Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2014 Issue

Highs & Lows of a Small Antiquarian Seller - Robbery & Retail Both Learning Experiences


Some kinds of advice are timeless.

Low and High End Sales


Typical of some of the sales at the low end were an Afro-American post card for $11, a WWII era paperback on How to Talk to Boys for $14, an early 20th century deaf mute begging card $15, an Ayn Rand biographical article in the New Yorker for $16. A vintage article about Guam with period photos of the Pan Am China Clipper brought $16.50.


More attractive were the high end sales which included an original signed mid 20th century original Pacific watercolor for $1,200, a complete Meares atlas of the North Pacific in the French edition for $1,300 and a complete Anson Voyage in an English first edition with all plates and maps present for $1,750.


Midrange sales included a Nister Mother Goose with over 50 chromoliths printed in Bavaria for $200, a 19th century monograph on Apache Medicine Men illustrated with color plates for $250. In Hawaiiana, a little 19th century Hawaii missionary era map brought $200 and a 1980s magic marker drawing by a street artist of local renown sold for $150.


Besides Hawaii Pacific items some of the things that sold well for me were 19th century materials illustrated in color including trade cards, chromoliths and antique books with color plates.


As the year wore on and especially after the robbery I devoted quite a bit of energy to reducing the number of big books in my inventory and looking for higher value in items of smaller size. It took me a long time to get used to carrying more keys and remembering to lock up when I went out and at the end of each day.


About the middle of the year I started to notice that certain kinds of specialty periodicals sold really well. Magazines seem to be among the easiest things to pick up for free or at very reasonable prices. My favorite sale of the year in this category was a large lot of Selvedge magazines published in the UK that focused on textile arts and design.


Though I shipped internationally the stiff increases in the cost of postage and the lack of ability to track or insure international items became a bigger concern. In 2013 I made my first sale to Russia and was pleased when it actually arrived. I also shipped to multiple countries in Europe and Asia. Clients overseas were not the least bit reluctant to ask for falsified customs forms and it was difficult to repeatedly explain to them that in most cases books were exempt from duty.


It was also not so pleasant to find other sellers lifting whole swaths of language from my descriptions. What was even more annoying was to have people steal the cataloging and attribute it to the wrong items. I mean if you’re going to plagiarize at least get the citation right.


The good news is I had very cordial relations with a number of dealers on the Mainland, and we helped each other find new customers and make good sales. I appreciated their referrals and the business that came with them. My mantra for this year is to have fewer items but hopefully of higher value, to go smaller in physical size and to keep expanding my on-line sales.


I know all the pundits say the future is international, but with all the humbug that comes with shipping abroad I’m inclined to stay focused on the US as the main market.



Links – to find out more about Bryant Neal’s pop up retail and exhibit venture see



For a list of the most expensive sales on ABE in 2013 try


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Focus On Women:<br>At Auction June 1, 2023</b>
    <b>Swann June 1:</b> Sojourner Truth, <i>Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave,</i> first edition, Boston, 1850. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 1:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Pride and Prejudice,</i> London, 1817. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann June 1:</b> Cindy Sherman, <i>Secretary,</i> gelatin silver print, 1978; printed 1993. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann June 1:</b> Fanny Stevenson, Archive of Photographs & Letters, 1866-1904. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann June 1:</b> Charlotte Perkins Gilman, <i>The Forerunner,</i> Volumes I-VII; Family Association Set; Four Volumes Signed or Inscribed by the Author, New York, 1909-16. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <b><center>Sotheby's<br>The Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman Collection<br>26 May - 12 June</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> "Cool Hand Luke" | Paul Newman Academy Award® Nomination Plaque. USD$2500 - $3500
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> "Hud" | Bound presentation script incorporating photographic stills. USD$1000 - $1500
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> "The Long, Hot Summer" | Movie Poster. USD$1000 - $1500
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> Joseph Heller | "Catch-22," inscribed to Woodward & Newman by author. USD$500 - $800
    <b><center>Sotheby's<br>The Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman Collection<br>26 May - 12 June</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> George H. W. Bush | Typed Letter Signed, Issuing a "Pardon" to Paul Newman. USD$1500 - $2000
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> William Jefferson Clinton | Inscribed Color Photograph. USD$1000 - $1500
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> Ken Kesey | Typed letter to “Paulnewman,” asking for further compensation for "Sometimes a Great Notion". USD$1000 - $1500
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 26 – Jun. 12:</b> "They Might Be Giants" | Costume sketches by Edith Head. USD$1000 - $2000

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