Picking Prices | Newberry

Picking Prices

Uncle Blogsy, why are you changing the price on that book?

Back already, young apprentice? I paid the witch a lot to carry you on her broomstick.

I get airsick and she threw me off. What’s wrong with the price of that book?

Well, someone who sold it at some previous sale marked it at a dollar. And it’s a book on “Customs of the North American Indian” dating to 1824

I thought you said age didn’t matter.

You mustn’t pay attention what I say to witches when I’m asking a favor. You see, what you want, bookhopper, is not necessarily a book that’s old, but a book that’s early.

I know what you say about books that arrive late, say, at quitting time.

You listen more than I have given you credit for. You see, although Europeans were writing books about the people in North America from the late fifteenth century on, the big boom in such books didn’t start until the middle of the nineteenth. So the earlier ones are more desirable. A book of sermons from 1824 would be another matter. We actually see fewer books of sermons being published now than there were in the eighteenth century. The supply of sermons from the early nineteenth century is nigh inexhaustible.

So is a book from 1824 valuable or not, Uncle Blogsy?

It isn’t a matter of what year a book was published, apprentice, but how the year relates to what people are looking for. It’s similar to the First Edition question.

Are you going to use that line about “Every book ever published had a first edition”, Uncle Blogsy?

You know I hate to repeat myself, so we won’t mention that in this blog. Some first editions ARE valuable, of course, but the first edition of an author’s twentieth bestseller is nowhere near as valuable as the first edition of that author’s first book, when the publisher had no faith and printed just two thousand copies.

And maybe the first book is better, since the author wasn’t so jaded.

Maybe. Almost nobody buys E. Annie Proulx’s first book, which was a quickie cookbook, to read it. Mary McCarthy wrote better books after she made it into hardcover by writing one of H. B. Kaltenborn’s autobiographies.

So the quality of the book doesn’t matter, either? You’re confusing me, Uncle Blogsy.

It’s what we aging mentors do, apprentice. Quality can make a difference. More people would pay a bounty for a first of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby than would pay for his college musical Fie Fie Fifi. Of course, that was a paperback, and didn’t have a dust jacket.

Oh, Uncle Blogsy, are we going to have to cover dust jackets again?

Only if you want to keep the dust off them. Condition matters too, you see. This book is in a condition book dealers call…well, that word isn’t printable here. The covers are loose and it’s missing its folding map. Missing maps and missing jackets make a lot of difference to a price.

But that’s still worth more than a dollar?

I think so. The question is whether a customer will think so in July. That, of course, is the one reliable rule about whether a book is worth a lot of money.

I’d like to hear that, Uncle Blogsy. Anything reliable around here would be a novelty.

The one way to be sure whether a book is worth a lot of money is to find out if someone will pay you a lot of money for it.

That’s profound, Uncle Blogsy.

Well, truth is where you profind it.

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