Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2004 Issue

Beyond the Zero Sum Game: <br>An Approach to Creating Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships

Loc

I’ve stood awestruck in the Library of Congress.


Renée Magriel Roberts

Harwich Port, Cape Cod. Yesterday, I was speaking on the telephone with a very charming customer from the U.K. and he asked me if I remembered a movie about a bookseller who engaged in a lengthy, complex and very passionate long-distance relationship with a New York bibliophile. The movie, of course, was “84 Charing Cross Road”, with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft playing the ill-starred lovers, whose paths were, sadly, never to cross in “real life”.

Recalling the movie got me thinking about the nature of this business, of the ways in which we relate to our suppliers and client-customers, and (by no means least importantly) of the way we go about acquiring valuable stock. We understand (or ought to) the importance of a continuing relationship with our customers but, frankly, it is difficult to feel the same warm, fuzzy thoughts about our suppliers — after all, we need to take advantage of them in order to make a profit. I have personally been on the receiving end of an attempted-but-failed transaction where a bookseller told me with a perfectly straight face that my 10,000-some-odd collection of books on Comparative Mediaeval Literature was worth about $400.

The first time I even thought about books as inventory was after I was laid off from an executive position in the hi-tech biz. My severance pay and unemployment insurance were running out rapidly, and I knew that I had to generate some income quickly. Happily I discovered that being middle-aged, multi-lingual and well-educated, while detrimental to my prospects in the brave new world of low-paying, globalized McJobs, was a real plus in the world of books.

So the question was, how might I go about acquiring books to sell? What kind of books would I sell? And how could I make this happen quickly and profitably enough to keep my mortgage out of default? To complicate the matter, I was also kind of at odds with myself: my instinct to buy at the lowest possible price in order to make the most money was butting heads with my gut feeling that the best long-term plan was to develop mutually beneficial partnerships, as it is in other businesses. In the beginning I sidestepped this issue quite adroitly by simply not buying from others. I culled my start-up inventory from my collections of thousands of books. I realized that I owned many books that I simply was not attached to, had no intention of rereading, and did not need for my scholarly work. The key was evaluating them properly and then pricing them to sell.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.

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