books: real libraries & their opposite

The boss picked up the scraps of the Roy G. Neville library yesterday, which is actually way cooler than it sounds.   The bulk of his collection was sold as a group for a fair number of millions- when you're dealing with books of that caliber even the floor sweepings are interesting.  We ended up with about 60 boxes of random stuff which I've been pricing today.

It's the kind of buy that makes you happy as you price it out- pretty much every book I've looked at would have been the standout title in a normal buy, stuff that makes you sit up straight and think "Wow, I've never seen THAT before". All in immaculate shape, as befits the collection of a genuine bibliophile.

While I'm working my way through this wall of exceptional books, a guy comes in with two laundry baskets full of total garbage.  Old mildewed textbooks, disbound book club Taylor Caldwell novels, kids books that look like they've been ritually sacrificed at the altar of Gluesticks & Crayola.

But you never know, so I roll up my sleeves and dig in.  I've found too many good books hidden in the bowels of rundown, crummy buys to not check out every single title.

I do find a couple of things- a really beat up Buckowski, one of Anne Rice's porno books, a rhyming dictionary.  The jewel in this dilapidated crown  from my standpoint was a biology text we can get $20 for on Amazon.  The jewel from the seller's POV was a really messed up copy of Dickens' Christmas Carol that I almost left out.

Of course, it became a bone of contention because customers generally think old = valuable, when usually old just means old.  My ally in these situations is absolute transparency- I pay what the books are worth to us, so if questions come up I can spell out my thought process exactly.

In this case it was a cool book in bad shape, and my plan was to price it $7 "as is", hoping someone would buy it quick for the illustrations before it disintegrated.  Well, the customer asked, what if you fixed it?

I explain the economics of book binding, which are rather like the economics of hiring a lawyer- unless you're expecting a terrific windfall, it just doesn't make sense.  Even the most cursory restoration will cost a couple hundred bucks, which isn't worth it for any but the most valuable items, which this wasn't.

He ended up holding it out of the buy, reinforcing my first instinct to pass on the title and avoid the complications.  Live and learn.

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