Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2010 Issue

L.A. Book Collector Wins Right to be a Collector, Not a Dealer

Hoppcase

Richard Hopp wins his appeal against the City of Los Angeles.


By Michael Stillman

You can fight city hall. Richard Hopp recently won a long and very strange legal dispute with the City of Los Angeles to be classified as a book collector, not a book dealer. He will not need to obtain a police permit, nor keep the detailed records required of booksellers in Los Angeles. What makes this case so odd is that Los Angeles ever attempted to make this case, and that the city came so close to winning it.

One has to assume that Los Angeles believed Mr. Hopp, a bail bondsman by trade, must be doing more than just collecting books. However, they had no evidence to back up any such beliefs. Odder still, they went to court against him without attempting to secure evidence he was selling books, or even making such a claim. It was as if a police officer, seeing you driving a shiny new sports car, assumed you must be speeding at times, and thereby ticketed you for going 30 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. In court, they in effect argued that the law made it illegal to go within the speed limit as well as over it. Amazingly, the city won the first round in court. On appeal, Mr. Hopp, and common sense, prevailed.

Richard Hopp's troubles arose as a result of his unusual method of obtaining books. Most collectors purchase their books invisibly, visiting dealers, shows, garage sales and the like, or buying online. Mr. Hopp's style was far more open. He would advertise for books online and in print publications, and he would attend shows and set up a "buying booth." Most likely, the L.A. police looked at this activity and assumed no one could be buying in such a conspicuous manner without selling at least some of what he bought. They told him he needed a dealer's permit.

Mr. Hopp responded by taking the city to court. Rather than wait to get fined for not having a permit, he sought a "declaratory judgment," a court judgment which stated he did not need a permit. When the two sides appeared in court, the city still had no evidence that Mr. Hopp had ever sold a book. He explained that he purchased books and ephemera for his own collection, and items included in groups he bought that he did not want he gave to charity or discarded. Los Angeles then countered with its odd, legalistic argument - that it did not matter whether Mr. Hopp ever sold a book, he was still a dealer in the eyes of the law.

Many a legal case turns on something as small as a preposition, and in round one, the City of Los Angeles turned an "or" into a surprising legal victory. The Los Angeles ordinance that regulates "secondhand book dealers" defines such dealers as persons "engaging in, conducting, managing or carrying on the business of buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise dealing in secondhand books..." The magic word here is "or." Taken literally, the statute does not require that a dealer be buying and selling, buying or selling is sufficient argued the City. Mr. Hopp undeniably was buying. To make some sense out of why it was attempting to apply this wording so literally in Mr. Hopp's case, the City argued that purchasing books at events like flea markets provided an opportunity for petty thieves to fence stolen library and other books. Forcing public buyers such as Mr. Hopp to carefully account for their purchases would make it more difficult for thieves to fence their stolen merchandise.

The Court accepted the legalistic definition and ruled for Los Angeles, but Mr. Hopp was not ready to give in. He appealed. The Appeals Court took a broader look at the statute. Rather than focusing on the word "or" in the phrase "business of buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise dealing," it focused on the word "business."

The Appeals Court looked to other L.A. statutes which define a "business" as an occupation "which provides services, products or entertainment." It concluded that providing such things implies providing them to others. Mr. Hopp was providing nothing to anyone. Buying books and entertaining oneself by reading them hardly constitutes a "business," the Court concluded. It then went on to note that in other legal decisions courts have considered a "business" to be a commercial venture, one intended to produce a profit. There was no evidence or argument that Mr. Hopp was attempting to earn a profit through his activities. All that was shown was that he bought books and collected or donated/recycled them. That, the Court ruled, does not constitute a "business."

As for the City's argument that it needed to regulate public buyers such as Mr. Hopp to prevent fencing of stolen books, the Court stated that this suffered from the same logical shortcoming as the case in general. Part of fencing a book is selling it for a profit. There was no attempt at a profit in Mr. Hopp's activity. You can hardly prevent fencing by targeting people who do not resell the merchandise they buy.

We do not denigrate the seriousness of the challenge the police forces in L.A. and elsewhere face dealing with crime. Cutting off the market for stolen goods is a critical element to preventing goods from being stolen in the first place. Nevertheless, the rules must bear a reasonable relationship to the goals they seek to achieve. Ones that burden thousands of innocent people in the hope of finding an occasional crook are unreasonable impositions on people's ability to lead their lives free of constant intrusion. The City's interpretation of its statute could have subjected every book collector to burdensome and possibly costly requirements. Your child could be required to secure a police permit to collect comic books. This is not reasonable. Technically, this was a victory for Mr. Hopp, but in reality, it was a victory for all book collectors in Los Angeles, and even more importantly, a victory for common sense.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600

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