Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2008 Issue

Hunkering Down

Crowd

Crowd gathering on Wall Street, 1929.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

With all of the craziness going on this week, I was thinking about doing a review of John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash 1929, but instead I decided to share what we've been doing and thinking about doing to insure that we don't go down the tubes along with everyone else headed in that direction.

Keeping It Simple and Small

First of all, we decided to keep our business simple and to keep it small. By simple, I mean that basically two people can do everything. We resist exponential growth - growth that may force us to rent additonal warehouse space, or hire additional people. Instead we have automated everything that can reasonably be automated, we review our stock on a regular basis so that we are not carrying junk that is taking up space, and when and if we do need people, we work with them as consultants or as skilled professionals who have businesses of their own.

Good Stuff Sells

Good stuff sells and continues to sell. Really rare material that is of interest has held up very well, even in what might be viewed as a "soft" market. Instead of buying huge lots of books and looking for those needles in the proverbial haystack, we buy only selectively and with purpose. We buy to increase our holdings in certain targeted areas, or we buy because we know we have a customer ready at the other end. By narrowing our focus to say, Americana, or British politics in the early nineteenth century, we can buy with knowledge. We have virtually given up going to library book sales, or buying huge lots of books randomly.

Keeping an Eye on Profitability

You have to either increase your sales or decrease your costs to become more profitable, or to hold your own in a soft market. We've done a lot of research on shipping domestically and internationally in order to trim the costs (and provide better service) in this area. We currently use FedEx international, Pitney Bowes, UPS and the USPS, as well as variants of the above. We use less expensive recycled materials for packing when possible (something, by the way, appreciated by our environmentally-conscious customers).

On the sales side we've worked for several years now to expand our sales safely to foreign marketplaces so that when the dollar is weak we get stronger foreign sales.

Reducing the Cost of Overhead

We used to have two bricks-and-mortar computer stores and they cost a fortune. We are now set up with an interwined bookstore/home, keeping the rarest items off-site securely. This allows us to partially expense many items as the cost of doing business, while avoiding the overhead of rent and maintenance of a separate space.

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.

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