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As the roaming gangs of reporters, videographers, bloggers, and other media mavens have already made abundantly clear, Larry McMurtry held a two-day book auction – maybe more accurately, he held an event – in order to clear three of the four buildings in Archer City, Texas that he has packed full of the carefully selected better used and medium rare books that he has amassed in over a half century of bookscouting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Some would say that over the past year I’ve been learning the ways of the bookseller with the concentration of a young Jedi knight, or a Victorian-era British apprentice. I would say that while I have learned a thing or two, my main goal has been to perfect my impersonation of a rare bookseller. There are a few things one should do in order to really live the part:

  • First, never go to any function that doesn’t include alcohol in some form, rubbing alcohol and mouthwash are only to be employed under dire circumstances.
  • Second, you will probably never fully understand the term “first edition” in its entirety.
  • Third, buying can almost be as fruitful as selling if done right, which leads me to,
  • Four, house calls are necessary.

Being the bright and enthusiastic pupil that I am, I jumped at the chance to visit some clients in New York with Tom and his lovely assistant, Matt. For the good of mankind, and for privacy’s sake, identities of non-booksellers will not be revealed, only Matt’s and Tom’s, whose privacy I care little about. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s it like around Between the Covers on a typical day? How does this complicated engine function? Who cares (aside from me and my fellow cogs in this Rube Goldbergian machine)? You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. Essentially we: 1) obtain books, 2) ready and offer them for sale, 3) sell them (hopefully), and then 4) deliver them to their respective purchasers. At least, that’s the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, probably not that much when you get right down to it. But we do keep adding books to our mountainous inventory. In order to keep the wheels of commerce turning here at BTC, we are continuously buying private libraries and the complete or partial inventories of other booksellers. One of the most recent was the store inventory of the Georgetown, Washington, D.C. bookseller Bartleby’s Books. Before I go any further, I should note most emphatically that this does not mean that Bartleby’s, one of the best Americana dealers in, well, America, has discontinued business. Rather the opposite is true. However they did lose their shop lease and rather than go, yet again, through the laborious process of re-opening at another location further down the block, they decided to renovate a part of their home and take the more rarified elements of their inventory with them. This left them with thirty years of accumulated store stock, which is where BTC comes in.
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Dan GregoryI was recently asked by a reporter to comment on this question, and I offered some specific examples. As is often the case, my comments in the article, as well as an explanation of the examples, were very much cut for space (no hard feelings, I understand how these things go). But I thought I would provide the examples here, as well as a fuller answer to this question of how much rare books appreciate in value.

First, some examples. The exact SAME COPY of:

Author Title Old Price 2004 Price
Ernest Hemingway Three Stories and Ten Poems $6000 in 1977 $150,000
Jack Kerouac The Town and the City $2500 in 1978 $40,000
Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi $4800 in 1988 $19,000
Oscar Wilde Lady Windemere’s Fan $1700 in 1982 $32,500

But are these good examples? And what do these numbers really mean?

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So for the past eleven months, when I get tired of answering emails, cataloguing books, or talking to collectors or colleagues on the phone, I closet myself away somewhere and start going through the boxes of 75,000 books we bought from an auction house. This process consists of me standing at a large table, and touching every book, trying to separate the good from the bad from the ugly.

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As any rare bookseller will tell you, the fun of being a rare bookseller is not the SELLING rare books part, it is the FINDING of rare or valuable books. Life can be pretty amusing if you consider a large part of it to be one never-ending Treasure Hunt.

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The fair at the 25th Street Armory has come and gone, and we’ve managed to survive yet another book fair – more than 400 in my career. It’s weird, but I’ve probably spent something more than two years of my life at book fairs.

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Much of the fun of being immersed in the rare book world is in seeing our colleagues, many of who have become close friends. It’s funny, but the only time I see some of them is in San Francisco or Los Angeles or London or Vienna or Paris. If I saw them at home or in my shop, I might not even know who they were. But I wouldn’t be a surprised for a minute to see them in the airport in Madrid. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, active rare bookselling is a great way to accumulate frequent flier miles. But not this weekend.

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