Bookstore owner talks rare books
Wichita resident Peggy Trabke doesn’t value her copy of “The Poetical Works of Edgar Allen Poe” any less after finding out its resale value would only be about $25. Its sentimental value is beyond measure.
“My late mother-in-law gave it to me, and it was her mother’s,” Trabke said.
The book’s red leather binding is badly tattered, but the imprint of “Poe” on the cover is gold. It was once beautiful to look at. Trabke treasures the book so much she brought it with her when she moved from Nevada.
She brought the book, carefully wrapped for its protection, to a rare and collectible book program Sept. 18 at Marion City Library.
Lloyd Zimmer, who presented the program, operates a rare books and maps business in Chanute. Before that, he owned a bookstore in Topeka.
Zimmer said Trabke’s book was likely purchased in a books and gifts store such as once were common on corners of downtown streets. People would stop in and purchase books as gifts, he said. Bookstores have closed as books became available online.
“Those stores started closing about that time,” Zimmer said.
Trabke said before the program began that she knew the book’s condition would lower its resale value.
Zimmer told his audience of about 15 that several factors can affect the resale value of a book — the most important one is its condition.
“Condition, condition, condition, it’s all about condition,” Zimmer said.
Foxing, the settling of minerals on the pages because of humidity and storage, lowers the value of a book. Foxing can be removed at home, but not well. Professional treatment is expensive.
“Rarity is important, but it’s not really everything,” Zimmer said.
Other factors that weigh on a book’s value are age, rarity, and supply and demand. Pop culture is also a factor, Zimmer said.
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was author J. K. Rowling’s debut book. When the movie came out in 2001, its value soared. The first printing of the book contained a typographical error that was not caught until after a few hundred copies were sold. The books containing the error now sell for $20,000.
The value of Robert James Waller’s 1992 book “The Bridges of Madison County” briefly skyrocketed to $500 when the movie came out in 1995.
Having a first edition book is important, but not the only thing that matters. Zimmer showed photos of several editions of “Alice in Wonderland,” each illustrated by a different artist, and each valuable.
Marion resident Linda Ogden brought a horticulture catalogue from Willis Nursery in Ottawa with lithographic illustrations held together by ribbons instead of pages. It unfolded into several rows of panels showing fruit trees, flowers, and blooming shrubs.
The catalogue was purchased in a box of books at an auction.
Zimmer estimated its value at $700 to $800. This was less than the $2,000 estimated a few years ago at an Antiques Roadshow event.
“I can see that the value would have gone down,” Ogden said.
Zimmer recommended the websites abebooks.com, biblio.com, and vialibri.com as good sources of information on resale value of books.
Last modified Sept. 25, 2019