Sunday, May 24, 2009

I’m Buying Fishing & Hunting Books

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The email came. It was terse and to the point.

“I got fishing and hunting books,” the writer wrote. “How much will you pay for them?”

I had no clue what I would pay because the woman didn’t list authors names and titles of any of her books. My email was also short and to the point.

“Maybe I’ll pay you $200, perhaps more, and perhaps less,” I wrote. “I need to know what you have and what kind of condition the books are in. Where do you live and can I see the books before committing to a purchase?”

Back came her quick response. It was even more terse. Conversational skills or writing didn’t seem to fit her personality.

“Traverse City. Yes.”

I quickly learned how this game was played. Keep it short.

“When, where and phone number.”

Five minutes later, she emailed back. “Tuesday, 2 p.m. Here!” An address was included.

I went that day at that time, knocked on the door, and showed her my drivers license. She looked at me, the drivers license, and said: “Doesn’t look like you. Got more ID?”

I rolled up both shirt sleeves, and on one arm are my initials and a sailer tattooed on my forearm, and the other (don’t ask why) is my first name. That did the trick.

“C’mon in. Have a seat. The books are in boxes. Should be easy.” She was as terse as Ernest Hemingway at his best.

Several boxes were there, and I started going through them. I had two questions: “Are all of these for sale? Is it necessary to buy them all?”

“Yes” and “No. My husband passed away and I need to get rid of them but want to make some money.”

I’m flipping through titles while murmuring my condolences for her loss. She settled back, lit up a smoke and watched, grayish-blond hair trimmed fairly short. She appeared to be in her ear;y 60s, and I kept looking through boxes of books.

Some good stuff and some pretty sad-looking titles. It appeared to be an average batch of books.

Three books were pulled from the first box, and then there were five more. A few had the sour smell of mildew to them. She said that “some books stink a bit.”

She was as right as rain. Three more out of the second box met my interest, and on to the the third. More mildewed books and only one decent title that didn’t smell bad.

“You know your stuff,” she ventured. I nodded that I do, and she seemed content with the silent answer.

The fourth box was a miniature gold-mine. Only three books were of interest but they were good ones. Not worth a great deal of money but a good way above the five-to-ten-dollar average of the other stuff.

“Anything good in this mess,” she asked in her wordiest sentences yet. “It appears as if you’re finding a few books. Am I going to make some money?”

“Yes, you’ll make some money,” I responded. “How much depends on what else I find. So far, if these books are clean and nice on the inside, we may be up to $150 right now. There are still three boxes to go.”

The fifth box contained mostly mildewed books and titles with ripped covers, broken spines and underlining on some pages. A couple of books that I showed her would have been $50 books if they hadn’t got mildewed and some kid hadn’t used them for coloring books.

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking downcast. I was sorry, too.

The last box was what book-buyers always hope to find and seldom do. All the books were newer, and someone had taken good care of them. There were only a half dozen decent titles in the box but all were books I needed for my personal collection.

I’d picked out 16 books from all the boxes. I went through each title, checked the copyright date, flipped all the pages, took off the dust jacket and looked at the covers and spine, and checked to see if the spine was cracked or if the books and pages were cocked, or the text highlighted or underlined.

None showed any damage and all passed muster. Now came the test if she really wanted to sell her books.

“Do you have any idea of what you want for these 16 books?” I asked. “I will be honest in my dealings with you.”

“Are they worth $200,” she asked, quietly and hopefully.

“Yes, they are worth that much to me,” I said. “In fact, if it’s OK with you, I’ll pay you $300 for the 16 books and offer you some free advice.”

“I’ll take the money first,” she said. She was paid and the money quickly disappeared. “What’s the advice?”

I told her that she should dump all the mildewed books before they affect the other titles. I separated the bad books from the good for her, and suggested the mildewed books be set out at the curb for garbage pickup.

I took one of the two good boxes, and put my books in them, and then shuffled her bad books into another two boxes, and with her consent, carried them to the curb. I piled the other good books on her table, and suggested she get clean dry boxes and package up what books remained and store the books in a cool dry location and not on a cold or damp cement floor.

She thanked me for buying the books, told me she appreciated the money and the advice and my work, and was sorry she didn’t have any more.

I thanked her, walked to my car, and she gave a soft little wave in farewell, and turned away, crying. I suppose it was hard to dispose of her husband’s fishing and hunting books but she needed money.

But ours was a sad farewell. And now for a heartfelt message to my many readers.

As you go through spring cleaning in the attic, barn, basement, spare room or storage space, take a long look at stored books. Mildewed books are worthless. Underlined or highlighted books are next to worthless, as are books that have missing or ripped pages or missing the covers.

I’ve bought and sold fishing and hunting books (which is all I buy) for more than 40 years. It’s impossible to stay in business long if you cheat people. I pay an honest price for books, usually pay cash, and am fair. I know what I want and need, and know what I don’t need or can’t use.

Let me take a look at your fishing and hunting books (no magazines) and I will make a fair offer. Email me at < > and tell me what you have, where you live, and that information will remain private. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/24 at 06:19 PM
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