Two Generations in the Book Trade - Looking back with the dealer’s daughter

- by Susan Netzorg Halas

Netzorg bookplate with a very young Susan.

Part II What Me Worry? Tips from the Netzorg Family


Nu? What have I learned? Why am I still doing this? Can you make money in this business? Did anything from 1946 carry over to 2011?


Funny you should ask, I was wondering the same thing. What follows is some personal advice about selling books – most of it was handed down to me by my folks and some of it I picked up on my own. None of it has anything to do with computers.


To those of you without 80 years in the trade under your belt think of it as ancient bookish lore that served us well in the past. Even now, you’d be surprised how much of it still holds true.



1. What you pay for something has nothing to do with what it is worth.

 Zero, Nada, Zip! THIS IS THE MAIN RULE. Engrave it on your brain.

In the past a lot of people have expressed indignation that someone would ask top dollar for merchandise acquired for pennies, rescued from the free box or saved from the dumpster. I had a talk with one collector recently that went like this: How dare some sneaky dealer buy a lot at auction and then turn around and a short time later sell it for three or ten or a hundred times what it cost? The very thought makes him cringe. The nerve of some people!! But my dad's first rule was there is absolutely no relationship between the buying price and the selling price. Once it's yours, YOU assign the value. The more you know the more you see the more you touch the more likely it is you'll find bargains.



Since booksellers as a group are often just book buyers who bought too many books it’s easy to see how many of us came to this business.


So the second most important thing to learn is that there are books you have because you like them and they are yours, and all the rest is inventory. The function of inventory is to go out the door and preferably rapidly and at a profit. Remember this and don’t confuse one with the other and you will prosper.



It's easy to fool your eyes, but it's hard to fool your fingers. In the centuries of printing, papermaking and binding there have been many attractive reproductions and facsimiles. It's hard to spot them visually, but you can almost always tell by touch. The difference between a wood pulp and a rag paper is obvious to your fingers, same with letterpress vs. offset. So feel it, touch it, smell it -- all these are better indicators of how old or genuine something is than appearance.