. There's no book knowledge here, just scan and let someone else make the decision through the data provided to the program. I figure that these people hoarded large quantities of books in the critical early hours of a sale and didn't put the unwanted books back in the same area. This hurt the sales and caused extra work for the volunteer staff for the sale. I think that making blanket policies like this is a little draconian but I do understand that they felt they had to do something to manage control of the situation.

We used to go to Phoenix each year for the VNSA book sale (it was this past weekend). That was a very large million-book sale on the county fairgrounds. The sale's (and true of other library sales) "rare book" section was a joke since there were mainly old but not very desirable books with prices that were too high to interest a bookseller or book scout. These entities can't hope that an individual collector will walk in to a library sale and pay top collector prices. The people who come to library sales are looking for bargains. If they want to pay top money, they'll go to a book fair, bookstore, or online.


Fev 19, 2013, 1:50 am

33> Maybe today that is true...but not in down town Toronto 30 years ago where we lived and certainly not on an hours notice...remember I had to get them off the dock by 4:00pm the next day...

34> "another class of picker/scout that doesn't go to this level" this is not a scout or a picker...That is like saying a guy who goes for a weekend drive is a stock car racer.

Sure anyone if they know of AbeBooks or the like can look up prices on the internet but that don't know what to look for in an individual volume as to what makes it valuable or not...or what ruins the value of a book...sort of like an amateur coin collector using a metal cleaner on his coins to make them shiny, not realizing he just lowered the value of his coins by an order of magnitude.

Fev 19, 2013, 2:15 am

35> Ex-library books unless extremely rare are not good sellers at this book sale I help fact they head straight for the recycle. The hardcover sell for $4.00 ea so there are plenty of bargains to be had. In general fiction/mystery/romance paperback they have to be in perfect shape with hardly a scratch to avoid recycle. I had a huge battle to keep that policy away from Sci-fi books as first they are quite popular and second a lot of those from the 50's are out of print.

We don't allow dealers/scouts into the area during the sorting which takes 5 weeks, mainly because they don't want all the good books to be siphoned off. During the sale they are everywhere and take easily 2-3 hundred books each or more. There are lots of bargains when they are only $4.00/hc and $2.00/pb.

We do have 3-4 people in the "Special Books" section...Myself, I am on the tail end to try to catch mistakes...but these others are knowledgeable and are either former bookstore owners or librarians. Carts are set-up and ordinary sorters are coached as to what books qualify as "Special" with a broad paintbrush and the "special" volunteers comb through these books and make selection as well as prowl the tables to look for mistakes.

You are right the prices are set about 2/3 to 3/4 of what the perceived value would be but if a book were a few hundred dollars they would actually try to sell the book outside the sale through connections as few in the general public would pay for it.

being a religious charity the old ladies have a habit of tossing books like Red Lights on the Prairies which is a history of prostitution on the Canadian prairies in the 1800's....not a super expensive book but collectible and certainly worth more than $4. Similarly books on guns, drugs and the like often get tossed if you would let them.

They have to be strict about letting scouts and book owners in on the sorting....if favouritism was shown to one book dealer and not another there would be chaos.

Fev 19, 2013, 10:35 am

Obviously a lot of books in library sales are not formerly circulated copies ('ex library') but rather donations to the Friends of the Library or similar organizations with the expectation that their sale goes towards buying things the library actually wants. It's really more of a fig leaf though because of the prices of new books, especially the nonfiction works libraries do want to shelve. Still, every bit helps.

What a lot of sellers and buyers don't realize is that when it comes to certain children's books of past decades, if you are going to find it at all, it is going to be a former library copy. There are two main divisions of publishers. One of them sought sales to individuals and ownership of books by children themselves. These are the mass-market publishers like Grosset & Dunlap, Golden Press, etc. Libraries often would not carry these books so if anyone remembers the books in later years, it was probably because they owned a copy.

The other class of publisher are ones who saw the 5,000-6,000 school and public libraries as their sole market. They would be satisfied with selling 1,000-2,000 copies to this market and hardly considered sale to bookstores where ordinary people might buy them. There books were more expensive as a result. The children who did most of their reading in libraries (especially in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s) may remember a book that is very hard to find in an ex-library copy let alone the kinds of first printing in fine condition standards that apply to other kinds of books they collect.

When buying a book for myself, I always get the best condition I can find/afford. However, I also recognize when an item is very scarce, especially among children's books, and allowances must be made to have the book at all and then upgrade later if I'm lucky to do so. It takes many collectors a long time to learn this. Some never do. If they have more dollars than sense, they can frustrate the sellers who might cater to their kind of material by asking for the perfect and impossible to find items and yet not pay for the sharp increase and scarcity associated. It feels like a "no-win" scenario sometimes. That which you can find, people don't want. Still, one gets to be surrounded by interesting books and people and that is its own reward to some degree.


Fev 19, 2013, 2:06 pm

I have never met a collector of Children's books. I would imagine that of a prime consideration would be the illustrator of the books if they are of a common topic but older. What makes a relatively new (last 20 years) children's book collectible, besides author's reputation of course.

I understand the desire to up-grade a book in your collection, starting with a readable copy. It is not unlike me when I do my bird/butterfly photography. If you wait for a perfect photo you often miss the opportunity for a "pretty good" or "identifying shot" and in the end don't get a picture at all.

Yes, I could see your frustration at going through hoops to get a scarce book only to get a no-sale because it was not perfect. I said that my hook as a salesman was that I was an excellent source of information but if I had a problem client I would ALWAYS recommend my competition. Too many good clients to worry about a nuisance.

Fev 19, 2013, 2:36 pm

#36 by Lynxear> "another class of picker/scout that doesn't go to this level" this is not a scout or a picker...That is like saying a guy who goes for a weekend drive is a stock car racer.

You're spending far too much time on semantics instead of the actual point. :P

Editado: Mar 10, 2013, 6:19 pm

Two years ago I bought a used bookstore in a relatively small town, Ukiah, CA, in northern Mendocino County. The store was in many ways a shambles in ways and for reasons I won't go into here. Suffice it to say it has taken me these two years to almost get the store into the condition I want it in. While I have been a book lover and an enthusiastic hunter for interesting and often obscure books all my life, I was not super knowledgeable about the fine points of it all when I bought the store and have been in an enjoyable learning process since then. I do most of my trade in paperback fiction, genres of all sort and "literary fiction," but I have been assembling a fairly decent "antiquarian" collection and have been surprised to be selling them at a moderate but encouraging clip.

My first rule is that, since I am not selling anywhere online at this point and am located in, to a pretty large extent, a working-class town, my books are priced to sell, rather than to try to squeeze every possible nickel out of them. I like to see them go to a good home. I do use ABEbooks as a guide. Basically, I will look up the book, trying to narrow down the fields in terms of publisher, date, dust jacket or not, etc. Then I will look at the price range and set my price somewhere at the lower third. For example, if I have drilled down as far as I can on a particular book and find there are 33 similar copies listed, I will go to the 11th least expensive book, check to make sure my copy is in the same ballpark condition-wise, and price accordingly. But even then, if at that point I find myself at $20.00 or more of supposed value, I might back off even a few more dollars. For while I do get some tourists/book collectors in the store (Ukiah is on U.S. Highway 101 and travelers on their way by may sometimes stop in town for lunch and a look-around), mostly I am selling to locals. Accordingly, I almost never refuse to bring the price on a book down a little if I think that the person really wants to own that book and is offering me a fair representation of what they can actually afford to pay. Getting cool books into the hands of book lovers is part of the real perks of my job, and keeping relatively high-priced books sitting on my shelves indefinitely doesn't help put Cheerios in the bowl, anyway.

When I first bought the store I would get paranoid when an obvious book seller would come up to the counter with a stack of books that I had evidently priced low enough for them to think they could make a profit reselling them. "Well, that guy got over on me because of my own ignorance," I would fume at myself. But I've pretty much gotten over that. The way I look at it is that if I buy a book for $1.50 at a flea market or thrift store, or give a customer $3.00 worth of store credit, and then sell it for $10.00, I'm OK with it if somebody else buys it from me for $10 and then sells it for $40. More power to him/her, and I was probably not going to sell it to anybody for $40 or even $30 anyway. Anyway, that's how I see it.

I do my own scouting for the store as often as I can, except that I have a guy who brings me six boxes of books once a month, lets me pick through them and take what I want and charges me a very affordable price for them. I often also get very interesting books from my customers for trade or even sometimes as outright donations.

I have a large enough store and stock that I can afford to have books that I know have a relatively small likelihood of selling but that help make my store an interesting one to browse in. I think there is an intangible value to that sort of thing. I believe it encourages people to continue browsing in hopes that they will find something special that they do want, and I love being the kind of store where I will sometimes hear, "I can't believe you have a copy of this!"

But I try as hard as I can not to put junk on my shelves. Here mostly I am referring to physical condition. My predecessor was much less careful, so I have gradually but aggressively been weeding out beat up books, paperbacks mostly, especially in the genre fiction sections. And as I have progressed, I've become much firmer about what I will and will not accept for store credit.

Regarding dust jackets, obviously a good dust jacket is better than none. Way better. But a previous commenter remarked unfavorably on the practice of getting rid of torn up dust jackets and I'd like to add another perspective on that. I will do that sometimes if the jacket is too torn and especially if the book sans jacket is relatively attractive on its own. While a book may be theoretically worth $15 with the torn jacket but only $7 with no jacket, I have found that I rarely sell books with very torn dust jackets, regardless of price. So I would prefer to sell a book for $7 than not sell it for $15.

And though I was taking over a going concern rather than starting a store, I got a lot of good ideas from the Gilbert book Keeline mentioned in post 27, despite the fact that it's out of date on some subjects now.

Mar 10, 2013, 7:55 pm

Some things to keep in mind when running a used bookstore:

The prices on the used book databases (ABE, etc.) generally represent the lowest prices at which a particular title, edition, and condition won't sell. If a book was priced low, it would probably disappear quickly and you would not see the listing any longer. I would like to see the databases provide, perhaps to subscribers, the records of sold items.

There are a lot of issues where people try to offer their books for similar prices to the ones listed that aren't selling. It creates a false sense of price value that isn't reflected by actual demand by booksellers and end collectors.

Sometimes there are distinct reasons and differences why one seller's copy may be worth four figures while your copy, that looks similar at first glance, is really a different book worth the low two figures to a reader.

The eBay site only has retrospective pricing for about 3 months but then you can only search the titles and not the description text.

Some auction sites like Pacific Book Auction Galleries and Heritage Auctions allow searches of their archives and you can get a decent idea of the results. Notice whether the prices indicated include the sometimes substantial buyer's premium.

Learn all you can about first printing identification, both generally and for the authors, publishers, and artists you intend to carry. Observe the differences between the common book club editions and the ones that are actually valuable. Book fairs are good places to see the better material in person rather than simply see a textual description or an online photograph.

Listen to what can be learned from the buyers of your books. Most of them like to share (or show off) the information they have. Ask questions when a specialist comes in.

Within your business plan, find a way to be actively buying and turning stock. There are stores in England which take in items. If they don't sell in a brief period of time, they are discounted in a couple stages until they are put in the free bin. The idea here is that constantly changing stock encourages your buyers to check out your material again ana again. Of course, if they don't like your price on one visit, they may hope that it will show up on the discount shelves on the next visit. It could be gone entirely. Creating a sense of urgency to purchase is what you would like to have, if possible.

Stores that stop buying books because they are out of money or shelf space are on their way out of business even if they don't know it.

Don't try to squeeze the last dollar from every book. Many purchases with useful dollars come from the sale to other booksellers. We're all at different levels of the food chain. Perhaps the next one purchasing has the kind of high-end clients who will pay more than you could ever get for a book from your clientele (in person or online).

Get a fair operating profit and keep the books moving.

Have fun and try to learn something new every day.


Mar 10, 2013, 9:02 pm

Hi James, I don't know if you meant to be responding to my last post directly or not. But in case you were . . .

"The prices on the used book databases (ABE, etc.) generally represent the lowest prices at which a particular title, edition, and condition won't sell. If a book was priced low, it would probably disappear quickly and you would not see the listing any longer. I would like to see the databases provide, perhaps to subscribers, the records of sold items."

Excellent food for thought. I think I'm mostly covering this by finding a point a third of the way down the price range and then backing off a little more after that. But I will keep this advice in mind.

"Learn all you can about first printing identification, both generally and for the authors, publishers, and artists you intend to carry. Observe the differences between the common book club editions and the ones that are actually valuable. Book fairs are good places to see the better material in person rather than simply see a textual description or an online photograph.

Yes, I've been on a "learning curve" in this regard since buying my store. I never price a book as a first edition unless I have some sort of confirmation based on on or more of the first edition reference books I have on hand. I generally assume Book Club editions are less valuable if fiction accept for early editions of books that thereafter became popular and went through many printings. So for example I found a Book Club Clan of the Cave Bears with a different dust jacket than the standard one, and in very good condition. Not that it's highly valuable, but I think worth more than your standard copy (which believe it or not I still sell, even in hardcover). But, in general, I don't call a book a first edition unless my level of certainty is very high."

{F}ind a way to be actively buying and turning stock. There are stores in England which take in items. If they don't sell in a brief period of time, they are discounted in a couple stages until they are put in the free bin. The idea here is that constantly changing stock encourages your buyers to check out your material again ana again. Of course, if they don't like your price on one visit, they may hope that it will show up on the discount shelves on the next visit. It could be gone entirely. Creating a sense of urgency to purchase is what you would like to have, if possible.

Stores that stop buying books because they are out of money or shelf space are on their way out of business even if they don't know it."

I must admit I wouldn't have the time or energy to execute the aggressive graduated repricing scheme you outline, but in general I always keep new material flowing onto my shelves. I'm lucky that my customers are constantly making room for me in almost every section of the store, but my rule is that if I take in an interesting new (for me) book and don't have room on the appropriate shelf, I look for a book that's been on that shelf for a long time and remove it. It goes to Goodwill or maybe onto my dollar rack. I generally figure that if it's been sitting there for 10 years (my store has been through several owners and my reorganization sometimes felt like an archeological dig), nobody's going to miss it if it disappears.

On the other hand, though, I am sometimes bemused to actually sell a book that was originally placed on the shelf two owners ago.

"Don't try to squeeze the last dollar from every book. Many purchases with useful dollars come from the sale to other booksellers. We're all at different levels of the food chain. Perhaps the next one purchasing has the kind of high-end clients who will pay more than you could ever get for a book from your clientele (in person or online). Get a fair operating profit and keep the books moving."

Covered in my first post, above. Hmmmmm . . . . maybe you weren't responding directly to me. :)

Mar 10, 2013, 10:08 pm

#41 by rocketjk> Your store sounds like the kind of place I'd love to shop. And I'd probably shop there often. It reminds me of the places I used to go in the 90s and early 00s before everything got crazy with the internet and boosting prices for collectors-who-may-read rather than readers-who-like-to-collect.

Mar 10, 2013, 10:53 pm

#44> Well, thanks! There are several good bookstores of the sort you're referring to, I think, in Mendocino County. The county is, however, larger in square miles than the state of Rhode Island. A lot more trees than people.

Mar 11, 2013, 9:49 am

One of the turnover techniques that has impressed me at a local shop is to pencil in the the date (mo/yr) that the book is priced and displayed for sale. That allows a fluid discounting of books based on the time they've been in the shop. They tend to stick with the simple 50% discount on anything over one year, but it would be easy to create multiple discount periods, and/or change the rate, just by fiat without any reshelving or other stock maintenance.

Mar 11, 2013, 10:31 pm

Did you sell from book cases or create your own book holder?

Mar 25, 2013, 8:41 pm

I would have loved to visit that Harbourfront bookstall. But my life in 1980s Toronto involved babies and toddlers and Harbourfront or any open air market was not really a space for tiny ones - I managed trips to the Goodwill store downtown, right on the streetcar line. They had a "bookstore", a small storefront next to the main store dedicated only to books, priced mostly under $1. I got some beautiful books there; pretty Edwardian bindings, hard-to-find children's books (library discards mostly but who cared), scholarly topics. Advantage for a mother of little ones, there was only one door out of there so there was a chance of doing some quick book shopping before the kids thought to escape.

Abr 14, 2013, 11:56 pm

Wow....nice discussion....I have not been back in a while and lost track of things here.

> 45 I will echo Brightcopy's remark and say I would love to spend a Saturday afternoon searching through your store. As you can read earlier, I have a similar attitude as you have on pricing. I knew I did not have the clientele to get the most $ for the book but I thought I priced my books at a reasonable level that they would be sold in a reasonable time period....If someone made money selling books from me....good on them....they would be back again I was sure. I had no problems getting books so I did not have to squeeze blood from stone for the books I had.

>48 muumi: The Harbourfront market of then was a real fleamarket. But now as you are aware it is high priced antique/boutique property....the flavour has gone.

Editado: Abr 15, 2013, 1:35 pm

I keep looking for books even now...we have a huge book sale in my city with over 500,000 used books collected and sorted over the month of May. I volunteer there and I found a beaten up "Quo Vadis" that they were throwing out. They said I could have it and I took it as the copy though in extremely poor condition was readable.

It sat on my shelf for a year...I picked it up the other day and in the inside cover there was pasted a note from the author to the publisher.

I describe the book here

I think that some think I am making this up...but I am not and have taken some pictures of the note.

I am curious if this is in fact a "find" or not.

(NOTE: Pictures are posted at the noted link above)

Maio 8, 2013, 6:00 pm

I just want to say I've enjoyed this thread immensely.

Maio 22, 2013, 11:04 am

Another bookstall story:

I mentioned earlier that in one auction buy we had 2 boxes of "paper". The person had taken old ads from magazines of the 1920's -1950's and organized them into folders. There were fashion ads, liquor ads, toiletry ads, cigarette adds. The cigarette ads sold well for their had opera singers and actors (Ronald Reagen was one) who praised their brand as calming for nerves and how it made their throat feel.

My favourite cigarette ads were, of course, "Lucky Strike" and their slogan "Get Lucky". I remember on ad in was a series of silhouette panels of a boardwalk fishing pier. It showed a woman fishing by herself and the next panel had a couple at the other end of the pier. Both the man and woman were smoking cigarettes and the caption was "She must be using the wrong bait, GET LUCKY"...can you imagine such an ad like that today LOL.

Included in the box of paper were photograveure (sp?) pictures. These sold very well but there was one time I was totally surprised. It was just before Christmas and an older woman was browsing through the binder of pictures. She suddenly stopped and screamed for her daughter to come over to the stall. They were jumping up and down like kids waiting for a treat. She came over to me and confirmed the price was only $5...I said yes that was my price. I looked at the picture and it was fairy dancer on a the seats below were boars in gentleman's dress staring lovingly at her dance.

"Why is this scene so exciting for you?", I asked.
"My husband collects "pig" memorabilia," she said..."This is the perfect gift for him!!!"

They walked away chatting about where they could get the print framed. I shook my head, reminding myself never to through any paper away...there was always a buyer somewhere.

>51 IreneF: Thanks is fun thinking of those times.

Mar 10, 2014, 6:37 am

hmm, seems like this was a good topic back when it was made. still, even with the various posts no one mentoned what types of books sold the best and which ones sold the worst, ill admit im rather curious as to both that and if over the past year the net has taken the relevence out of such used book sales or at the very least degraded their performance.

Mar 11, 2014, 11:25 am

well, I can answer that...the books I was selling were basically at least 10 years old and hard cover. My EX would buy libraries at Philips/Ward Price and Waddington auctions in Toronto. They were mostly estate sales with a few moving sales thrown in. It was a crap shoot as to what you got as there was no opportunity to plow through the boxes as this was frowned upon since unscrupulous pickers would migrate the best books to one box to get the best bang for their buck if they could.

Surprisingly, to me poetry was a big seller. Queens Quay was not far from the University of Toronto so we had eventually become known to Arts students. We would get a lot of leather bound poetry published in the early 1900's and I could get $15 - $20 for these books. This was pretty good margin as the books in auction lot were at most $1/book sometimes as low as $0.10/book. These books were fragile so I wanted to sell them as quickly as possible and we had an endless replacement supply of books so I never was concerned with squeezing the max out of the price...

Garbage fiction did not sell at all. I was tempted at one point to get in touch with interior decorators and sell these books by the shelf foot but never did.

Non-fiction was the best sellers....books on transportation (trains/planes/automobiles) were hot sellers, anything with music including sheet music sold well, Illustrated books especially art books, books on games and puzzles (over 40 years old) were collectable by a couple of customers, sports books, how-to-do-it books, old catalogs (often used to date antique items), Canadianna was just starting to be appreciated then and sold well.....mystery books sold well for get the idea.

I had the advantage of having a pretty sophisticated clientele at this market...I now live in Calgary Alberta I doubt I would sell much poetry if I opened a shop here...but who seems like more of a paperback culture here though western history is quite popular.