watervole: (books)
 I was going through a box of books today at the Red Cross and came across a lovely collection of books about Africa.  A collection of travel books (Freya Stark and others), books with excellent photos of several tribes, birds of Bahrain, even a book about how to cook European dishes while using ingredients available in Nairobi. Several of them pitched in at the £20 price bracket, so I've used the whole set to do a themed window display.

It'll be interesting to see how well they sell.
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Back at the Red Cross today.  I missed last week as I was totally exhausted from finding places to display morris posters. 

First task, which regrettably is a common one, was to find where the book rests had got to.  They have a distressing habit of vanishing in my absence.  You wouldn't think it would be rocket science to put a new book on the book rest if the book currently on the rest sells (which is, after all the reason for displaying it on the rest), but this doesn't always happen.

Second task, which took most of the day, was culling the books that hadn't sold and starting up several totally new sections.

I've been saving books on certain subjects, like poetry, so that I can put them out as a block.  One poetry book on its own is very unlikely to sell, but put a batch together and there's a fair chance that a poetry lover will spot them and buy one.  I did this with English, German and French dictionaries two weeks ago, and most of them have sold now.

So, today, we got a block of poetry, one of Art and one of architecture.  Also a collection of annuals from the 1970s.  I've put out a full shelf of history books in addition to my usual military history section - military history is very popular in our shop, any good book on the subject is likely to sell within a month.  The coffee table ones rarely go, or the ones written for kids, but the 'proper' ones with good detailed information are very sellable. Especially if they're about aircraft or tanks.

I do most of the book pricing, with some help from a couple of new volunteers, but there's someone, I don't know who, who sometimes prices biography - and gets it wrong.  Modern celebrities are priced too high at £2,50 - they don't get the value second-hand because they are printed in the millions and remaindered within a year or so.  But the book that my unknown 'helper' priced at £1.50 (presumably because s/he had never heard of him) was a cricketer's biography and has now been repriced at £8.  Cricket books are printed in smaller quantities and there tends to be interest in the game's history.  Good (not coffee table) cricket books, hold their value reasonably well, but you have to filter out the generic ones.

I know the art books are likely to sell, even at prices ranging from £5 to £12 for relatively old books.  The pictures inside are in good condition and last time I did a section on art, they all sold within a few weeks - often to very happy customers.

The architecture books are more of a gamble. Quite  a few of them are in the £20 - £50 range.  I've kept the £50 ones in the back room with a note on the shelf telling people to ask for them.  They're lovely old books and some of them will sell just because they're old and have great illustrations.  Some of the rest may not find a buyer in the shop's demographic, but I figure you never know until you try.

However, if they don't sell, then I've tied up a lot of shelf space with them.  I'll see next week how they've been selling.

What  I find fascinating is that my instincts about books are often (though not ) always correct.  I can hand one to my volunteer looking up prices on ABE.com and say:  "I think this one will be worth around £20"  It's a book with a plain, unillustrated cover about perspective, and I suspect some of our staff might have binned it (I found a biography of Montgommery in the chuck box today and rescued it - military history will sell even if the dust jacket is torn).  But inside are detailed diagrams of how to do drawings with perspective.  It's very specialist and will clearly be of serious interest to the right person.

I have my blind spots, though they're getting better.  I still find it hard to believe that you can get £5 - £7 pounds for many old annuals as long as they're in good condition, but we price them at that and they sell.  Some will even sell (though for less) in poor condition.

Looking forward to seeing what sells, though not to the mess that the shelves will be in when I return. The dear public do tend to put books back in random places...


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Judith Proctor


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