Showtime In Boston: Booksellers Look At The State Of Their Trade And Offer Advice To Collectors.
By Mike Stillman
On a rainy afternoon in Boston, booksellers and collectors from around the world gathered for day two of the 26th annual Boston version of the “Antiquarian Book Fair,” as put on ably by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA). This year’s show ran from October 25-27, 2002. The ABAA puts on three such fairs annually, the others being in New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco. This has been a tough year across America, both psychologically and financially, and few expected record breaking crowds. Clearly, there weren’t, and yet few exhibiting booksellers were disappointed either. Traffic was decent, and while the market for the latest high tech gadgets may have seen the bottom fall out, the market for that aged technology, books, seemingly remains brisk and healthy.
As one approaches the doors to the show floor in Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, there’s a press table, and as members of the electronic press, this representative of the Americana Exchange posed the key question – “If there’s one item you must see at this show, what is it?” The response was quick. It was not a document signed by Lincoln, a Shakespeare folio, or some early material from the founding fathers. It wasn’t even the first edition first issue of Harry Potter, which at $39,000 just shows that books don’t have to be ancient to be valuable. Fortunately, it was a piece of quintessential Americana – a photograph of the 1936 New York Yankees, complete with twenty-five signatures, including a rookie named DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig in his prime.
This photo is held by the Heritage Book Shop of Los Angeles, and Chad Reingold wasn’t sure whether it would be sold at the show, but if not, you can pick it up for $12,500. It’s a good thing this reporter wasn’t carrying $12,500 around with me at the time, or I might be a lot poorer today. For the more traditional collector, when asked what areas are likely to continue to be popular choices in the years ahead, Mr. Reingold recommended Civil and Revolutionary War material as always being desirable, and added that anything in Printing and the Mind of Man is worth owning. For the California collector, he recommends titles from the Zamarano Eighty.
While some booksellers had crossed the country to exhibit at the Fair, others crossed the ocean. England, not surprisingly, was the most heavily represented, but other dealers came from the continent. Rodolphe Chamonal had traveled from Paris, and was satisfied with the show. As he explained, it’s hard for him to tell whether sales are good at a show as there is no “normal” volume of sales for him. He had seen enough people to be pleased with the show, and expected to do some further traveling around New England before returning home. Mr. Chamonal visits the states three or four times a year, and among his specialties are voyages and explorations, mainstays of European Americana.