Tuesday, April 02, 2013
The last time I wrote I was in a smoking hot lather over the breaker from the estate sale and the remnants of what were once gorgeous books. But the past couple weeks have been so busy getting ready for the Akron Antiquarian Book Fair and then – finally!—exhibiting my books at the fair this past weekend that my mood has elevated considerably. Friday and Saturday, in fact, I floated around the John S. Knight Center like an iridescent bubble. Never mind that my feet were screaming from having worn heels for two days and flying around that cavernous space countless times in them -- I was in book heaven! Not only did we sell a lot of stuff, both books and ephemera, but we also sold some pricey things, including the $700 Frank Lloyd Wright portfolio of 100 drawings pictured below. That one departed first thing out of the gate which gave me a few momentary qualms until I realized that the reason it had been under the bed for so long is because I wanted it to sell at the fair. It would have been a nightmare to ship and of course the buyer would have been from Outer Mongolia which would have incurred postage so high a mortgage would have been required to pay it. All it took was the mental image of me lugging that thing to the post office, beautiful as it may be, and – zap! – no more angst.
Speaking of young people, one of my best sales was to a young person, probably in her early 30’s. She selected a $125 book about the history of Cleveland and a VERY rare item that's a cross between a book and ephemera about the Cleveland Discount Building priced at $175 and asked me if I could do better if she bought both. I easily lopped $25 off the Cleveland book, but gulped at the idea of taking less for the rare one. While I was thinking about it she began telling me how much she loves old books and paper and how it’s her goal to build a significant collection of Cleveland history. Call me a pushover, but just like THAT, everything in me shouted, “DO IT!” Young collectors are the lifeblood of this busines and there standing right in front of me was one who recognized something special when she saw it and really, REALLY wanted it. I discounted it by another $25 and made her day. But you know what? It made mine too.
As if that wasn’t enough warm fuzzy for the day a second one came along about a half hour later. Last year I bought a four volume leather bound set of Don Quixote published in 1795 in Dublin, Ireland. They were very nicely kept and I really loved them, so I set them back for the fair. But once again my heart kind of sank when a man picked them up and headed in my direction. Maybe I really didn’t want to sell them after all!
“These are SO great,” the would-be buyer said. “II’s my birthday and I want to get them for a birthday present.”
I gazed at him and immediately recognized “that look” – the exact one I no doubt had the day I bought them -- and a sudden rush of happiness enveloped me. One again, it was okay. I put them in a bag and wished him a Happy Birthday.
I’ve thought about all this for a couple days now and I think it helps explain my growing disinterest in selling online. Of course I will still be doing it, but for me it’s about the people. Nothing can compare to seeing that delight I know so well myself and knowing that my work made it happen. It’s also knowing that the books or paper I just sold will be appreciated and cared for.
In these electronic days that’s no small matter. I need what I do to have meaning too -- and, thankfully, the fair reminded me that it does.
(First picture was taken in my booth. I am sitting in the foreground with my back to the camera)