Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2010 Issue

The Gold Rush Book Fair, 2010

Gold rush maxwell

William Maxwell addresses fellow booksellers.


Maxwell "discovered the joys of second hand book shops" while in college at UCSC. He did some odd jobs as he went along, even working in a mortuary for a while. Then, while working at his father's printing plant in Lodi, he made the rounds of the local bookstores until he found The Harvard bookstore in a rather Skid Rowsy part of downtown Stockton near where, as he put it, the "working girls" hung out. He was hired on for the summer by the owner, who then handed him the keys and left him to more or less manage the shop. Maxwell said, "He also showed me the security system: a baseball bat leaning against the inside of the counter under the register and off he went." After working with this gent for a few years, and with the new owner when the old guy sold it, Maxwell decided it was about time to start his own store, Maxwell's Bookmark, where, until 2003, he had excellent success. Then in 2003, he closed the brick and mortar Bookmark and is still selling his high quality books online and at book fairs. He has an envious new job as well. He is now Archivist of the Bank of Stockton's 27,000+ historic photographs and 143 years worth of bank artifacts.

My favorite anecdote stolen from Maxwell's talk was the one all booksellers long for: "I got a phone call from a long-haul trucker in the foothills who was selling his mother's books. He claimed he had a whole box full of books signed by their authors. He'd shown them to an antique's dealer up there who said he really ought to call a book dealer. Luckily, mine was the only name in their phone book. 'Which authors?' I asked. 'Uh, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck...' he replied, trailing off. 'Sure, bring 'em in,' I said, convinced that this was obviously too good to be true and that they must be facsimiles or something.

"An hour later a wiry young fellow in a cowboy hat and a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate comes through the door carrying a box. Sure enough, I find myself pulling one pristine copy after another of limited signed editions by all of the above-mentioned authors and then some. It turned out his mother had been the girlfriend of something of a local legend: a milkman who got in the habit of buying limited, signed editions by popular authors in the '30s, '40s and '50s. He had donated his personal library to UOP in the 1960s. These [remaining] books were apparently gifts to his girlfriend.

"I stacked the books on the front counter and took a deep breath. I went into the back office and retrieved my check book. I checked the meager amount in my bank account, subtracted the outstanding checks, and offered the truck driver the balance. His jaw dropped. 'Those books are worth that much?' he said. 'The antique dealer only offered me a hundred bucks.' Actually, I replied, they're worth a lot more than that. But I plan on making a profit."

Says Maxwell, "I will be the first to admit that I have lived a charmed life, thus far. Being in the book business and getting to spend my time with folks like you has been a large part of that charm."

The next day at the book fair, was the usual early press of book dealers swapping and selling to other book dealers, then at ten o'clock, the public charged in and we got to work. Attendance was better, according to other sellers, than last year. Most of you who know me know I'm a big time dog person, so the highlight of my day, other than selling a couple of my pricier books, was the lady who came in with a 225 pound bull mastiff, companion dog name Zeus who was so big that his head was bigger than my whole little Staffordshire Terrier. He reminded me of a portly, velvet soft colt!

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
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    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 1805 TN Supreme Court Book, John Overton and Hugh White Opinions. $800 to $900.
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    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 5 Dickens 1st Ed. Books, incl. Edited by Author. $800 to $1,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Charles Dickens, 5 Christmas Books, 1st Eds. $800 to $1,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 2 Slave Documents, Nashville TN & North Carolina. $700 to $900.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 3 Maurice Sendak Signed Items, incl. Nutcracker, Pierre. $500 to $600.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 7 Phillip Roth Hardcover Books, incl. Author Signed, 1st Eds. $500 to $550.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 6 Kurt Vonnegut Hardcover Books, incl. Author Signed, 1st Eds. $400 to $500.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 3 Edward Gorey Items, incl. Print + 2 Books. $400 to $500.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Josef Albers, INTERACTION OF COLOR, 1963. $800 to $900.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Henri Matisse Jazz Portfolio for MOMA, 1st Ed., 1983. $600 to $800.

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