The Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair
By Bruce McKinney
Over the weekend of October 14th and 15th, the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair was held on the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair. It was the perfect setting for the well-attended affair. The fair was organized, as it has been for the past 9 years, by Louis Collins of Louis Collins Books and David Gregor of Gregor Rare Books. Ninety-one exhibitors, primarily from the Northwest, brought on average about 300 items to sell. On Saturday morning, promptly at 10:00 am, the doors opened to an energetic crowd that passed 400 by noon and reached 1000 late in the day according to the show promoters. On Sunday another 600 visited. By all accounts and standards the attendance was very good. In an exit survey conducted by AE, buyers were ebullient, mostly pleased or very pleased with what they found and bought. They did not however spend exceptional amounts of money.
Dealers who brought what they wanted to sell did less well than those who brought what the crowd wanted to buy. By this I simply mean that roughly a thousand motivated people spent 2 to 3 hours of their weekend looking for what they wanted to buy and nothing changed their predetermined course. Ninety percent wanted to buy inexpensive books and did so. Larry Ewing of Bainbridge Island who sells 20th century military material summed it up this way. "It was a great fair. I sold 65 books for almost $3,000." The audience was interested and determined, knew what it would spend and spent it.
Michael Elmer of Michael's Books had a similar experience. He brought 500 books, a mixture of collectible and inexpensive material, sold more 10% of his titles and has already signed up for the 2007 show.
For Mark Wessel of Wessel & Lieberman "it was a good fair for many, a good fair for us" but he also said "the jury is still out on the future of fairs. Their place in bookselling is changing and it's a challenge to make them work."
For Jerry Shepard of San Francisco it was a learning experience. "This is my third show and they are a necessary part of bookselling." He too has already signed up for 2007.
For Thomas Goldwasser of San Francisco, "It's always a pleasure to exhibit in Seattle. I came with three goals: to meet new collectors, buy inventory and sell books and I went home 2 for 3."