Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

The 17th Annual Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair


John Hardy and his California Map book.

Chris Lowenberg from Book Hunter's Holiday in San Mateo told us that she had been doing the fair since September 2007. I asked her if she felt customers were more price conscious than they used to be. "I found it about the same as always. Sure, people check prices on the internet nowadays, but so do I. I price fairly for the type of book I have to offer, and I research pricing on my books before assigning a price to them. Sometimes success at a book fair boils down to bringing the right books for that fair, and getting them in front of the right people.

"In 2007 and 2008, I did very well at the Sacramento fair, and I made a good profit both years. In 2009, I lost money...I did the spring fair in March, 2010 and lost money...this past weekend, I broke even because of a fortuitous sale the last few minutes of the fair."

I queried whether she thinks there is an upswing in the book business this year. "I see a slight upswing," she said, "my customers are buying fewer books but more expensive books, so the money is about the same. It's the quantity that has changed. That also reflects my development as a bookseller and the kinds of books I want to offer for sale."

We bought several good nautical books from Carl Blomgren of Carl Blomgren Fine Books in Petaluma, California. Carl has been coming to the Sac Fair for at least ten years. He checks his prices on the internet. "My prices are always on the low end. Prices are on the decline for more common items but not for the more rare. Some of my customers expressed regret that they couldn't afford to buy as much as they might have in pre-recession days, especially state employees."

He said he did as well at this fair as the last and he is hopeful that there is a present upswing in sales. He plans to attend the next fair in March, so we'll see him there. He has quite an interesting selection.

Chris Volk from BookFever.com in Ione, California, has been coming to the Sacramento Fair since it started - she missed one year, she thinks, so sixteen out of seventeen years. I asked her if she thought that the customers were more concerned with price than usual. She noted, "There was some concern expressed - but more 'I can only spend so much' -- not versus internet prices -- in fact, at least one buyer commented on the sometimes ridiculously high internet prices for the books he bought." She said that this year was about the same as last year for sales, but that there were years in the past that were a lot better.

She said she didn't think we were now experiencing a general upswing as compared to the last two years, but that she will probably still be attending the spring fair.

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