Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2004 Issue

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

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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

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. $40,000 to $60,000

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