Going along my haphazard way to explain all the categories at the Book Fair, insofar as they CAN be explained, I was considering one of our newest: Blank. We added Blank to the line-up in 2010 or thereabouts, basically to handle the mass of journals we had coming in. Apparently, for a while there, journals were as popular a gift as humorous coffee mugs. However, just as with the coffee mugs, you can quickly fill a person’s demand. Yes, coffee mugs break and journals get used up, but there is a limit to how many spares a person wants to store against the ultimate eventually.
So we have this category, where I can put those, and humorous notepads, and unused spiral notebooks, and empty three-ring binders, and other such office supplies. Yes, technically the binders are not blank but empty, but if I put up a sign saying “Blank and Empty”, everyone will think that’s where they’ll find Camus. (Joke for the literati.)
HOWEVER (and you knew there had to be a however) there are a few blank items which belong in other categories. Bridge tallies, for example, wind up in Games, and uncolored coloring books wind up in Children. (Unless they’re those incredibly detailed and uncolorable educational books, and these may wind up in history or archaeology or biography or who knows what all else.) Empty book safes go into Collectors, where we can keep an eye on them and make sure customers know these are book safes. (A book safe is an empty book, a book hollowed out for hiding things in. It can be constructed anew, or someone can take an old book, cut out the insides, and make one’s own. In any case, we want to be sure no one buys them thinking they are a real book. This is distinct from the item known to professional musicians as a fake book, which is a real book. Joke for the musicians)
And empty stamp albums go into Antiques. Books on coin collecting and stamp collecting go into Antiques, along with the doll collecting and watch collecting and baseball card collecting books. Empty coin albums also go into antiques, but it is the stamp albums which are concerning me these days. I have had sixteen stamp albums donated over the past month, and all but two of them have been empty. This is a great disappointment, because most of those stamp albums were 70 to 100 years old, and finding these with stamps in them is a wonderful thing.
It is more complex, of course: I need to wrap the album in a plastic bag, so no stamps escape, and then write a label t explain more or less what’s inside. AND during the Book Fair, somebody has to watch to make sure the customer doesn’t open the bag, slip the $200 stamp into her purse, and walk away, leaving the bag on the floor. The $200 stamp cost me nothing, oh lass of larsony, but that bag cost me fifty cents.
The empty ones are easier to price and pack, and leave me with no worries, but somehow that isn’t my foremost thought as I look through them. There are two kinds of empty stamp albums: those which were never used, and those which have had all the stamps removed. I prefer the first kind: they still have their active lives ahead of them. The albums which have been plundered have those little marks where once the stamp hinges bloomed to show the world what kind of collection USED to be available here. This includes modern slick albums issued by the Post Office to advertise the past year’s stamps (I have plenty of donors who bought these, decided t use all the stamps, and then give the book away. It would have been cheaper, licorice lollipop, to buy the stamps without the album around them in the first place. Or is that what you thought “book of stamps” meant?
Anyway, we will have a goodly assortment of empty stamp albums for you in the Antiques section, unless, as I am beginning to suspect, most of them are moldy. In that case their appearance in the sale will be cancelled. (Joke for philatelists. And, as the coin collectors tell you, philately will get you nowhere.)